I’ve managed to live on a tight budget for most of my adult life, but I’ve never felt deprived or less fortunate. Living on a budget is what has gotten us to this point in our lives. We retired early, have a paid for home and still live fabulously on a modest (retirement) income.
I have to admit…there were some very lean years while our children were growing up. The funny thing is, I don’t think they ever really knew what the lean times were. Why, you ask? Because they never wanted too much for things, but at the same time, they knew that certain things were not just handed to them. A frugal lifestyle afforded us many things without having to go to sleep at night wondering how we were going to pay for it.
This leads me to the topic of what this post is really about.
There are several ways that you can live a fabulous lifestyle on a tight budget and I’ll show you how.
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Always start with a budget!
You need to have a budget in place if you truly want to know where your money is going and if you want to be in control of it. A budget is simply a plan for your money. It’s not restrictive or limiting. In fact, it’s just the opposite! A budget is freedom. It “allows” you to spend where you need to. Once you have a budget in place, you can plan for short term and long term goals without always wondering where the money is going to come from. It’s your first step to financial freedom and having your money work for you instead of the other way around.
If you need help getting started, you can use my free budgeting kit to get you started.
This is a biggy, friend! You will never feel like your life is adequate if you’re always comparing it to others. With social media, it’s easy. to get caught up in “lifestyle envy” but you must remember…what you see on Facebook & Instagram is merely a highlight reel…not real life. If you find yourself in the predicament of trying to keep up with the Joneses…DON’T! They’re most probably broke! Love Your Life Not Someone Else’s.
Reducing your monthly expenses frees up money that can otherwise be used for something else, more important. First, evaluate where your money is going each month. Next, you need to decide what you really need cut. Differentiate between wants and needs. When your trying to get out of debt, suddenly that expensive cup of coffee from Starbucks really isn’t worth it.
Get out of debt
Getting out of debt goes right along with the above mentioned reducing expenses. The less debt you have, the more rich you’ll feel. Why? Because you can keep more of your hard earned money, reduce your stress and do things that will really make you happy!
Have an emergency fund
An emergency fund is peace of mind and also protection for what life my throw your way. We all know that things happen and it’s best if you have a cushion for when (not if) something happens, like your car battery goes out, your pet gets sick or whatever numerous things that can go wrong. When you have an emergency fund, you won’t have to reach for the credit card, thus allowing you to not go deeper into debt.
Once you are out of debt and you have an emergency fund, it’s important to start saving for the future. This can be a 401K, a Roth IRA or mutual funds. The important thing is to do this consistently.
If you follow Dave Ramsey, then you know that this is the fourth baby step…Saving for retirement.
There’s just something about being at a point in your life where investing in the future can make you feel like your on track to becoming wealthy.
Declutter/clean your house
I recently read that when you’re feeling depressed, you should do some cleaning/decluttering. Research has shown that straightening and cleaning the physical aspects of your life can also bring mental clarity. I wholeheartedly believe this because when I clean my house, I get an overall sense of well-being. You may think I’m weird, but cleaning actually makes me happy. My home is actually my “happy place” and I love it when it shines and sparkles.
You might be asking how this could make you feel rich and my answer would be that a clean & decluttered space is a calming space. If your home is messy & chaotic, the last thing you will feel is rich.
No matter where you live, if it’s clean and organized, it will make you feel relaxed and comfortable…and as a result, you will feel like your living a rich life.
Clean your car
Another aspect of living rich is riding in a clean car. When your car is messy & cluttered, it can make you feel the same as a messy, cluttered home would. Keeping your car clean and free of trash doesn’t take long to accomplish and the benefits are great. Even if your car is old, a bath and vacuuming can do wonders for the car AND you!
Keep a trash sack in the car and when it’s full dispose of it. Vacuum it out at least once a month and either run it through a car wash or wash it yourself, if it’s warm enough outside.
Something so simple as having a clean car can give you that sense of feeling at least a little on the wealthy side.
Buy quality second hand
Anyone who knows me knows “thrifting” is one of my favorite pastimes. I have no problem buying used items whether it’s clothing, home decor, art, kitchen tool/gadgets, or just about anything.
Look for quality, price and make sure it’s something you love, because it’s not a bargain if you never use it.
My favorite place to shop for clothes is our local thrift store and Goodwill. I have more name brand items in my closet than I’ve ever had and I literally paid a fraction of what they cost retail. These kind of stores are a great place to get designer and high-end clothing for very reasonable prices.
Shopping this way can make you look (and feel) like a million and no one will be the wiser.
I recently went to a home decor consignment store in a small town where we were staying and found 6 of the most beautiful dining room chairs. I was actually in the market for them as mine were getting worn and one had recently broke during a party we had.
The chairs had just come in, so the shop owner said that the owners would not be ready to negotiate the price. I knew, though, if I didn’t grab them, they wouldn’t last long. The chairs were elegant, there was a complete set of 6, they were upholstered (with a skirt) and came from Star furniture. After checking online, one chair would easily retail for $250 to $350, but I got the complete set of 6 or $379.00. They are stunning in my home and a paid a fraction of what they would’ve cost new!
Buy a used luxury car
This is exactly what we did, this past year. If you think you can’t find a good quality, used car that is worth anything, think again. I had a 2007 Mazda 6 that we bought used several years ago. It still ran good but the miles were getting up there and we were thinking that it may be time for us to upgrade soon.
Well, as luck would have it, our good friends were going to upgrade to a new vehicle and before they went to trade in their 2011 Cadillac SRX, they asked if we would be interested. Our answer?? ABSOLUTELY! It had 80,000 miles on it, was garage kept, one owner and was a beautiful car! We bought it for what the dealer was going to give them on trade in! The car looks brand new and I love it! I got a low mileage, luxury vehicle for about 1/4 of what it cost when it was new.
By the way…They’re all used cars once they’ve been driven off of the car lot, so why not let someone else “eat” the depreciation?
Buy a good bottle of wine
If you’re a wine drinker, budget for a good bottle of wine. This doesn’t have to be expensive. There are tons of good, inexpensive wines to choose from these days and enjoying a good glass of wine at home is way cheaper than having one at a restaurant. Wine is a little luxury we enjoy with friends or with just the two of us.
Have a hobby (other than tv or internet)
A hobby is an activity done in one’s leisure time for pleasure. (I don’t count watching TV or bingeing on Netflix as a hobby.)
Hobbies are essential to having a well-rounded life. Spending time doing something you enjoy can provide the physical, mental, emotional, and creative benefits that make life more meaningful, relaxing, and fun!
I’ve been so fortunate to have some hobbies that I’ve turned into side hustles as well. Decorative painting, crafting and writing are at the top of my list and because I enjoy them so much, I never feel like I’m working. I’ve always enjoyed being creative and the benefits have been enormous for me. I’ve always told my children to find something they enjoy doing and then figure out how to make a living at it. That way, you know you’ll always love your job and it won’t really feel like work!
If you don’t have any hobbies, start looking for something that brings you joy, even if it’s taking a hike, learning a new craft, writing, reading, learning a language or how to play an instrument. There’s so many choices and they don’t have to be expensive.
Regardless of which hobby you choose, the benefits of engaging in that hobby might just surprise you.
Ask for gift cards
I ask for gift cards for just about every occasion from birthdays to Christmas and Mother’s Day. I find that I can splurge on things that I may not normally buy for myself. Also, it allows me to indulge thereby giving me that sense of feeling just a little bit wealthy. Some of my favorites are Kendra Scott, James Avery, a massage, salons for a mani/pedi and Hobby Lobby…of course. I love wearing good jewelry and I enjoy buying things that make my home beautiful. Massages and pedicures are also a real treat for just about everyone!
Buy good coffee
It is truly possible to enjoy a delicious cup of coffee at home instead of the pricy ones at your local coffee shop. If you’re into fresh ground coffee, buy a bag of coffee beans from your local grocery store for under $10/lb and make several cups for what it would cost for 1-2 cups at a coffee shop. The grocery stores have a grinder for the coffee beans, but you could easily purchase a Coffee Bean Grinder yourself and have really fresh coffee, anytime!
There’s just something about having fresh flowers in your space to make you feel good and your home feel luxurious. If you’re lucky enough to have them growing in your yard, by all means…go out and cut a few for a lovely bouquet.
If you don’t have any in your yard, most local grocery stores have a florist section. You can get a simple bouquet for $4 to $15. I got a little over a week out of my last bouquet and it cost under $10.
Candles for dinner
Candles can make an ordinary dinner special. I don’t know what it is, but there’s just something about having candlelight at dinnertime that has such a calming effect on us. It doesn’t matter if we’re having steak or hamburgers, candles just make the meal special.
I love candles so much, that I use the the battery candles that you can put on a timer and have them come on every evening. But, you may prefer real candles. I love those too! Just remember to blow them out.
Bring the restaurant to you!
Most of us already know that the markup on restaurant food is high. That’s why it’s so much more economical to buy the same food at the grocery store and make it yourself.
You can eat a steak dinner (Ribeye) for about 1/3 of the cost that you would pay in a nice restaurant. Lobster is another entree that comes to mind. We wait until our local grocery store puts lobster tails on sale to buy them and have a fabulous restaurant style dinner for just a few dollars. Now, when we do this, it’s usually for a date night or some special occasion. Open your favorite bottle of wine (or beverage of choice) and you have a wonderful, (in)expensive meal that will make you feel rich and still stay within your budget.
Fancy restaurant dining
When you want to feel fancy but you’re on a tight budget, eat dinner at home and then treat yourself to dessert/coffee at a nice restaurant.
We did this when my husband and I were dating and let me tell you, it was fun! Our favorite was the beautiful spindle top that use to be at Intercontinental Airport (now George Bush airport) in Houston. We would order Tiramisu and a cup of coffee and watch the planes take off. The view was breath taking and totally romantic. It was a totally wonderful evening for less than $20 and we felt just as rich if we would’ve eaten a full meal there.
Take time for self care
Many of us can lead very hectic lives, especially if we have children still at home. Kids, jobs and life in general can force us to put ourselves on the back burner and when finances are tight, even more so.
This can put a strain on the whole family and may makes us feel angry and resentful.
There’s no shame in taking a little time out for ourselves and it can do wonders physically, emotionally and spiritually. You don’t need to spend a fortune, either!
Some ideas for self care are:
Take a bubble bath.
Give yourself a mani/pedi.
Splurge occasionally on a massage.
Get outside and enjoy nature.
Give yourself a facial (Pinterest has tons of ideas for this!).
Self care can be anything that relieves stress and makes you a happier person. There’s nothing selfish about taking a little time for yourself and the rewards can make you feel like a million bucks!
Budget for fun money
When you’re trying to pay off debt, sometimes there just doesn’t seem to be anything left over for “fun” money, but you also need to remember that unless you allow yourself a little bit of spending money from time to time, you will begin to feel deprived.
Even if it’s only $10 or $20 a month, that’s fun money that you can spend any way you like.
I love to go to the thrift store and see what I can get for that much. I’ve always said that when I get the urge to shop (or treat myself) I go there instead of retail stores. I usually come out with much more than if I headed to the department store AND it satisfies my shopping urges.
Use money saving apps
There’s so many ways to earn extra money with something as simple as getting paid/points for things you purchase anyway. My personal favorite is FETCH. All you have to do is download the app, shop and snap a pic of your receipt! I make it a point to do this as soon as I get home from the store. It’s basically free money! Use my referral code, 2H6A6, during signup and you’ll get 2,000 Fetch Points ($2.00 in points!) just for starting. Download Fetch Rewards free here: https://fetchrewards.onelink.me/vvv3/referralemail…
Also, checkout Ibotta & Rakuten. Ibotta is a grocery app and Rakuten is a shopping app that can be used with hundreds of stores and will pay you cash back.
This is a great way to treat yourself, too because it’s FREE money!
Stay close to friends/loved ones
Our true friends and our precious families are things that money can’t buy. Every time I spend time with those that I love, I feel like the richest person alive. I’m blessed to have close relationships with my 3 children and their children. I’m also grateful that I have my mom in my life.
We have a close circle of friends that mean the world to us and for me, this makes us truly wealthy.
If you have close friends and family, nurture those relationships. Spend time with them and tell them often, how much they mean to you.
One of the most important things that can make you feel extremely wealthy is being grateful and appreciative for what you already have.
If you are constantly wishing you had a nicer house, drove a nicer car, had more money, etc., you are thinking negatively…and negative thoughts beget a negative attitude. Until you change this mindset of always wishing you had more or something else, happiness may elude you.
Instead, be grateful for having a car to get you around. Be grateful that you have a home to come home to. You get the idea. One of my favorite quotes regarding gratefulness is from Rachel Cruze. She says “In a heart filled with gratitude, there is no room for discontentedness.”
Practicing gratitude can be easily incorporated into your daily life by reminding yourself, everyday, of something that you have to be grateful for. Writing it down in a journal or on a notepad is one way of doing this, but if you prefer not to do that, you can reflect on the day and say it either aloud or to yourself at night before you go to sleep.
Be deliberate and intentional about doing this on a regular day to day basis. You’ll be truly amazed at how much your attitude will begin to change.
Let’s face it…giving, whether it’s money or time, actually makes us feel happier. the Bible says “It’s better to give than to receive” and to me, no truer words have been spoken. There’s just something about giving or doing for others that may be less fortunate than ourselves or those who are in need that can makes us feel good about ourselves and life in general.
I have found that when I give, I get back so much more, emotionally. Giving should not be considered a luxury and we shouldn’t be fooled into thinking that giving must always be monetary. If you don’t have enough funds available to give, you can donate your time, items that you no longer need or use, food, clothes and so much more.
the bottom line…
Remember, having a tight budget doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t upgrade your lifestyle. Take your budget into account and consider your long term as well as short term goals.
I didn’t write this post to tell you ways to spend money. I wrote it to show you how you can live fabulously and enjoy life even on a tight budget.
As with anything, you don’t want to go into debt to enjoy life. Whatever you choose to do, make sure that you can afford it.
What are some ways that help you to live a fabulous lifestyle on a tight budget? Leave a comment below and inspire others.
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