Have you found yourself thinking “How can I really save money?” We’ve come up with 10 creative ways to save money on a tight budget! 

Sometimes it feels like saving money is a total fantasy, when every penny you get is only in your hands for a split second before your paying off credit cards, grocery shopping for food, paying off student loan debt, and all the other bills.

Is it even possible to save money when you’re living pay check to pay check? 

The good news is YES you can start saving money!

Even with a low income there are ways to save money, whether you cut back on spending or find ways to make money you can start paying off debt, build an emergency fund, or plan that family vacation you’ve always wanted to take.

How to Start Saving Money

What do you think about money? Your money mindset is the first step into how you save money and how you spend money.

When you create a budget it can feel restrictive, if your not excited about your financial goals. Looking at your bank account and feeling positive about seeing your savings grow will inspire you to continue to save money.

In this video, Natalie Bacon helped change the way I think about saving money and having a positive mindset towards my savings goals.

Create a Monthly Budget that Works

If you’ve never lived by a budget before, now is the time to use a simple budget that will help you get your money organized.

Make sure you track your previous spending habits by looking through your receipts. This will give you an idea of how you’ve been spending your money.

The 50/30/20 budget plan is an easy budget planner that is perfect for beginners.

50 percent of you income goes to necessities, 30 percent of your income goes to wants, and 20 percent goes to saving money or paying off debt.

If you’re a spender, then try the cash envelope system. All you have to do is put cash in envelopes designated for specific spending like groceries, eating out, gas, etc. Then once the money is gone…it’s gone! It can really help you prioritize your spending when you see cash in your hands.

I’ll be honest, cash envelopes have helped me cut back on hitting the drive thru when I look down and see that it’s my last 20 bucks for the week!

Simple Ways to Save Money on a Tight Budget

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Make a Savings Goal

Set a goal to save several hundred dollars or thousands,  what ever your savings goal may be make your goal visual.

Actually creating a goal and putting it somewhere you can see it every day will make you more likely to succeed!

You can download these FREE Money Saving Plan Printables by joining the Smart Cents Mom Free Resource Library!

Start a Side Hustle to Save Money

If you are living on a tight budget, then you may need to add an additional stream of income. As an hourly worker you could ask to work extra hours or overtime. Look for opportunities to earn money by freelancing your skills for projects outside your company.

When I was a teacher, I tutored after school 2-3 hours per week, taught summer school classes, and then used that money to help pay off student loan debt.

There are some pretty easy ways you can work from home on your computer to make extra cash. This list of 21 ways to make money online covers some of the most flexible ways you can earn money that will work around your schedule!

Actually SAVE your Money

Sometimes we get so focused on saving money that we don’t ever think about what we are doing with that savings.

I know when I’m out shopping and saving money, I usually think about how I can buy more with the savings instead of actually putting that money into an online savings account.

Open a High Yields Savings Account

Make your money work for you by using a savings account that earns a high rate of interest. This is especially helpful if you don’t have enough money to start investing, but still want to put your money to work for you.

Ally Bank has a great online savings account with an APY of 1.90%, $0 monthly fees, and $0 minimum balance.

Get Aggressive About Paying off Student Debt

I recently just payed off my student loans. When I realized that I was basically throwing away about $1200 per year in interest, I got serious about paying off my student loans.

Use Automatic Savings

Automatic savings makes life SO much easier.  When your money is automatically taken out of your pay check and put into savings, you don’t even think about it. You can use 401k or IRA through your work.

Acorns is another way you can automatically save money and invest your money. Acorns works by rounding up every purchase and investing that change. *This option is best for college students since Acorns offers a free rounding up account.

Invest Your Money

Let me be honest here, investing your money can be really scary when you don’t know what you’re doing. The first thing you need to do is start learning about investment. Education is key!

Here’s a quick video on investing for beginners that gives you some basic information about investing money.

Pay Off Credit Card Debt

Set a small goal of $1000 to pay off credit card debt to get you motivated! Dave Ramsey’s debt snowball is a really simple way to successfully pay off credit card debt. Organize your credit card debt, start with the smallest amount of debt and work to pay that first while still making payments on all your other cards. Then when you pay off that first card you put the amount you were paying towards your next credit card on the list to pay off…creating a snowball!

Saving Money Tips for Shopping

Cut Ties with Subscription Boxes 

I have a love/hate relationship with subscription boxes. I love the clothes, makeup, accessories, food, that come in these boxes, but honestly they are way too expensive! I don’t usually have $50 – $100 in my monthly budget for clothing. It is much easier to save your money if you don’t have a box coming each month with tempting items that you don’t really need.

Shredded cheese 

When we first got married my husband was insistent on me buying a block of cheese and shredding fresh cheese. It was so annoying because shredded cheese is so much more convenient. When we started budgeting our money and I began to use coupons, I realized that I save money by shredding my own cheese. So my husband wins! 

Fresh celery, carrots, peppers, onions 

One of the things I hate most is wasting food. It drives my *crazy*! We eat in almost every night with the exception of a meal out sometime over the weekend. With 3 little kids, it’s more exhausting to take them out to eat than it is to make a quick dinner. Sometimes I plan too much food for the week and we end up eating leftovers.

So I have a package of celery, bag of carrots, peppers, and onions for recipes that I don’t always get to use or I don’t need the whole bag. So what happens? That fresh produce goes bad and it’s super frustrating to throw away $10 of produce every week or two! So now I have found in my grocery section frozen veggies pre-chopped (Hello! Saves me time!!) that are perfect for my recipes. And they are only $1 a bag! That’s totally worth it to me!

Bottled Water 

I really love the convenience of being able to grab a water bottle as we are running out the door, but I hate the trash it creates and throwing away money every time I finish a bottle.

We should be drinking at least 8 glasses of water a day! For a family of 5 that’s a lot of water bottles. We have a water purifier in our refrigerator, and the water tastes great. I bought everybody in our family a water bottle. I have this water bottle that I love! And my boys each have these Thermos water bottles.  

TIP: I buy girly colors for my water bottles in hopes that my husband won’t take it with him to work (which means I will never see it again! 🙂 My kids have their water bottles set out on the kitchen counter so they can get a drink any time during the day if they are thirsty.  

New Magazines/Books 

I love reading! Even though I don’t exactly have a lot of time for reading in this season of life with 3 littles (5 and under!). Magazines and books are a splurge for me because there are so many great ways to access magazines and books for free.

I have an Amazon Prime membership which gives me access to the NEW Prime Reading (see screenshot below). Amazon Prime members read for FREE! There is a selection of books, magazines, and books with audible narration. Of course, you can also get books, magazines, and audiobooks from your library.

Our library also offers free downloads for audiobooks through a special app. It’s very easy to use and saves me tons of money on books. If I do decide to buy books the first place I go is our local book thrift store. Check your local area for book thrift stores or check out these online options Thrift Books, Abe Books and Amazon Used books.

Baby Food Pouches 

Do you use baby food pouches? I call them apple sauce and for awhile it has been my secret way of getting my 3 year old to eat some veggies. I can usually buy them for $0.87 to $1 without coupons. I can buy baby food jars (sweet potatoes, spinach, kale, carrots, peas) for $0.69 each and mix them with unsweet apple sauce. Then I put them into these reusable baby food pouches. It saves us money and we don’t create as much waste!

Saving on Laundry Soap and Cleaners

Today most laundry soaps and cleaners are made with a high concentration. Save money by cutting those products in half by only using half of the recommended amount. This can actually be better for your clothes, since soap can be left behind and ingrained in your fabrics.

Dryer Sheets 

We used to use dryer sheets every time we dry our clothes to fight the static monster. I had to buy a new box about once every month for about $6 which is a cost of $72 per year. Now I use this reusable wool dryer ball to save us money and again reduce our waste! Not only does it save me on buying dryer sheets, but the wool dryer ball also cuts down on drying time by about 10 minutes per load.

Here’s how it works!  Add white vinegar to the wool dryer ball by spraying or using a dropper. (White vinegar fights static and gets rid of soap residue.)

Then add essential oils like lavender or lemon to give your clothes a fresh smell.  Save even more money by using a clean wash cloth instead of the wool dryer balls.

Buying Items Just Because You Have a Coupon 

If you are new to couponing, then you may not have figured out that not all coupons are useful.

Just because something is on sale or I have a coupon doesn’t mean that I should spend money to buy it because it’s a good deal. I always buy the least expensive brand. Sometimes you will see a sale or have a coupon for a specific brand. I always make sure to check the store brand and other brands to see which is the best savings. Just because I have a coupon doesn’t mean it’s the best deal!


I am not a big spender when it comes to clothes. I attended an office party for my husband’s work and all my clothes I had on belonged to my sister!

We still share clothes, but we don’t fight like we used too 🙂 I borrow clothes for special occasions and I love to shop consignment stores. I have my favorite local consignment shops and a couple adult consignment pop-up shops that open each season.

Shopping online is another way that I save money on clothes. Thred Up is my favorite online consignment store. I love the convenience of being able to shop for excellent to good used condition clothes that can easily be shipped to my door.

Amazon Fashion section has great deals available too. If I’m looking for something specific or trendy I like to check prices on Amazon. Lularoe clothing is a hot trend right now, but there’s no way I can afford their prices for those buttery soft leggings. Amazon carries similar leggings that are buttery soft for half the price! Since we are Amazon Prime members I get my purchase shipped for free which is a great savings!

Another favorite place I like to shop online is Cents of Style. They have great deals weekly so I can buy trendy pieces without breaking the bank! They have a Friday deal of the week that ranges from clothes, jewelry, accessories, and even shoes.

Specific Brands only

Whether I am shopping for groceries or clothes I do not buy based on specific brands. I will eat store brand cheese, store brand diapers (I love Target diapers!), and my clothes come from whichever store has the best deal.

Not being tied to a specific brand allows me to always get the best deal. Occasionally there are times that I only want a specific brand like my deodorant. (I’ve used the same deodorant scent since middle school!) I’ve tried other brands but they don’t work and it’s not worth the savings for me. Our lack of brand devotion saves us money and gives us the flexibility to get the best deals!

Saving Money Tips Around the House

Turn the Air Down

Make your house a couple degrees warmer in the summer and a couple degrees cooler in the winter. This an potentially save you hundreds of dollars over the course of the year.

Shop Around for Insurance

We noticed that are homeowner’s insurance was increasing after we automatically renewed our policy. We ended up spending an extra $1000 because we didn’t shop around for the best deal. Lesson learned!

Take the time to shop around for homeowner’s insurancy, car insurance, and even health insurance. There are so many options today and the marketplace is competitive. Make sure you are getting the best deal!

Use Black Out Curtains

Black out curtains are an easy way to save money on keeping your house cool in the summer. Our house gets direct sunlight in the front for most of the day, so adding black out curtains has helped to keep us cool in the summer.

The black out curtain material is thick and it helps to keep warm air from escaping through windows during the winter.

Caulk those Cracks

Weatherproofing your windows and doors is a relatively cheap way to save money by keeping the cold air out in winter and warm air out in summer. You can have caulk delivered to your door with Amazon and check out Youtube videos for how to create a tight seal.

Cut Down on Water Use

  • Install low flow shower heads.
  • Take shorter showers.
  • Flush toilets less often.
  • Run the dishwasher when it is full.
  • Choose the proper water setting for the washer.

Cut Down on Electricity

  • Turn the lights off!
  • Unplug appliances or electronics that you aren’t using.
  • Use power strips to plug in electronics to make it easy to cut down on electricity.
  • Hang clothes to dry instead of using the dryer.

Tricks to Help You Save More Money

Have a “No Spend” Day, Week, or Month

Set up no spend challenges to help you save money. Instead of spending your Saturday shopping or browsing the aisles of Target, come up with a list of things you can do for free with friends or family. A challenge helps you change your mindset and gives you a positive vibe towards saving money!

Think Before You Buy

When you are out shopping take a minute to think about your spending. Ask yourself, “do I really need this?” You can even write yourself a note on your credit card or debit card to remind yourself to think before you buy. Taking the time to think about your purchases can help you make better choices when it comes to your spending habits.

Pay Bills with Auto-Pay

Choosing auto-pay for bills will help you avoid those annoying late fees and extra charges. There can be other benefits for using aut0-pay like interest rate deductions for paying on time!

Hit Unsubscribe

You’re probably like me and get hundreds of emails about the latest clothes, newest sales, and best deals from every store you shop at. It’s so tempting to think you need to buy now when you get those sales emails, when you probably weren’t even thinking about it until you saw that email!

Hit unsubscribe to all those sales emails and avoid shopping for the sake of a good sale!

Save Your Tax Refund

I know it’s so exciting to get a lump some of money back from the government, but guess what…that money was yours the whole time. It’s kind of like they’ve been saving that money just for you, so now put that money into a savings account that has a high interest rate so you can earn on that money!

Get a Piggy Bank

Seriously! You probably had a piggy bank when you were a kid, and the same concept still works as an adult. Keep up with your loose change and put that money into your

Looking for tips to save money? Try Ibotta!

Ibotta is a cell phone app that is easy to use everywhere you go to buy groceries! You can easily earn cash back rebates and transfer the money into your Paypal account. This is seriously one of my favorite ways to save money at the grocery store!

I love this app because it is so easy to use and now it’s just part of my routine when I grocery shop. You can use this at your grocery store and even Target and Walmart!  You simply find the items you want to buy in your app and then scan your purchases and receipt when you get home and put everything away.

The best part is you get to earn cash back on items that usually don’t ever have coupons like fruits, vegetables, milk, and eggs! Also, they have many items each month that are NOT BRAND SPECIFIC. So you can choose any brand in that category and still save!

If you do this all year you will have a nice chunk of change saved up from doing what you already do! Join Ibotta and earn a cash bonus!

Want more details? Read my Ibotta Review

Want to earn more?  

How to Earn $3100 with Cash Back Apps

How to $1000 per Month Like a Boss

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