Tips for Living on a Tight Budget in the UK

 

 

Tips for living on a tight budget

When you are living on a tight budget every little extra you can save or make can have a meaningful impact.

Whether you are on a tight budget because you are living on a low income, or you are intent on cutting costs for better things in the future, we have money-saving ideas for you.

Every pound counts.

Have a look through the ideas and actions and try out the ones that will make the most difference for you.

Know Your Budget

The first thing that helps on a tight budget is to know your budget.

By that I mean, know your income and your expenses.

If you don’t know what’s coming in and going out, you can’t know if you are making improvements for the future.

It just needs to be a simple budget.

One column that lists your income.

Another column that lists your outgoings.

Over time you can then work on reducing each of those outgoings or get more for your money.

You can also consider if there are any ways to increase the budget on the income side too, but I find it helps to plug the leaks first and then focus on increasing the income which isn’t then being wasted in some areas you might not yet be aware of.

The tips below will help you do both.

Meal Planning

You’ll be surprised how much you can save simply by planning your meals a few days or a week in advance.

Any time you can plan a eat a homecooked meal is a money-saving opportunity over eating supermarket ready meals or even more expensive takeouts.

Plan and prepare cheap meals in advance.

Combine with using what you have in your cupboards, fridges and freezers.

Don’t overcook or let anything go to waste.

Avoid Takeaways and Eating Out

Takeaway food can be 3-4 times as expensive as buying similar from a supermarket, e.g pizzas and ready meals from of your favourite culinary continents.  You can save multiples more with home-cooked meals.

Eating and dining out is even more expensive.

You can still eat your favourite meals to satisfy any cravings, just stick to the cheaper supermarket alternatives while on a tight budget and perhaps use a favourite takeaway meal as a reward for sticking to a budget over time.

Buy To a List

Only buy what you put on your shopping list.  Avoid all impulse buys.

Maybe grab a basket rather than a trolley.  This will also stop you from buying too much at any one time.

Save Money on Your Utility Bills

Where possible review every single monthly utility bill and see if you can make savings.

Use comparison sites to see if you can switch to cheaper providers.

  • Do you need a landline?
  • Switch to cheaper energy providers
  • Switch to cheaper broadband deals

Where possible combine taking out new deals with the best cashback sites.

If you can’t switch energy providers, think about energy usage and wastage.

I found all kinds of tips for something specific as the cheapest way to heat a room.

Save on your Mobile

You don’t need the latest phone and you don’t need an upgrade just because your current deal has come to an end.

As soon as you can get yourself on the cheapest SIM-only deal you can.

Save up to buy a refurbished handset outright.  I’ve brought good condition refurbished handsets from Giff Gaff and been well impressed with the quality.

Save Money on Food

For many of us, our food bill is one of the biggest weekly expenses on our budgets, especially if a family.

  • Downshift brands
  • Shop at discounters Lidl and Aldi
  • Consider yellow sticker reduced food
  • Buy only what you need

Pay Off Debt

If you are living on a tight budget and having debt repayments, one of the best things you can do is focus on paying the debt off and certainly not taking on any more.

Reducing and ultimately clearing the debt will free up these monthly expenses in the future.

If you are looking for some debt-free inspiration check out Dave Ramsey’s Baby Steps.  He is American but highly motivational when it comes to logically clearing your debts.

Cancel TV Subscriptions

Not only will cancelling TV subscriptions directly save money on your monthly bills, but it could make even more of a difference by freeing up time that you can put towards implementing more savings elsewhere or making more money.

How much TV do you watch?  The average person in the UK watches 2-3 hours of TV a day.  That’s 14- 21 hours a week.

Let’s say you just reduce by 10 hours a week, that’s 40 hours a month, the equivalent of a whole week of full-time work or effort you can put towards improving your financial situation.

Some people have Sky, Netflix, Disney and Amazon Prime.  Do you really need more than 1 at any 1 time?

That doesn’t even include the extra sports and movie options.

Direct Debit Audit (Cancel More Subscriptions)

Check every single direct debit and standing order while you are at it.

Consider cancelling all subscriptions and only renewing when you next want to use them.

You might even have some you forget you were even paying.

These might include:

  • Music streaming (Spotify, Amazon music etc)
  • Mobile App subscriptions
  • Magazine subscriptions

To do a full audit check a year’s worth of statements because some might be annual subscriptions.  For example antivirus software that’s been forgotten about and for which there might be a free alternative.

Check the following for subscriptions:

  • Bank Statements
  • Credit Card bills
  • Paypal account
  • App Store subscriptions

Reduce Transport Costs

Are car repayments a chunk of your budget?  Or are you a 2 car household when maybe one will do?

Consider saving up to buy a cheaper car outright and crossing out those monthly repayments from the budget.  Or put them towards saving to buy your next car outright.

It’s almost the norm nowadays for people to buy or lease cars they can’t really afford (they can’t buy outright but can manage the monthly payments).

Can you walk or bike more instead?  Is public transport a cheaper option?

If you have to use the car, make sure you aren’t overpaying for petrol, use the petrol prices app to find the cheapest petrol in your area.

Cancel Gym / Fitness Classes

Do you need a gym membership while on a tight budget?

Can you run on the streets instead of a jogger, use your cycle instead of an exercise bike for a few months?

Do all kinds of home workouts and Yoga on Youtube?  There is some real quality out there now.

Alternatively, if the gym is a must, have a look at any cheaper options.

Compare and Switch (plus get cashback too)

For every monthly bill on your budget schedule a date before auto-renewal to do a price comparison and see if you can get a cheaper deal.

Even if you want to stay with your current provider, get the cheapest price and then give them a ring and tell them you are thinking of leaving because of the price and see if they will offer you a better deal.

I also combine all my annual renewals with cashback, usually through 2 of the best cashback sites, most often Topcashback, but also sometimes with Quidco.

This works well with:

You pay the same price but because you click through via a cashback site first you get a reward, which could be £30-£60+ depending on what it is.

See my reviews for examples of cashback I’ve had back (totalling £100’s).

Keep a Spending Diary

Do you ever wonder where the money goes?  What are you spending your money on?

Keep a spending diary and record of every penny you spend every day.

This will help you potentially spot small but regular expenses you might not otherwise have noticed.

Is it something you are buying every day as a habit that you don’t need or would be cheaper to prepare your own in advance, e. a bottle of tap water or flask of coffee?

Whatever it is, work out the monthly and annual costs and then consider ways to reduce or cut out the expense altogether.

You should include cash expenses and also bank statements.  Know where your money is going.

Save An Emergency Fund

Do you have an emergency fund?

When you are living on next to nothing or on a shoestring budget, it’s important to have an emergency fund.

Do everything you can to save up £500 to £1000 as a backup fund to cover unexpected expenses.

The last thing you want when living on a shoestring is to be hit with unexpected expenses and have to take out debt which will just increase your outgoings even more in the future.  Especially if you have to pay any interest.

Prepare in advance and build an emergency fund.

Make Extra Money

It’s all well and good to focus on ways to save money, but when money is tight and you’ve plugged the spending leaks one of the best things you can do is use your time to make more money.

I have used many options myself and there’s something for everyone within these key posts:

Sell Stuff

Have a good clear out and see if you have anything you can sell.

Whether it’s an old phone that’s in a draw devaluing to nothing or unwanted gift or general clutter.

Here are some posts that might help:

Reward Yourself

It can be hard sticking to a tight budget, but if you work hard to make savings and making extra money so consider rewarding yourself when you hit any particular goals.

This will keep you motivated to keep the momentum going and working towards reaching your next target.

Try to save up for your treats in advance rather than a random splurge.

A Little Often Adds Up to A lot

Remember, a little often soon adds up to a lot.

Don’t think a small saving is not worth making or won’t make a difference.

If it results in an ongoing saving every week or month and combined with as many other small savings as you can make they will soon start adding up and overtime make a huge difference.

If you can save £1 a day that will equate to:

  • £7 a week
  • £30 a month
  • £365 a year
  • £730 over 2 years
  • £1825 over 5 years

Just from that single act of finding a way to save £1 a day.

Bear in mind, if you can make these changes a habit you won’t even notice any effort and the savings will just accrue.

Related Posts

We have put together some extra tips if you are in a position where you think you can’t afford Christmas (31 tips to help).

Plus 82 actionable frugal money-saving tips to save you £100’s a year.

FAQ’s

How do you live on a tight budget?

Review every outgoing on your budget and aim to get as low as possible or to cut the cost altogether.  Take each day at a time, the longer you can stick to your tight budget the more you will form new habits that will make it easier.  If at all possible utilise ways to make some extra money.  Plan to reward yourself for sticking to or reaching any budget goals you set.  Have an end goal in mind for what you want to achieve by sticking to the budget.  Saving a little money is always better than going into debt.

What does living on a tight budget mean?

When you are living on a tight budget and your outgoings are high compared to your income.  After paying for the necessities including utility bills and food, you have very little if any money left over to save or spend on treats or luxuries.

How to Save Money on a Tight Budget?

Even if you are on a tight budget it’s still possible to save money, little and often is the key.

If you spend cash, set up a savings jar, ideally one you can’t open until it’s full.

There are also some great savings apps which analyse your spending and bank balance and save small amounts without putting you into overdraft.   They are designed to save in a way you barely notice and over time build you a nice nest egg.

The Chip app (review) is one such example.

 

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