As any successful budgeter will tell you, learning how to stretch your money when you’re on a budget is one of the most important financial skills you can develop.
Not only does it help you stay on budget, but it can help you achieve your financial goals faster than you ever thought possible.
And the best part is, stretching your money doesn’t mean you have to be cheap.
Rather, it’s just about making smarter decisions and understanding what is, and what isn’t essential.
But how, exactly, do you go about it?
Well, for the rest of this guide, I’m going to reveal 11 of the best ways to stretch your money, and make every dollar you earn go a little bit further.
Let’s get to it!
1. Start Meal Planning
If you’re like most people, food is one of the largest categories in your budget.
Between restaurants and groceries, your monthly food spending can be sneaky expensive.
Fortunately, there’s a solution.
If you spend a little time each week planning your meals, you can save quite a bit of money every month.
Seriously, I’m talking hundreds of dollars; or thousands over the course of a year.
And the better you get at meal planning, the more money you can save.
Not only will having a well-defined meal plan keep you from overspending at the grocery store, but it will also help you avoid spending large amounts on impromptu trips to local restaurants and fast food joints.
I can’t emphasize this enough, meal planning is one of the best ways to stretch your money.
Interested in saving money and frugal living? Check out some of our related posts:
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- 7 Best Ways To Save Money On Car Expenses
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2. Drive Less To Save On Fuel
It’s no secret that the less you drive, the less you spend on fuel.
Therefore, whenever you possibly can, ditch the car on some of your shorter journeys and ride a bike instead. This has the added benefit of being much better for your health!
Or, if you live in an area with decent public transportation, consider taking the bus or train to work a couple of days every week.
Public transportation tends to be cheaper and gives you time to read a novel or check your emails on your way to the office as an added bonus. (Gotta love a little extra productivity!)
As an added benefit, the less you drive, the less wear and tear you will put on your car. Thus, you will end up spending less money on maintenance like oil changes and new brakes. Oh, and to top it all off, if you drive below a certain annual threshold, many insurance companies will give you a discount on your policy.
I’m telling you, if you’re looking for a way to make your money go further each month, driving less frequently is one of the best strategies you can employ.
3. Stop Paying For Cable
Did you know that the average US household spends $1,141 every year on cable and Internet? (source)
That’s almost $100 per month!
Of course, I realize that the internet has become a necessity for most people, so we’re not telling you to go without it. But cable television is undoubtedly a luxury that most people can cut when they’re looking to stretch their money.
And with so many cheaper streaming alternatives like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, you don’t need cable in your home to enjoy compelling, on-demand shows.
Granted, many sports fans will struggle without cable, but you could always use some of the money you save on cable every week to enjoy a night out at your favorite bar to watch the big game.
4. Shop For Cheaper Insurance
It seems like we need insurance for everything these days. Whether it’s medical, life, home, car, or renters insurance, most people end up forking over thousands of dollars every year on insurance premiums.
But just because insurance is important, doesn’t mean you need to pay through the nose for it.
In fact, there are tons of really awesome ways to save money on insurance.
For instance, you can combine many of your policies into one (also known as “bundling”), in order to reduce your overall insurance burden.
They bring together the best offers from a range of providers, allowing you to find the perfect amount of coverage for the best possible price.
5. Pay Cash For Everything
Cash is king! How many times have you heard people say that?
Although a bit of a cliché, it’s actually super important advice when trying to make your monthly income go further.
Paying cash for everything will force you to be much more sensible with your purchases.
Paying with cash keeps you from spending money on anything for which you can’t purchase outright.
If you don’t have the cash available, you can’t afford it; it’s as simple as that.
While this might seem restrictive to you, it’s actually an incredibly important discipline if you’re hoping to stretch your money on a tight budget.
And that leads me to our next piece of advice.
6. Cut Up Your Cards
There should be absolutely no place in your wallet or purse for credit cards.
Because credit card debt is one of the fastest and easiest ways to wreck your financial future and restrict your cash flow.
Seriously, if you’re searching for one of the best ways to stretch your money, you should start thinking of credit cards as your nemesis.
They lure you into a false sense of security and trick you into thinking you can afford things that you really can’t.
Now, I realize this is easier said than done.
We live in a society where we’re constantly told that debt is good, and consumerism is the answer to all of our problems. As such, frivolous spending is encouraged, and we end up loaded with credit card debt and huge monthly payments.
But if you want to stretch your money as far as possible, you need to take absolute control of your spending habits.
And one of the easiest ways to do that is to cut up your credit cards.
7. Sell Your Stuff
If you live in an average American household, you probably have quite a few items lying around that you could sell for a nice chunk of change.
In fact, I recommend going through your house, room by room, searching through closets and cabinets for items that you are willing to sell.
From your kids’ toys and clothes to golf clubs and board games, the more stuff you can sell, the easier your financial life will be.
You can then use this money to pay off some extra debt, add to your emergency fund, or even beef up your investments.
8. Cook Every Meal At Home
While we all love dining out with loved ones once in a while, there’s nothing like a few restaurant bills to bust your budget.
I mean, even a family meal at a fast food joint can cost in excess of $30 per outing. Do that a couple times a week, and you can end up spending upwards of $1,500 per year on take-out. Ouch!
Now, I realize we’ve already introduced the importance of meal planning – but you need to have the discipline to carry it out.
When looking to stretch your dollars further, commit to cooking every single meal at home.
And we’re not just talking about dinners here.
You should avoid Starbucks for your morning coffee and pastry, and instead, brew your coffee at home.
The same is true for lunch – perhaps you can take your frozen leftovers to warm up and enjoy it at your desk.
Plain and simple, when you cut out restaurant spending, you will have a lot more money available for other important parts of your budget.
9. Start A Side Hustle
The gig economy has exploded over the last few years.
And if you’re looking to add a little room between your income and expenses, starting a side hustle is one of the best ways to accomplish that!
Honestly, it’s never been easier.
With websites like Fiverr and Upwork giving you access to millions of potential clients, you can start your own freelancing business within about an hour of reading this very sentence.
You could spend a couple of nights every week working as a freelancer in one or more of the following fields:
- Blogging/article writing
- Social media management
- Web design and development
- Transcription and data entry
Alternatively, if you’re more practical-minded, you could opt for one of the following:
- Pet sitting/dog walking
- Gardening/lawn mowing
- Delivery driving
Even if you’re only able to make a couple of hundred extra bucks every month, you will be under a lot less pressure when it comes to meeting your budget.
10. Get Out Of Debt
Regardless of what you might hear, there’s no such thing as good debt.
In fact, the more debt you owe, the less wiggle room you have for all other aspects of your life.
So, if you want to stretch your money as far as it will possibly go, and make your financial life significantly easier, we highly recommend getting completely out of debt.
To be fair, having gone through a debt-free journey of our own, we know getting out of debt isn’t easy.
And the first step is the hardest.
But trust me, the reward is well worth every bit of effort!
You will find that as soon as you take the first steps, things will begin to get a lot easier. You will also increase your confidence and realize that you’re by no means defined by your debt.
There are many ways of getting out of debt; some of which are more complex than others.
However, we recommend keeping it simple and using the Debt Snowball Method.
To use this method, you focus on your smallest debts first while making only the minimum repayments on your other debts.
Then, as you retire each debt, you take the monthly payment you were putting toward it, and apply it to your next largest debt.
Over the course of time, your payments get larger and larger (i.e. “snowball”), and you’re able to pay off your debts faster than you ever thought possible.
The snowball method helps you with your motivation and shows you that it’s perfectly possible to get your debts under control. This is the method we used to get out of debt, and I can’t recommend it enough.
11. Learn To Say “No”
So many of us struggle to say no.
In fact, it’s such a struggle that multiple authors have written books giving us advice on how to say this simple word with confidence!
But the hard truth is, if you want to stretch your money, you need to master the art of saying no.
From turning down drinks out with co-workers, to walking out of a car dealership that’s trying to convince you to finance a vehicle, the less willing you are to spend money, the further your income will go.
Learning how to stretch your money when you’re living on a budget is one of the most important financial skills you can learn.
Not only will it help you free up extra cash for saving and investing, but it can actually reduce a lot of the financial stress in your life.
And the best part is, making your money go further isn’t rocket science.
All it takes is a little willpower and discipline.
So, what do you do to stretch a dollar? Be sure to drop your answer in the comments!