When looking at budgets, the first thing everyone tells you to do is cut. Cut this, cut that, don’t spend money on those, give up all that, don’t even bother putting that in your budget – you don’t need it. When your budget feels too restrictive, it can be incredibly difficult to stick to.
I tried a very restrictive budget for a month and all that happened was that every purchase made me feel guilty – no matter how big or how small. Sure, my car payment was made on time and my cats had food, but the little luxuries (like a $5 frame for my wall or an extra dollar for guac) made me feel so guilty I ended up ditching that budget quick.
Nobody likes feeling guilty about their spending, which is why cutting everything probably isn’t going to work and may be the reason you’ve tried budget after budget and it just doesn’t stick. So, it’s time to get creative about being frugal! Maybe it’s about finding an alternative, or just reducing the amount you spend on various things. Maybe it’s about putting priority to some items. Either way, you don’t have to stick to a restrictive budget that will make you feel bad.
Here are 8 things you don’t have to give up in order to stick to your budget.
1: Books & Audiobooks
More so when I was younger, I was crazy into reading. I read anything I could get my hands on. Books were my favorite gifts, and I had a huge book collection. The problem? It cost a lot! There are definitely better ways to get books at low cost or even free.
The obvious choice, of course, is the library – tons of books are available at no cost to library card holders. My library even has a digital media catalogue, and I can have books, ebooks, and audiobooks right on my phone via the Libby app. It’s great to dive into new reads without having to go to the library itself sometimes!
Another option is to set up a book swap with a few friends. I used to do this, and it was an awesome way to read something I normally wouldn’t have picked up. We exchanged books every couple of weeks. If you have some bookworm friends, it’s super fun to get to know their taste in literature, too!
2: Your Daily Coffee
I get it, I get it! “Ditch the Starbucks” is the first thing on every cut-these-from-your-budget list. It’s annoying to hear over and over, especially when you’re a coffee addict like me. The reality is that you honestly don’t have to cut awesome coffee from your budget. If you must have the major chain, a lot of online survey opportunities (including my favorite, ExpertVoice, which is a great one for retail associates) reward you with Starbucks gift cards.
Otherwise, try making coffee yourself. Yes, it might require a few ingredients, but the cost of ingredients for a dozen coffees is a lot less in the end than buying it each time. In addition, you won’t ever be late to class or work again because the coffee line took forever! You can even get fancy with it. Try this Copycat Iced Caramel Macchiato, or if you prefer, this Copycat Strawberry Acaï Refresher.
Makeup may not really be an essential, but anyone who works in a professional environment knows you honestly can’t go a day without it. The problem is that it gets expensive fast. $38 for foundation is just outlandish to me! There may be a couple of solutions here. Maybe you can simplify your routine and cut the number of makeup products you use on a daily basis.
For me, my makeup routine is fairly easy already, so I had to try some alternatives to expensive products. I found Target’s line of e.l.f makeup and honestly haven’t turned back. They’re quality products that even my sensitive, acne-prone skin doesn’t protest to. And they’re so much less expensive!
4: Good Food
Eating out can be super pricey, especially for multiple people or when it’s done every day. But that doesn’t mean you have to switch to ramen noodles and canned pasta and give up eating tasty food. Fresh vegetables can be quite cheap, or frozen ones can be found for about a dollar per bag. If you stock up on different spices, you can make a huge variety of meals out of similar ingredients. Learning to cook for yourself is also a fun skill!
And if you’re really craving eating out? Try making it yourself! I’ve tried this recipe for Copycat Chick-fil-a sandwiches and man, is it spot on! She also has recipes for their lemonade and signature sauce. Chipotle more your thing? This awesome chicken marinade paired with this cilantro-lime rice makes it taste just like your bowl (especially if you dribble on a little chipotle tabasco!).
>> Liking this list? Check out my tips for budget mistakes you know you’re making.
According to Fortune, the average cable bill is over $100 every month – eek! I can think of much better uses of $100 per month. If you must have your TV fix, though, there are lots of alternate options. Even if you were to combine the basic accounts for Netflix ($9), Hulu ($6), and Amazon Prime Video ($9) all together, that’s still only $24 a month! There’s so many show options there.
If you’re a die-hard fan of specific channels, some networks offer their own subscription services, such as CBS’s All Access Pass for $6. There are even sports plans. Even combining multiple subscription services comes out to a way lower monthly cost if you give up your traditional cable bill, with the benefit of being available on all of your devices.
Okay, this sounds like the dumbest one ever, but how many cases of plastic water bottles do you buy? Every list out there says “stop buying plastic water bottles!” and frankly, this one is true. Compared to drinking tap water, buying water bottles is extremely expensive, not to mention bad for the environment. You don’t have to sacrifice your water intake, though – a cheap reusable bottle will save you tons and keep you healthy. You can even filter your tap water to make it taste better, or most grocery stores have large refillable containers of water.
If you’re looking for more of an investment in your hydration, my personal favorite water bottle has got to be the Hidrate Spark. It comes with me to work, to the gym, to class, and anywhere else I need to go. It’s a “smart” water bottle that syncs with an app on your phone (just as cool as it sounds!) to show you how much you’ve drank and how much more you need to reach your goal. It even glows to remind you to drink. I’m on my second bottle right now, and I’m looking forward to their next one.
I’ve always been able to get by without spending too much on clothes. I get a lot of hand me downs and gifted clothes, and I worked in a retail uniform for many years, so I didn’t need much except a few pairs of pants. A lot of people I know, though, are constantly shopping for clothes. It adds up, really fast.
Secondhand shops are a fantastic way to find clothes that are often barely worn for a few dollars a piece. Many of them also benefit charities like women’s shelters. Never been thrift shopping before? I found some tips for you. If you have friends of a similar size, try doing a clothing swap! Try new styles without the commitment of buying (and returning) them. In addition to being cheaper, buying secondhand clothing is great for the planet as it reduces waste.
8: Spa Days
Self care should always be #1. Your physical and mental health are extremely important, and for many of us, taking some time to go to the spa or nail salon is part of our self car routine we don’t want to give up. However, regular trips to these services aren’t cheap. The great news is, it’s easy (and relaxing) to set up your own spa day! Light a candle, put on some music, and check out these awesome DIY spa day ideas.
There are lots of simple ways to give yourself the spa experience at home so that you can extend the time between visits to these services. If you get really good at giving yourself an at-home manicure, maybe you won’t have to pay for the nail salon ever again!
The point is, you don’t have to give up everything in order to stick to your budget. Have you come up with any creative ways to keep things in your budget?