Stretch Your Budget Without Cramping Your Style

This post is by Jesse Langley.

If you’re starting to pinch pennies and worry about cash flow, you’re not alone. Tough economic times and uncertainty about the future have a lot of people cutting back drastically. But you don’t have to cut back on all your purchases and fun activities just because you’re getting strict about your budget. You just need to get creative about how and where you’re spending.

Get smart: use coupons

Going to the grocery with just a grocery list won’t cut it anymore. Searching for sale items is a great start, but coupons can help you reduce your grocery bill significantly. And since printable coupons are so readily available, you can spend a little time finding coupons for the items on your list before you even leave the house.

Saving money on necessary budget items like groceries means you can transfer those savings into other budget categories. If you’ve completely cut out date nights or movies and an occasional pizza, the money you save on grocery bills can give you some extra cash for an occasional splurge.

Find fun alternatives

Pizza night

Image copyright Andriy Petrenko -

When people start tightening their belts and trimming budgets, the first thing to go is usually entertainment and non-essential spending. This can actually be a mistake. The last thing you want to do when times are tough is make your life less fun. You can still engage in the same fun entertainment activities. You just need to do it differently.

Taking the family out for pizza and movies can kill a budget. By the time you’ve paid for two pizzas, four movie tickets and the requisite sodas and popcorn, it’s likely going to be just shy of a hundred dollars.

Instead, have a family pizza and movie night at home. Make it a family affair with some pizza kits and have the whole family pitch in. You can enjoy some delicious homemade pizza for a fraction of the cost. And after dinner, the whole family can lounge in the living room and watch movies with a Netflix subscription. It only costs $8 per month for unlimited movies. What makes this a nice option for family entertainment is the huge selection of kid-friendly films.

So for a family night, you can have more fun and family involvement for about one tenth of what you’d spend going out.

Buy used

You shouldn’t get hung up on having to buy new items. Finding used items for a fraction of the cost is a great way to cut down on monthly expenditures, and it’s fun too. craigslist is a great resource for practically any item you’re looking for—from home furnishing to a second vehicle.

You shouldn’t have hang-ups about buying used. Local thrift shops are often a lot more like little boutiques than the Salvation Army you may remember as a kid. Buying gently used clothing allows you to make frequent targeted purchases and it’s easy to find exactly what you’re looking for. Finding name brand clothing in a local thrift store is a great way to cut back on clothing purchases—and there’s no thrill quite like finding the perfect cashmere sweater for just a few dollars.

Cutting back on spending is a good idea, but there’s no reason you can’t make it fun. What budget-stretching tips can you share with us?

Jesse Langley lives near Chicago. He divides his time among work, writing, and family life. He has a keen interest in blogging and social media and is an advocate for online training.

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  1. Fun alternatives are best. We here are always on a tight budget because we put most of our money on savings. Over the years we’ve discovered ways to trim down on the expenses but still have awesome fun with friends and family. Homemade food works best in tight situations.

  2. Jesse,

    Who hasn’t been financially strapped, at one point in their lives or another? The ‘value added’ bonus to penny-pinching is it forces you to get creative. That’s always a good thing…

    The local papers post announcements for free things to do, in their ‘Community’ section.

    These include free concerts, lectures, book discussions, arts and crafts activities for adults and kids, etc. These are especially abundant if you live near a college or community center.

    The other benefit of participating in these events is you get to meet neighbors who have similar interests.


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