How To Cut Your Budget — When There Is Nothing Left To Cut

It is no secret that you need to make a budget.  But, what do you do when you can’t make the numbers work? This is a common question people ask themselves.  So, how do you cut your spending?

what to do when your budget does not work - calculator and pencil doing the math

what to do when your budget does not work - calculator and pencil doing the math

I remember when my husband and I were struggling after I quit my job to stay home with our firstborn.  It was tough, and we all know you can’t get blood from a turnip!

Before you look at what you can do to save on your budget, you need to make sure you have one.  Your budget needs to be in writing. It needs to be a roadmap showing you where you will spend your money.

If you are just learning about budgeting, you will want to check out our page — How to Budget. There, you will learn everything you want to know about budgets and budgeting.


1.  Find ways to bring in more money each month

Of course, you can’t give yourself a raise at your job, but there are other things you can do to bring in more money.  You can sell items you no longer need or find a part-time job.

If your budget is not working no matter what you’ve tried, it is time to make some tough choices.  And, it may mean it’s time for another job to help you make your budget work.

Read More: 75+ Ways To Make Money

2.  Don’t be so hard on yourself

Sit back for a minute and look at where you were before you knew about budgeting and stretching your dollar vs. where you are now.  Be proud of what you’ve done and the changes you’ve made.  Sometimes, just knowing that you’ve made positive financial changes is enough to be proud about.  Just celebrate the small victories.

3.  Don’t compare yourself to others

You may see others who claim that they found a way to shave their budget by hundreds of dollars every month.  While we would all love to be able to do that, it may not be realistic for you.  You may have additional expenses others do not have.

Your income is different than them.  You have your own financial goals.  When you stop comparing yourself to others, the need to keep up and compete will stop, and you can feel better about your budget.

4.  Look at your needs vs. wants

There are probably things you have in your life that are wants rather than needs (and vice versa).  Do you have both a landline and cell phone?  If so, do you need both or do you want both?  Maybe it’s time to drop one of them to save money.

Take a look at your entertainment.  Do you need cable or can you find an alternative that will save you money? Do you need to eat dinner out once a week – or do you want to dine out?

Take our situation for example.  When we were getting out of debt, we did not eat in a restaurant for more than a year.  It was tough, but we survived.  The reason was that we determined that it was a want to dine out and not a need.  Instead, we took the money we would have spent having a dinner out and used it towards our debt instead.

Read More:  How Your Needs vs. Your Wants Can Affect Your Budget

5.  Seek assistance

Now might be the time when you need to reach out to get help.  You may need to look at local programs or services that can help you with your bills. Check with your local government to find ways to get help with utility bills, apply for food stamps, locate a food pantry and even get assistance for child care.

Just because you ask for help does not mean you are not financially responsible.  We all have times when we need a hand, and these organizations are here to help.  Once you get back on your feet, then that will be your chance to pay it forward to help someone else.

6.  Cut your food bill

It sounds simple, but you need to cut back on your spending. Perhaps you need to cut out some of the convenient foods you normally buy or make less expensive meals.

Start to use coupons!  While you may not find them for the fruits, vegetables, and meats you need, you can find them for the household products you use and many other products around your house.  Combine these with sales to ensure you pay the lowest price possible.

You might also consider changing where you shop.  One idea is to shop at Aldi.  If you live near one of these locations, you can easily cut your spending by nearly 50% just by shopping here!

Read More:  How to Cut Your Grocery Bill in Half

7. Lower your utility expenses

You can’t live without water and electricity, but you may be able to steps to reduce how much you spend.  Turn off the lights in rooms when they aren’t in use.  Keep the blinds closed to keep the heat out (or in, depending on the season).

Take a look around the house and unplug anything when not being used.  Electronics can still draw a charge when plugged in, even if you are not using them.

Finally, reach out to a provider like BillCutterz to see if they can’t negotiate rates down on your behalf.

Read more:  50+ Ways to Lower your Monthly Utility Bill

8. Eliminate subscriptions

Take a look at all the monthly services you pay for.  You may have a gym membership, Netflix or streaming service or additional services you are not using regularly.  When you continue to pay for something you are not fully using, you are wasting money.

9.  Use Cash

I know it sounds crazy, but it works.  When you use cash for your discretionary spending you can never overspend.  So, if you need to lower your grocery spending, the simple way to ensure you do not overspend is to get cash.

Cash is defined, and when it is gone, it’s gone. It is a simple tool that you can use to ensure that you always stay on budget and help keep your spending in check.

Read More:  How to create a cash budget

If your budget is not working, then it is time to make some big moves. It will not be fun. It will not be easy. But it is something you just have to do.


Budget Help: Answering Frequently Asked Questions About Budgeting

Budget Help: Answering Frequently Asked Questions About Budgeting

If you’re taking a look at your finances for the first time, chances are that you have at least a few budgeting questions. Here are the most common questions about budgeting we get at from first-timers like you.

What should you do before beginning to design your budget?

Before you prepare a budget, you’ll need to take a cold, hard look at your finances. This part is never fun—especially if you’ve wracked yourself up a ton of credit card debt or spend way too much on burritos. But this less-than-pleasant exercise of analyzing your income, calculating your living expenses, and observing your spending habits is the first step to answering your budget questions.

How much do I make? How much can I spend? What percent should I save? To answer those questions about budgeting, you’ll first need to compare your income against your expenses—then you’ll know how much you have to work with every month.

Should I establish goals from the beginning?

When you start budgeting, it is important to give equal consideration to long term and short term savings goals. In order to determine what types of goals should be set and when, ask yourself specific questions like:

  • Do I want to develop a plan for retirement?
  • Am I saving for my college education, or do I need to set up a fund for my children?
  • Is it necessary to set up a fund for large expenses such as a vehicle purchase or a mortgage?
  • Do I have any big-ticket, short-term financial goals, like a new appliance or a summer vacation?

These budgeting questions will help you develop a set of financial goals, and create a timeframe for achieving them. For example, saving for retirement is considered a long-term goal, and creating a travel fund could be considered a short-term goal.

Choose a budgeting system that feels comfortable for you.

What is the 50 20 30 budget rule?

One of the best budgeting tips you can follow is the 50 20 30 rule, which suggests that you spend 50% of your after-tax income on needs, 30% on wants, and 20% to savings. This is a great way to allocate your money into budget categories, especially if you’re creating a budget for the first time.

If you’re worried about math and percentages, don’t be. Download a budget tracker that can do the hard work for you and give you a visual representation of how your personal finances are looking.

Should I use paper, spreadsheets, or software?

To create a rough draft of your budget, choose a system that feels comfortable. While some prefer to work directly in an Excel spreadsheet, others prefer writing everything down with pencil and paper. If you are comfortable on the web, a budgeting tool like makes it easy to organize everything into categories, and create a system of reminders.

Is a budget just about paying bills?

No! Creating a budget does set up a system by which you can pay your bills on time, but it is so much more than that. In addition to bills, you should also be setting funds aside to:

  • Save for educational plans: Either starting a new degree program or furthering your own education.
  • Save for retirement: This is especially important for those who are not comfortable relying upon the Social Security Administration, as well as those who do not have the opportunity to set up a retirement plan through their employer.
  • Save for emergencies: Anyone can experience unexpected medical situations, the loss of a job, or the death of a loved one. Even though no one likes thinking of these negative situations, it is important to plan for them by putting aside savings.
  • Pay down debt: Creating personal wealth through budget strategies cannot occur until the debt is paid down and investments are put into place. These are important ingredients to a successful budget and should be part of your long-term goals.

What should I take into account when budgeting?

This is one of the most common budgeting questions we get asked, mainly because life can throw you so many unexpected curveballs that completely derail your personal planning. In addition to your basic bills like rent, utilities, and student loan payments, you should set aside money in an emergency fund in case your car suddenly kicks the can and demands expensive repairs.

Always remember to account for upcoming special occasions, whether it’s the vacation you’ve been saving towards, your best friend’s birthday next week, or all the holiday spending that awaits you at the end of the year. A budget app can help you plan accordingly and clear up your questions about budgeting.

How often should I update a budget?

Even though the initial budget is the template for all future budgets, you should revisit your budget every few months, or whenever your financial situation changes dramatically. This is especially true for those who have fluctuating incomes. These fluctuations should be updated within the budget, in case you need to make spending adjustments to stay within your budget.

It’s also important to look for trends in your budget. For example, over the last two months, it may become apparent where you can reduce or eliminate certain spending habits. You can also look for where you can save money, shift money between different accounts, or pay down bills.

What’s your budget question? Let us know in the comments below! Mint makes it easy to create your first budget, and stick with it to achieve your financial goals. Sign up for your free account today!

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