Living on a budget? What are your top tips or tricks for tracking expenses and creating a budget? Share your top ideas below!



Here are some community generated tips for living on a budget:


  • Helps if you’re cheap and only buy when given a great deal. That keeps me from going to Disneyland or overpaying at restaurants or anywhere else.


  • "Don't spend money when you do not have to." I have always remembered what I was told years ago – reminds me to look at other options.


  • My mantra has always been: Do I need it, or do I want it? I grew up on skid row, south of San Francisco, next to the railroad tracks. As a child we sometimes didn't have food to eat for 1 or 2 days, but we didn't know we were poor, even with holes in our clothes and shoes. Those days taught me to be frugal. And if I need it and can't afford it, I don't make the purchase. But we were happy and I didn't know until I was older that we were poor. I am still a very happy soul and give to others when I can. Our mother taught us to give not because we had a lot, but because we knew what it was like to have nothing. You would be surprised how much you can give to others "when you have nothing."


  • See a quarter - pick it up! Another way I save is to pick up coins from the ground when I spot them.  Cash my coins in and get a gift card or buy a meal out that I would not do if I were not spending my change.


  • One of my best savings tricks is to pay bills early in the month, leave $100 in checking for things, and moving the rest of any money to savings. Once in a while I have to pull some back as I overlooked an annual bill or had an unexpected car repair.  This discipline has allowed me to save several thousand dollars by the end of a year.  Plus, savings usually has a higher interest rate!  Retired at 51 1/2, was fortunate to have a pension that I could survive on.  Able to live this way until I could withdraw annually from 401K account.  And, this year I am able to claim my full SS benefits.  Will continue with my savings scheme, as it has allowed me to travel and open education savings for the "great" niece/nephew generation.


  • Self-evaluation. I don't have a budget, per se. What I did most of my life, was to re-evaluate the day, each evening and morning, as to what things were done or still needs tending to. Therefore, I had a new "budget' each morning. As long as I didn't waste my money, and lived within my means, everything always worked out (more or less).


  • If possible, wait to retire. My suggestion, and I realize that we all do not have the opportunity to employ this, is to not retire until such time as we can access retirement funds that are about 10% more than what we need. My belief is that there will always be the unforeseen expense that presents itself....and we better be ready for it.


  • Create a realistic budget, based on what you have been spending over the last year or so, then track future spending against it. Lots of free computer apps will help but paper and pencil works too. Key is to have realistic expectation and self-assess progress on a continuing basis.


  • I use Intuit's Quicken to track my expenses and plan out my monthly budget.



  • Buy in bulk. I like to buy certain items at Costco but the amount is generally too large for one person; so I have 3 friends who like some of the same things and we share the products and the cost which usually turns out then to be cheaper than in other grocery stores.


  • Shop for birthdays and Christmas year round - I buy at the end of the season - it takes time to go through the sale racks - department and discount stores are best. I keep a box in my closet with a list by name of everything I’ve purchased. I picked up some “dog tag” style Star Wars chain in March $1.99. It was the hit of my 10 yr.old granddaughter’s birthday in July. You will be surprised how many perfect gifts you find at 70-80% off


  • Eat out. It is just my husband and I at home. When we go to the store for a week at a time and plan out our meals we actually usually spend more than if we just eat out. There are always coupons for places to eat and some places have specials on certain days. Plus there is no mess to clean up afterward.


  • Play hardball. My local newspaper subscription jumped to $261.83 for the next 13 weeks.  I called and said, "Can't do that.  How much would you charge for the digital subscription instead?"  The response was "I can offer to extend the same print subscription to you for that same price for 6 months instead, if you'd like."  It took 3 minutes to save $261.83.  And, I was bluffing.  I prefer to read the paper.


  • Price comparison shopping. I can do a lot of price comparisons for an item and eventually get tired of doing it and decide to not buy it. It ends compulsive purchases.

  • Use deal sites. Have you tried signing up for free grocery cash back programs? Try, or checkout51. You won't find all the products you’re looking for but I received $73.00 cash back since July on ibotta alone.It's worth a look.  Try Groupon for restaurants and most definitely worth trying ebates.  Received over 8.00 off my new Fitbit tracker plus 10.00 for spending over 25.00.  As long as you’re buying only what you would buy anyway and not buying just for the fun of a cashback reward.


  • One other tip I wanted to share is a site called "Brad's Deals" I like this site for several reasons. Almost everything is free shipping. All merchandise is from "legitimate" stores, not a website managing orders. When something is on sale, with a manufacturers rebate, store credit (Kohl's cash), etc. ALLof the forms you need to submit for rebate are right there on the site. So you don't have to go hunting around on coupon sites to locate a rebate which may or may not exist. 
    • Example: Daughter wanted Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer (Retail $499.00) - found on Brad's deals at Kohl’s. $100.00 rebate Kitchen Aid, 30% off on sale, $75.00 in Kohl’s money NET: $121.00 for the Stainless Steel Stand Mixer.  (Purchased in Oct.) 
  • One drawback is sometimes it can take a while depending on location - I just got some PUMA leather sneakers for $15.00 shipped from a retailer in Florida and it took 2 weeks.
  • They give you a "market overview" as to how the price on this deal stacks up with other prices out there.       


  • More tips from a savvy saver:
    • I'm 70, married with no children.  Having no children definitely helps live easier during retirement.  Believe it or not, I planned my retirement at age 14.  It came to past.  During my working years, I saved as much as possible.  We did travel all over Europe and the Eastern Mediterranean but we NEVER went into debt for anything until our first home.  Too many people buy boats, RV's, motorcycles, etc.  Most of which they might use once a year.  Rent it.  It's cheaper.  When planning your retirement, decide if you want to move.  If you do, check out the income taxes, property taxes, etc.  I live in Oregon with high income taxes.  But, I do not pay any as I am not working and my retirement is exempted due to a special law that exempts a portion of or all of your military retirement if your duty covers certain years.  Otherwise I would have had to live in a state I did not want.  Pay off your mortgage before you retire.  Don't keep giving money to adult children and relatives or you will never retire.  Don't co-sign for any loans for anyone for anything.  Unless you are very wealthy, you will never retire if you have any loans.  Move to a smaller house or apartment, at least half the size of your current one.  Once retired work part-time if you want and if anyone will hire you after age 50.  Once we reached social security age, i.e. 62, we both took it.  Yes, one receives a reduced monthly payment, but, how long do you really expect to live?  I've known too many who died at age 70 through 76.  Why wait to collect SS?  Keep at least two years annual pre-retirement income in savings.  Six months savings is nothing.  Don't touch any types of IRA's until your late '60's.  Make sure you take out just enough to keep you from going into a higher tax bracket.  Save what you take out.  If you have retirement from your job and healthcare - great.  Use them.  If you do not have any retirement but have to retire on savings alone, then you need at least 1.5 million saved in order to take out only 4% a year to get $60,000 pretax dollars.  Of course this must be adjusted so that you never use your base savings amount - until you get really old.  The wage earner needs to provide income for the spouse if that person dies first.  Get insurance on yourself.  The most important thing after the above has been done - don't overspend, i.e. go into debt or spend all of your savings.  We live comfortably, buy what we want and still save.  We don't scrimp.  Hope this helps.


A fun alternative - Best way to double your money is to fold it in half and put it back in your pocket. My parents used to say that, as they were depression era.

Read AARP's 6 Ways to Get Your Finances Ready for 2019 article for financial advice.




"....Create a realistic budget, based on what you have been spending over the last year or so, then track future spending against it. Lots of free computer apps will help but paper and pencil works too. Key is to have realistic expectation and self-assess progress on a continuing basis...".


That, to me, is #1. You can't create a budget until you track your expenses and see where the money is going. It always surprises people to find out how much money they spend on entertainment, or eating out. 

  I'm also a major proponent of credit cards. Of course, you have to be a responsible person. But a good, cash-back credit card is a big, and ongoing savings to you. We also use a cc to pay most bills, including utilities. So, we get cash back simply by using a cc to pay for electric and phone, which means a 3% discount.

We recently cut the cord with our cable TV provider. We were paying $130 a month for cable. We got rid of the cable boxes and home phone and switched to Internet only at $50 a month and only use Netflix and Hulu which in total are about $20 a month. so in total we are paying $70 a month now instead of $130. That adds up over several years.

I think it's important to identify and understand the basic necessities. For me, the most essential communication necessity is simply an internet connection. I can build on that with free email accounts, and Google Voice.


I have been using Google Voice as my primary phone for years now. It's still free, and still has a lot of useful features, like number blocking, directing specific numbers to other phones, and so on. Now that SMS short codes are accepted, I can even activate 2-factor authentication on some important websites (retirement, bank, etc). There is an addon for GMail that allows calling right from the computer, on any wired/wifi connection.


If you don't need a whole lot of mobile data, nor call on phones a lot, you can try to get a refurbished FreedomPop phone on - FreedomPop has a nice free basic plan with something like 200 minutes, 500 texts, and 500MB data (I think). You just have to use one of the phones that has their customized software. Then, you can direct Google Voice to forward calls and texts to that phone, and also call and text via the Google Voice app (thus keeping the displayed caller id the same). Bazinga!

I think that one thing that I find helpful is to buy certain grocery items in bulk that can be frozen and then thawed in the refrigerator as needed safely; and to go grocery shopping less overall.  The main problem with grocery shopping is that most of the major supermarkets are purposely set up in terms of layout, distracting music being played, and various forms of promotional advertising displayed to encourage impulsive spending for items that one does not really need.

It is wise to keep a small notebook with you all times so you can write down every penny you spend for 2 - 3 months.   This way you can track where you are spending money and what your frivolous spending is.  If you don't need that soda from a vending machine, then don't buy it.  If you don't need that lottery ticket, then don't buy it.  See the trend??


Cooking dinner once a week and then microwaving a portion of it each evening has saved me lots of money without sacrificing the quality of my meals. 

Take good care of all of your possessions.  For example,  take the time to make sure your clothing stays in good repair.  Remember the old adage:  A stitch in time saves nine?  Keep and use what you have as long as you can.  Don't be so quick to just go out and shop and buy on a whim.  If you don't really "need" an item, don't buy it.



We downsized to a Tiny House 400 sq ft, yes 400, about the size of most of your 2 car garages. Never been better, of course, we have resided on a houseboat before also, yet it was larger than the Tiny House. This is a Cavco Park Model and is left in a park community and not towed as many of them are designed for. Saving on taxes etc. park fees are nominal and it is outside of Palm Springs, CA in Sky Valley. less really is more. Also, less space allows fewer items etc. A good rule is when you make a purchase of an item, if you have others like it, eliminate it. You can donate, and receive a tax deduction as well as helping those who need it. Plus you can make money selling online or yard sale, your choice. For those of you with children, it allows you time to sort through items you wanted them to have one day. That one day is here, why leave them with the responsibility of sorting through your items. they will not know where you hid valuables unless you tell them. Enjoy seeing your children and grandchildren enjoys those precious family hand me downs to the next generation. This way YOU make sure everyone gets what they are supposed to and no arguments. I can answer any questions you might have. They also make great 2nd vacation and snowbird homes. Happy retirement.

I am on a fixed income and was coming up short each month by a couple hundred dollars, so I decided I had to do something about how I was spending money. For about three months, I recorded each grocery item, and what I paid for it onto a google sheets spreadsheet. I also put the google sheets app on my phone so I could refer to it while I was in the store. Very shortly afterwards, I started to notice that certain things went on sale regularly. So, slowly, I started stocking up only when the sales were on for those things.


Just the other day, we bought 25 packs of bacon (to freeze) at about 50 cents off the regular price per pack. That's a savings of $12.50. It doesn't seem like much, but if you can do that with 10 different items, then you've saved $125! We have 6 different grocery stores, several hardware stores, and lots of specialty stores. Make sure you cast a wide net and also try different brands of things. Don't torture yourself and keep buying things if they aren't good enough quality, though. As they say, the cheapest thing isn't always the least expensive! 😉


It won't happen overnight, and it does take extra $ and time at first, but once you get going, your bill and spreadsheet time spent will be less and less each month. 

Happy new year to all others who have commented here to date and/or are reading this posting of mine, my second thus far on this subject.


What I came to realize is that limiting impulsive spending and especially the same that is encouraged by particular stores that one does not truly have to spend any time in is very important for many on restricted budgets and faced with increases in living expenses.  In addition, purchasing more household and personal items from dollar stores and less of the same from more popular and/or well-known retail chain stores may indeed work out better for many in staying within one's budget.  Finally, something to bear in mind is that on-line shopping even on the most popular of web sites may not be practicable or an ideal option for those seeking to spend less but still enjoy life as much as possible in 2020.

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