How to Spend Less Money in a Tough Economy (wallet with $5 bills)

How to Spend Less Money in a Tough Economy

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The economy is obviously rough right now.

(Huge understatement.)

Some people might be doing well and others might be struggling a lot.

No matter where you are, most of us want to spend less money. When times are stressful, it can be easy to turn to spending money. I am pretty darn frugal but I have had my bouts with impulse spending over the last few months.

But if we overspend, we’re just going to end up feeling even more financial stress. And then the cycle continues.

So for all of us, here are 6 doable tips to spend less money in a rough economy.

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6 Frugal Tips to Spend Less Money

1. Spend less money now by thinking of Future You

One of the saving strategies I use has saved me thousands of dollars.

Whenever you want to buy something that is a want and not a need, ask yourself one simple question:

“Will I still value this in a year?”

Often the answer is no.

I don’t need another new hat, I already have several. And no I probably won’t care that much about this particular new hat in one year. I leave the store or close the browser.

If the answer is yes, I think I will still love that new dress in a year, or I can see myself still using that new expensive blender in one year, then I buy it and enjoy it.

It is not about denying yourself all non-essentials; it is about being mindful and conscious of where your money is going, and spending on what is most important to you.

Thinking of Future You is also the reason you might put money into investments instead of spending it today.

2. Use a cash-back app

Another way to spend less money is use a cash back app such as Rakuten for online purchases.

If you are going to buy something on Amazon, Groupon, Best Buy, etc, buy through the Rakuten portal. Rakuten gives you a percentage back of your purchase for buying through their site, ranging from 2% to 15%.  Rakuten is partnered with 2500 popular outlets; last year I received cash back from purchasing flights through Rakuten.

If there are purchases you are going to make anyways – this is important, don’t buy something you didn’t intend to just because it was offering 10% cash back – you will save money by purchasing through a cash back site.

3. Create a budget

For most people, if you want to spend less money, creating a budget is pretty essential.

You can use worksheets (like our Minimalist Budget Binder) or software (like Personal Capital).

The method doesn’t matter so much (though I shouldn’t be saying that as I sell a Budget Binder – haha!).

The main reason I’m saying that is not because my budget binder isn’t good or won’t help you (it’s awesome and it will), but because you need to choose the budgeting method that will work for you.

In your budget make sure you include the big categories:

  • Food
  • Housing
  • Transportation
  • Clothing
  • Health care
  • Miscellaneous

Making a budget (and then actually paying attention to it) is a proven way for many people to spend less money. Also read 10 creative ways to save money on a tight budget.

And check out these 15 best budgeting books you NEED to read! Have you read any of them already?

4. Overestimate expenses

When most people are creating a budget, they underestimate the amount of expenses they’re going to have that month. Then near the end of the month, they can really be feeling tight for money or have trouble paying bills.

To counteract the bias we have to be overly optimistic of how far our money will go, add in an extra 10-20% to your budget to account for variable expenses, or expenses that just pop up.

Here are 5 best budgeting tools that will make it simpler to manage your money.

5. Buy used to spend less money on goods

There is no shame in buying used goods. We discard things at an alarming rate, and upgrade, and improve, when the original thing we had still worked totally fine.

If you really want some new fall or winter clothes, buy used. You can spend less money if you apply this to lots of areas of your life:

  • Cars
  • Clothing
  • Furniture
  • Toys
  • Books
  • Appliances
  • Outdoor/sports equipment

Thrift stores are open now in most places but if you want to stick to shopping online, check out Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace.

Buy Nothing groups

You can also join up with free groups where you can list things you want to pass along for free. You can put out an ask for something you’re looking for, or take a look at the free offerings for your neighborhood.

If you see something you’d like, you let the person know you’re interested. If you’re the only person, lucky you, you’ll probably get that tricycle or blender or whatever you wanted. And if a few people want the same thing, it’s up to the giver to decide who gets the item (it’s not always first come, first served).

These groups are called Buy Nothing groups on Facebook and they’re usually very regional. For us we joined the Buy Nothing group for our neighborhood, not our city. Getting free stuff is a great way to spend less money!

6. Plan your meals

With buying all our groceries online now, I’ve noticed that it can be easy to overspend on food. Sure at the grocery store you have all those displays of crunchy yummy things that are asking to be taken home with you. But I find it’s the same thing online.

When I started grocery shopping online, I wasn’t using a list and would browse and click to my heart’s content.

Our grocery bills were higher than pre-pandemic.

I wanted to start spending less money on groceries online since this is something we’re going to be doing for a while still.

We started keeping and using a grocery list. I always had a grocery list for in-person shopping, but didn’t for online shopping for some reason. I guess I didn’t think I needed one because hey, the kitchen is right over there, I know what we need to buy. But that didn’t work out so well, so back to the grocery list it was to keep us on track with spending less money.

Check out my new e-book: It’s a totally doable meal planning guide + full meal planner that’ll teach you how to meal plan, save more, and stress less.

Another great way to spend less money on food is to meal plan. When you plan out your meals for the week, you write a shopping list for the foods you need so food doesn’t go to waste. Your groceries have a plan and that makes them happy. Or at least that saves you money on food, which is cool too. Here are 16 genius tips to save money while eating healthy.

To take away the question of “how the heck do I meal plan?”, you can try out $5 Meal Plan for free here. You will get healthy, budget-friendly recipes for all meals right to your inbox, as well as grocery lists so you’re totally prepared for mealtimes. If you want to keep it going after the trial it’s only $5 a month. It takes away all the thinking behind meal planning and saves time and will help you spend less money on food.

And before I sign off frugal friends, check out these 16 extreme saving tips from total cheapskates – they really will save you money!

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How to Spend Less Money in a Tough Economy (wallet with $5 bills)

What tips would you add to spend less money?


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4 thoughts on “How to Spend Less Money in a Tough Economy”

  1. Jenna

    The best decision I made was starting a budget and tracking literally every dollar that left my wallet. It has been so helpful to look back and see where I spend the most, and what areas I can reduce my money in! 🙂 Great post!
    Jenna ♥
    Stay in touch? Life of an Earth Muffin

    1. Thanks Jenna! That’s great! Have you been budgeting for a while? Seeing where your money goes can be SO motivating to spend less money for sure!

  2. Some good tips there. Thinking of future me and overestimating expenses, good advice especially #BloggersPitStop

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