When I was making extra income, it seemed easy to save money. However, the pursestrings have tightened up lately. It’s not nearly as easy to save money on a tight budget. It feels like every penny that comes in is already budgeted to go pay for something. It feels challenging. But if you want to be smart about money then you need to be up for the challenge. There are creative ways to save money on a tight budget.

Of course, there are plenty of money saving tricks out there. What makes the ten items below unique is that they emphasize creativity. Therefore, not only are you saving money, you’re also exercising your creativity. Doing so helps us in myriad ways. If you’re feeling stressed about finances, turning your attention to your creativity can help relieve that stress. Think about that as you explore these creative ways to save money on a tight budget:

1. Use Every Food Item In Your Home Before Buying More Food

Many of the people that I know took on some version of this challenge when COVID-19 hit. Mostly, they didn’t wan to go to the store during the initial phases of shelter-in-place. Therefore, they decided to use only what was already in their refrigerators, freezers, and pantries.

As the weeks wore on, some of them gave in and went to buy essentials. However, one of my friends stuck to the goal of getting rid of absolutely every food item in her house before making something new. She had to come up with some extremely creative dishes in order to make that work. It was inspiring to watch her food journey on Instagram.

I am not typically this creative in the kitchen. But I do spend a lot of money on food. Taking on this challenge could be a great way to save money on a tight budget. People who enjoy playing in the kitchen might also find the creativity of this money-saving method quite relaxing.

2. Meditate / Practice Mindfulness

Mindfulness is the act of paying attention to everything happening in the present moment, including your thoughts about what is happening, without judgment. Meditation is a more formal practice that can include mindfulness.

You might not think about mindfulness as a means to save money on a tight budget. However, stress and financial strain often lead to impulsiveness and reckless money decisions. When you practice mindfulness, you de-stress. This gives you the time and space and sense of tranquility you need to make smart financial decisions.

For example, imagine that you’re working extra hours trying to earn more money. Everything has gone wrong that day. You’re overwhelmed. You want to buy a bottle of wine a big pizza for comfort. However, a bottle of wine and pizza are not within your budget. Stressed, you don’t care. With a mindfulness practice, you may be able to recognize the craving for comfort for what it is and find a free way to soothe yourself instead.

3. Re-Evaluate Your Values

Oftentimes we waste money on things that aren’t aligned with our deeper values. Take the time to examine your deepest values. Make your financial decisions from that place. I value creativity, which is one reason I’m focusing on creative ways to save money on a tight budget, rather than typical money-saving tips. Sure, I think it’s good to save money, but what I value is doing it creatively. Focusing on the creativity part helps me stick to the plan.

Let’s say that one of your values is connecting with your partner. You have date night when you spend a lot of money getting food to eat or going out somewhere. However, when you emphasize the value (connecting), you can make choices that don’t cost so much money without feeling like you’ve sacrificed anything.

Take some time to journal about your values. Ask yourself repeatedly, “and what is underneath that?” Make sure that you’re listing your true, authentic values, not values that someone else thinks you should have. Then, brainstorm a list of ways to focus on those values while saving money.

4. Use Music as Timers to Reduce Waste at Home

Susan Paige recently wrote an article here on How to Save Money, No Matter How Long the Recession Lasts. She discussed lowering energy and water bills, which is something I always do when trying to cut costs. But she added a tip that I’d never considered: play a favorite song while showering and get out when the song ends. The idea is that you save water, and therefore money, by keeping your showers as short as a favorite song.

I love this idea. And I think you could apply it to so many different areas of the home. For example, get the house vacuumed during the duration of one song. If you’re desperately hot and must use a fan, try using it for the length of only one album then turning it off. These little tricks could help you save money on a tight budget. Plus, adding that music to your daily life is going to make your little rituals and routines so much more enjoyable.

5. Take Up a Creative, Free Hobby

Spend your time doing something you love that doesn’t cost anything. The more time you spend doing that, the richer your life will feel. Sure, you need to save money on a tight budget so that you can pay bills. But if you feel like you’re suffering in the meantime then you’re never going to want to stick with your savings. If you fill your days with joyous activities like making music, reading, and creating collages then you’re going to feel more fulfilled. Here’s a list of free and inexpensive hobbies to get you started.

6. Cancel All Paid Entertainment

Once you start engaging with hobbies that you love, you won’t even have time for Netflix, cable TV, and whatever other entertainment subscriptions you pay for. Get bold. Cancel them all. Reduce your data plan and limit your screen time. Use that time creatively instead.

7. Barter

While not the most innovative suggestion, bartering can be one of the most creative ways to save money on a tight budget. It’s tempting to just buy whatever you need (or want). If you can’t persuade yourself not to make the purchase, at least try to get creative with bartering. Think about ways that you can swap or trade with others. Get rid of something you don’t want in order to get what you do. Or offer a creative service that you enjoy providing for a product or service that you need. Apply your creativity in this area and you might find that it’s actually fun to see how many things you can get for “free” just through bartering.

8.  Emulate a Money-Saving Mentor

Do a little bit of research to find someone from history or contemporary times that can be your money-saving mentor. Then take some time to really dive deep into learning more about them. Don’t spend money on this activity, of course. Use free online resources (such as podcasts or your library) to access information about them. Imagine that you are writing their biography and must learn as much as possible about them. Find ways to emulate them in your own life. This will give you fresh ideas and inspiration for how to save money on a tight budget. Invoke your mentor in mind when you have a tough money decision to make.

9. Cut Your Own Hair

COVID-19 shutdown a lot of hair salons so many people were forced to do this anyway. Perhaps you’re relieved if your salon has opened back up. But is that where you need to spend your money? Get creative learning how to cut your own hair. Have fun with it. This can be a great way to save money on a tight budget. And, if you decide you really like it, maybe you can even earn some extra money cutting other people’s hair for them.

10. Have Others Support Your Creativity on Patreon

I have a Patreon account. People subscribe for $1 – $50 per month. They are patrons of my art. In exchange, they get certain rewards. At the $1 level, they get a creative newsletter put out just for subscribers. At the $15 they get handmade cards that I have collaged for them. At the $25 they get a box of ephemera and art supplies. What do you enjoy doing creatively that other people might want to support? After all, earning money is as good as – or better than – trying to save money on a tight budget.

What do you do to save money on a tight budget? Share thoughts in the comment section.