11 Foolproof Ways to Save Money on a Tight Budget that Take Just 5, 10, and 20 Minutes

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You ever get the feeling that you’ve got your finances totally figured out? Bills paid, shopping done, and money in the bank? That is, until you look at your savings account. I know it can be hard to save up when spending is so tempting, but saving is definitely a must. A healthy savings account is great for when life throws you a curveball – and even better for when life flips your finances on their head. But finding ways to save money on a tight budget can be difficult at best, and demoralizing at its worst.

But I think you just need a little help getting creative. Below are just a handful of my favorite ways to save money on a tight budget, listed by the time it takes to implement each one. You may be surprised how a few simple, quick tweaks can yield big results!


Ways to Save Money on a Tight Budget in Under 30 Minutes




2 Minutes –  Leverage the Latest Apps

If you're not using finance apps to make managing money easier, you are missing out. Sure, there is a lot of trial and error in trying to find one or two that syncs up with your groove, but once you find a few you like its pure magic. Magic, I tell you. There are a few different types of money saving apps that work harder than you can to save you money. 

  • Cashback Apps – Apps that work to get you cash back on money you already spend and purchases you already make.
  • Automatic savings apps – That sync with your checking account and sneak away small bits of cash so you can save better and faster. Here's a list of my other favorite money saving apps. 
  • Survey apps – Where you can get rewarded for your opinion. 

An app that I love and love to recommend is Qapital, which has rules you can set to “save the change” from your purchases. I saved over $75 my first month of Qapital, which was really astonishing to me. Here's my full Qapital vs. Digit review.

Intrigued? Consider giving my favorite money app, Qapital, a try, (especially if you struggle with saving each month). It's one of my favorite money apps. It's free for the first month and then $3 thereafter. I saved $75 my first month with Qapital and the best part is that I didn't feel it. Click here to sign up for Qapital.



5 Minutes – Open a High-Yield Savings Account



I’ve learned the hard way that having all your money in one place can lead to dangerous habits. Your savings account should not be a backup to your checking account, and moving money too frequently can lead to fees and low balances. 

Want to hear something else totally disgusting? Most savings accounts can only offer between .01 and .02 %. Pennies on the dollar. You want as much as you can possibly get because this is how your money will grow. 

I’ve found that online banks typically offer higher interest rates, and having my savings somewhere where I can’t move the money over instantly in just a few swipes helps me avoid dipping into it.


I like to recommend money saving apps like Qapital for short term savings/my rainy day fund (for paying for things like a shopping fancy or a trip deposit) and a high-yield savings account for longer term savings like an emergency fund or saving up for a home down payment. 


Take the first step by opening up a high-yield savings account so you have a place to stash your savings that earns as much as it possibly can. I like to recommend CIT Bank (this is where I keep my savings, too!)  thanks to its higher-than-average interest rate (25x the national average) and no-fee structure. All it takes is $100 to open. Click here to learn more.


10 Minutes – Cut Cable


Cable costs are ridiculously expensive these days and, despite massive competition from on-demand streaming, don’t seem to be getting any lower. Cutting your cable and opting for a subscription service is an easy, super fast way to impact your annual bill costs.

The key is to then take those savings and automatically direct them into your savings account for a $50-$70 monthly savings boost.


So, for example, you save $50 a month by switching to streaming services. That's $50 per month x 12 months in a year is $600 for a few minutes worth of work. 


Want to save money on your other monthly, recurring bills? Try out BillCutterz. They'll negotiate lower payments on your behalf and only take a percentage of what they manage to save for you. Click here to try it out!


30 Minutes – Review Your Entire Budget



I’ve always talked about how making a budget and sticking to it can make a huge difference in your finances, but sometimes a budget can change dramatically due to large life events, like a wedding or moving in together, or a change in your income.  Sometimes you have the extra to cover lifestyle inflation, and sometimes you don't. This is why you need to be smart about it. 

  • Here's my DIY guide to finding extra in your budget.
  • Review your budget quarterly (at a bare minimum.)
  • Then funnel the savings of whatever you find in your budget into a separate savings account so you don't touch it. 
  • Watch your savings stack up.


Get a FREE separate checking account that rewards you for your purchases. The Rewards Checking account from Radius Bank offers 1% cash back on purchases, plus 0 fees and free ATMs. It only takes 3 minutes and $100 to open. Click here to learn more.




2 Hours (120 Minutes) – Save money on a tight budget by earning more




When I was doing my $8k in 90 days challenge, I did everything I could to hit my debt payoff goal of $2,100 each month, and one month I was able to sell a bunch of stuff for a cool $300 to assist in my efforts.  I sell items via Ebay, DeCluttr, or LetGo (and sometimes even sketchy Craigslist) and my clothes on thredUP or Poshmark.

If you're motivated, I estimate it'll take one hour to do a purge and probably another hour to list it all online.


4 Additional Ways to Save Money on a Tight Budget in Months


how to set up a budget


30 Days – Do A No-Spend Challenge


I LOVE money challenges. They’re a great way to change your lifestyle for a short time which leads to increased savings and (hopefully) better habits. When trying to aggressively save, doing a no-spend challenge (i.e. trying to spend no money at all outside of groceries, bills, and gas) can help you meet your savings goals faster. 

I love a good no-spend challenge as a way to reset when I've been naughty with my money. They're enjoying to me because they teach me how to stretch myself. I work hard to save money and sometimes, that is what it takes. 

Extra Credit: Read how to do a no spend challenge here.


45 Days – Find Alternatives to Eating Out


Obviously going out to eat every night of the week isn’t going to save money.  For those who just have trouble with ordering Postmates too much (raises hand), I enjoy using HelloFresh to plan my weeknight meals and we've been able to shave hundreds off our eating out budget. (Get $60 off HelloFresh with my discount, here.


Other ways to save in this category:

  • Order water
  • Keep entrees under $10
  • Fast Casual instead of Full Service


Extra Credit: 3 Ways to Cut Down on Eating Out This Week, Our Review of Each Meal Kit Service (What We Liked, Hated, and Devoured)


60 Days – Shop Less


If you’ve read any of my other posts, you probably know how much I love shopping. Correction – loved shopping..until I broke the bad habit. Unfortunately, it can be tough to get the clothes you want on the budget you can afford. That’s why I love the idea of shopping your closet.

Finding a new way to wear your favorite pieces can reinvigorate your wardrobe without breaking the bank.

Pinterest, Like To Know It, and the Finery App offer great inspiration, and you can scout your own closet for similar looks. Buying a new accessory or pair of shoes can totally change up an outfit – typically for less than buying a completely new look. This way they get the stuff you don't want (and vice versa) and everyone gets to breathe new life into their wardrobe.

Other ways to save in this category:


Consider this: Everything in your home used to be money. Why not take the time you save not shopping to earn extra from your old items as well. Click here to order a thredUP closet cleanout , or click here to learn more about consigning high-dollar designer items with TheRealReal.



90 days – Exclusively Save Your Side Hustle Money


Y'all know I have always been a huge fan of having a side hustle, and using the side income to increase your savings is a quick and easy way to pump up the balance. I love this method because it feels like you’re making progress quickly and gets you in the habit of setting money aside from each paycheck. Quick side hustles include:


Extra Credit: How much could you save if you started a side hustle and didn't touch the money for a whole 90 days?


What is the best way to save money?


Okay, so I have two big answers to this question. And if you only take away TWO THINGS from this post, I hope it is what I save below.


The best way to save money is to set up an automatic transfer to your savings account from either your paycheck or from your regular checking account. 

By automating your transfer, you’re making sure that you don’t forget or pay your savings last–and as a bonus–automating your savings means you never “see” that money and subsequently makes it sting a little less.The heart doesn't feel what the eyes do not see. (I watch too much British television on PBS, but you get the idea.) It works for love triangles on #Poldark and it works with your money, too. 

It’s always tempting to say “Well, I’ll just save what I have leftover for the month,” – but trust me, saving money doesn't really work unless you automate some (or all) of it.

The second best way to save money is to save money on things you already know you're going to spend. My favorite way to do this is with a cashback site like Swagbucks


Click here to start earning money back with Swagbucks. Then, take the first step by opening up a high-yield savings account so you have a place to automate your savings to that isn't directly tied to your primary checking account. CIT Bank should be your only option (this is where I keep my savings, too!)  because of its higher-than-average interest rate (25x the national average) and no-fee structure. All it takes is $100 to open and you get rewarded for automatically saving each month. Click here to learn more about their Savings Builder program.




Editor's Note: This post was updated in July 2018.

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11 Foolproof Ways to Save Money on a Tight Budget that Take Just 5, 10, and 20 Minutes
  1. nice list, thanks for sharing it…honestly I never had cable and I lived (ans still living) really well:P

      • Lauren Bowling
      • August 10, 2018

      I haven’t had cable in 5+ years, I honestly think it is so weird when people do. I don’t even really watch it in hotels anymore either!

    • Giulia Lombardo
    • January 23, 2016

    I never had cable and I live very well,I am going to have a sort of shopping ban/no spending days and work on side hustle…but I am agree with your post!!!

    1. Thanks Giulia!

    • Cat Alford/ Budget Blonde
    • January 21, 2016

    Yes! Cutting cable is an automatic savings. Just transfer the money that you used to use for that bill into your savings account each month.

    1. great tip! you can automate as much or as little as you want. I think a lot of people get tripped up in feeling weird about automating a 20-30 transfer each month, but it WORKS!

    • Ruby Shiv
    • January 21, 2016

    Hi Lauren,

    Great post as always!!
    I did try that selling trick last month and made my first $500 passive income 🙂 It was such fun.

    1. Glad it worked for you! I’m about to do another round myself. So much old furniture to sell!

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