5 tips on how to save big in small ways
February 15, 2022

5 Tips on Saving BIG in Small Ways: How to Save for a Down Payment on a Tight Budget

When the clock struck midnight on January 1st, 2019 – 3 resolutions came to mind.

  1. Lose Weight
  2. Save Money
  3. Buy My First Home

As a 26 year old, single-income household, I knew immediately that these goals were going to be tough to achieve, but not impossible.

Growing up, I’ve always been told by my parents that “small changes lead to long lasting results.” So, I knew if I took that concept, and applied it to my goals, I would soon accomplish what I had set out to achieve.

By April 29th, 2019 – I had lost 30 pounds, saved up $7,000 and closed on my very first home. If you do some quick math, I was able to hold true to my resolutions in just under 5 months time.

You might be wondering how I did this right about now…

And I’ll tell you, it wasn’t easy. It took a ton of self-discipline, determination, and most importantly consistency. But, I am writing this article today to let you know it is absolutely possible, and here’s the 5 Tips on Saving BIG in Small Ways that I followed in order to meet my goals.

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1. Set a Budget

“I’m on a tight budget already, how can I possibly save when there isn’t much extra to begin with?”

Personally, I can completely relate to this thought. I remember having to work 20+ hours each pay period in overtime at my previous place of employment for 4 years, just to make ends meet. I also lived in a pretty expensive area, so that really took a toll on what was seemingly a reasonable paycheck.

Cost of living fluctuates, and more times than not, rises annually. The only way that I was able to keep up was to work overtime, and pick up freelance work during my off time. I knew I had to set a budget because I took a long, hard look at my finances, and things were not adding up.

In order to see what little money I could save, first I had to figure out what I was spending, why, and where.

So, step one, add up my expenses then deduct them from total income.

In order to do this, though, you will need to know what your average cost of gas, groceries, eating out, entertainment and other fluctuating expenses are throughout the month. So break out those crumpled up receipts from the bottom of your purse, or login to your online banking account and review your itemized statement – very carefully.

Once you have these numbers, it is time for the hard part… planning and cutting back.

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2. Cut Out Excess Spending


“Cut the cord!”

One of the biggest money gobblers is often the monthly satellite and cable bill.

Who really needs thousands of channels anyways?

Personally, by the time I get home, walk my dog, feed her, cook my dinner, clean the kitchen, take a shower, and get cozy on the couch – it’s already 7:30 pm, and I have an hour or two before I’m ready to go to sleep. Within that time, I have maybe one long or two short shows that I can watch, so what’s the point of having the other countless channels if you really think about it?

By cutting the cable and subscribing to an online streaming service like Netflix or Hulu, you could save an average of:

  • $75-$90 a month
  • $1,000 a year

Yep, that’s right! That’s quite a bit if you’re working towards a down payment on a new home.

Meal Planning

As a person who lives alone, with the exception of my dog, meal planning is pretty easy and certainly cost effective. Meal planning does not mean just dinners, but lunches, snacks, and meals for long days away from the house, too.

Here’s the thing, meal planning may seem tedious because you have to go into the grocery store with a well thought out list, a spending goal, and a game plan – but it’s worth it!

It may seem like an easier thing to do for someone in my circumstance, but if you think about it, it really would save larger families time and money as well.

Too often, though, we go to the grocery store without a plan for what we will need that week, resulting in multiple trips to the grocery store, random impulse buys and wasted produce that jacks our spending up $10-$20 per week.

Cutting this out alone would save you roughly:

  • $40-80 per month.
  • $480-$960 per year.

Can you feel yourself getting closer to that down payment? That’s nearly an additional $1,000 back into your savings account.

Eating Out

Eating out for convenience is certainly easier, but can be extremely costly for a family overtime. A fast food meal for… {let’s say} the average family of four, costs about $7 per person or $28 total.

Packing an ice chest for long days away from home is not only much healthier, but cuts that cost to a fraction! The only extra expense is the bags of ice to preserve the food.

Doing this for football games, shopping days, and road trips can leave you with at least $100 more per month in your bank account, or more depending on how often your family eats out.

Buying in Bulk

One thing many people do not consider when meal planning is to buy in bulk. They either cannot find the extra money to put up front for a case of goods or they simply don’t realize the benefit of it.

Think of it like this, if you grocery shop for your family or even just yourself on a weekly basis, that’s:

  • 4 Shopping Trips a Month
  • 4 Separate Sales Taxes Paid
  • 4 Temptations to Buy Items Off the List

Do you see what I’m getting at? Buying in bulk with a plan can cut those trips, taxes, and temptations in half or even more, and will cut down your grocery bill significantly, freeing up those extra dollars where you thought they didn’t exist before.

Cell Phones and Insurance

Okay, this is not the part where I tell you to get rid of your smart phone. However, you may be paying more on your cell phone bill than necessary.

If you are paying for extra unused data, or could even cut back on data usage and limit internet usage on your cell phone in wifi available areas, you could save roughly:

  • $10-$20 a month
  • $120 – $240 a year

In addition, contacting your cell service provider could result in a negotiation of a lower rate.

There are similar potentials with your insurance. Using the same insurer for a home and car tend to dramatically lower prices.

When I switched insurances, and bundled my car and home coverage, I saved $80 a month, that’s $960 a year!

If you aren’t yet a home owner, call around to insurers and see if you can get a better rate from another provider. You might even be surprised that your current insurer would prefer to match the rate you’ve found rather than lose a customer.

Less work for you and more money in your savings as well.

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3. Set Aside Your Tax Return

This one is pretty self explanatory. Once you receive your tax return, not matter how big or small, set it aside.

While saving for a down payment on a home, the priority of saving extra money should be higher than it is to spend it. Now, if you have outstanding debts to pay, and want to use your tax return to pay that down and raise your credit – totally understandable! You have my full support. But if your debt is under control, and you have the opportunity to save your tax return, do it.

It can be as simple as that.

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4. Learn to Say, “NO”

“It’s been so long since we’ve seen you, come out with us and grab drinks! It’ll be fun!”

Is 2-3 hours of fun really worth spending the extra $90 and nursing a headache the next morning?

Sometimes, yes – let’s be honest. Life can be stressful, and going out with friends can seem like a great way to relieve the stress after a long week of work.

But, saying “no” will become apart of your regular vocabulary when you’re trying to save money on a small budget. The reality is, that extra $90 can go a long way. If you regularly go out for drinks with friends, this could mean you’d save roughly:

  • $360 a month
  • $4,300 a year

I bet that last number will convince you to get outside and find free serotonin by going on a long walk with family, or friends. It costs you $0 to shoot the breeze, and clear your mind.

Trust me, even to this day, I would much prefer to walk my dog on a new hiking trail every weekend than spend extra money out at a social gathering. The point is, there are free ways to spend your time while saving for a home. It’ll be worth it in the end.

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5. Match Your Mistakes

These suggestions may be tough to follow, at first, but if you give yourself a little leeway, you may find it an easier to commit to, in time.

I’m a big believer in “positive repercussions.

What on earth are those, you may be wondering by now…

Well, it’s a pretty simple technique that I used when I was trying to stick to my tight budget, if for whatever reason the urge was too tempting to refuse – I would match my mistake.

An example of this would be:

You’ve been craving a fast food meal for weeks, but you know you have food at home, and that this would be an excess expense of $10. If the temptation is too strong, and you cave – you then have to match that amount and send it to your savings account.

Basic rule of thumb: Spend 10, Save 10.

This was my secret to losing weight, besides consistency in the gym. I just didn’t want to spend the money twice. It was as simple as that. Ultimately, it acts as a consequence that benefits you in the end, and, even better, slows your extra spending habits! It definitely nipped mine in the bud.

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Key Take Away: You Have to Save to Save

I realize that 2019 was a much different time, let me make that abundantly clear. 2020 took the world by surprise, and changed a lot of things that we once considered to be our norm.

  • Jobs were hard to keep or find
  • Supply and Demand took the housing market by storm
  • Inflation is on the rise
  • Building time has doubled

But, in any financial climate, the fundamentals remain consistent.

Just remember, small changes lead to long lasting results. The only way to save money is by actually setting aside money each month in a separate place that will not be spent on everyday items.

Little by little these strict guidelines will become second nature, and like me, you will be on the path to home ownership in no time at all!

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