How to cut your Budget when There is Nothing left to Cut

Do you feel like you have cut your budget in every way possible and it still isn’t enough?  Sometimes we feel like we have cut our budget as much as we can, yet there are still more bills than money coming in each month.  It can be discouraging and disheartening.  It can leave us feeling defeated and unable to sleep at night when we don’t have enough cash, let alone any extra money.

adding up finances on a calculator

Having more month than money is frustrating.  Especially when you feel like you are really trying hard to be wise with your finances, and up to this point have been making progress on debt repayments and living within your means.  But sometimes life changes and while we can prepare for some challenges that arise, there is no way we can be prepared for absolutely everything in the long run.

You may be facing an illness, job loss, or emergency house repair that has depleted your funds. Unexpected, unforeseen circumstances can really put a wrench in our budget and leave you struggling to make car payments or pay down student loans, or your mortgage.

It can feel like a big blow to our confidence when these situations come out of nowhere after we have been making so much progress with our financial situation.

While it can feel hopeless when you look at your budget and can’t figure out anywhere else to cut, most likely there are still a few options that you may not have thought of that can help you while you are getting back on your feet and get you back to working towards your financial goals.

If your take-home pay just isn’t covering your bills, you’ll want to keep reading for some tips on how to cover your current expenses, and possibly make some changes to your monthly budget so you can reduce the financial stress that may be keeping you awake at night.  

money and a calculator for budgeting

7 Simple Ways to Cut your Budget when There’s Nothing Left to Cut


1. Apply for subsidy programs.  Many communities have subsidy programs for a variety of things.  In my area, you can apply for subsidy on electricity, dental, winter clothing, YMCA membership and programs including gym memberships, and many other things.  Check your local city hall or government to find out what is available in your area.

Sometimes people get embarrassed using those programs, but remember, those programs are there to help people like you!  The point of those subsidies are to assist people who are trying their best but just don’t have enough to make ends meet.  

Also, many of those programs allow our kids many benefits.  So if you have children and you struggle with feeling humiliated to use those services, remember that if it allows your child more opportunities that they may not otherwise have, it is ALWAYS worth the uneasy feeling of applying.

2. Utilize the food bank or food stamps.  Here in Canada we have food banks, but I know in the US their program for food security is a little bit different.  Whatever the program, if you are in a tight situation and don’t have enough money, use this resource.

Again, there is no shame in using a program that was implemented in the first place to help struggling people who have come into hard times.

If you are having a difficult time coming to terms with using the food bank or food stamps, you can always return the help by donating food in the future or donating your time, whether it be now or at a later time.

3. Eat a beans and rice type of diet.  Before you cringe at this idea, remember, it’s more than likely temporary.  Beans and rice, pasta, eggs, potatoes – those are all really cheap foods. And many of those dishes are delicious!  We love some black beans mixed with rice and topped with salsa. For a list of meal ideas for when you are broke, check out my post about it HERE.

4. Sell some things.  If you have some belongings that you could part with, you may be able to make some money by selling it.   Yard sale sites online are very popular these days, and people are often successful in selling their stuff.

You could also have a yard sale and sell a bunch of stuff at one time.

5. Bring in some income.  Everyone’s situation is different.  You may have small kids at home, or a disability that prevents you from working full-time out of the house.  But sometimes there are ways to bring in income while working from home with a side hustle like a blog or other online employment, or maybe you can work outside the home at a part-time job.

A few years ago when we were on tough times I took on a paper route for a few months.  It was not glamorous.   We would pile the kids in the van with books and video games and we would drive around for hours delivering papers to rural houses.  

I didn’t enjoy it.  It didn’t pay very well.  But it was something we had to do for a short time and it was worth it to help us financially during a very tight time.  Do what you need to do to get in control of your finances.

Some people feel like they can’t work at places they are overqualified for.  If you need extra work you need to take what you can get to make enough money to cover your basic needs.  

Apply for better jobs while you are working at a job you may not want or be happy at.  Always remind yourself that it is a temporary situation, just to fill in the gap until you can get something a little better, or your finances are in a better place.  

6. Look at your budget honestly.  Sometimes we say we have nowhere to cut, but the truth is we are not ready to part with some of the unnecessary expenses we have.  For example, my family enjoys our Netflix subscription.  It would be easy to tell ourselves it is a small expense and wouldn’t make much of a difference anyways, but the truth is if we have more month than money we need to cut out absolutely everything we can.  It doesn’t mean we can’t add it back in when there is a little more room in our budget, but to hit our short-term goals it may need to go for awhile.

7. Make some big changes.  If you are in an absolute desperate situation you need to look long and hard at your budget and how to possibly make some serious changes.  You may need to consider downsizing your vehicle or even your home so you can have a lower monthly payment on your house or car.  

Remember, smaller homes are cheaper to heat, to maintain, and involves less cleaning!  Saving on energy costs and less cleaning is always a positive, right?

The good news is, minimalism is a movement that has been embraced by many who have proven that you can leave a very full and happy life, even if it means living in a small house, or giving up your vehicle and taking public transportation instead.  

The peace and freedom that comes when you cut your budget far outweighs owning more stuff.

We are a one vehicle family and have been for most of our marriage.  I realize this is not possible for everyone, depending on if you need to drive separately to and from work.  

But even if you can’t downsize to one vehicle, maybe you can go from a minivan or truck to a smaller car that uses less gas.  This can help you reduce your monthly expenses.

money in a wallet

Prevent Overspending with a Financial Plan

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After you’ve made room in your budget, you will want to look at how you have your budget set up.  The envelope system is a great way to manage your money.  

Started by one of my favorite financial experts, Dave Ramsey,  it is basically where you divide how much money you need for each category (so, groceries, gas, clothes, etc.) and stick it that designated envelope.  When that money is gone for the month, it’s gone.  

This prevents overspending.  There are some great cash system envelopes out there to help you on your journey.  Check out THESE budget envelopes you could easily stick in your wallet that are also affordable.  Which, hey, is pretty important since we are trying to CUT our budget, not increase it!

While you may feel like your situation is hopeless and desperate, know that there are usually always other things you can do to ease the strain on your budget.  

Even when it feels like there is no other place to cut your budget, often there are small ways you can save a little more money in your household budget or add a bit of income to your pocket to ease the burden.  

Don’t give up and don’t feel defeated.  You can do this.  Remember, small changes can make a huge difference over time.

Related: Emergency Fund or Debt Repayment?

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   What to eat when you are Broke

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