How to Stretch Your Budget When Money’s Tight

These days, your budget might not seem as reliable as it once was. Depending on your college’s response to the pandemic, you might find yourself working on schoolwork in isolation from your apartment and no longer working at your on-campus job.

If money is feeling tight these days, you’re not alone. There are a lot of people across the globe who are having to get creative with their funds and make things stretch farther than they’ve ever had to before. Whatever is happening with your finances, the best thing we can recommend is to trust the Lord with your money. It can be really easy to want to control your money in a way that’s rooted in anxiety instead of trust in God’s provision. Before you start rehashing your budget, take a deep breath, and say a prayer to the Lord asking for help as you work to proceed wisely with your money.

If your stumped trying to figure out how to stretch your grocery budget or make ends meet during this season, consider the following ideas.

1. Shift your habits

While you may have normally enjoyed going out to eat with your roommates every weekend, now might be the time to spend less money on restaurants and more time and money on meal planning and grocery shopping. Depending on how thrifty you need to be, you can really make a small amount of ingredients last a long time if you’re creative. There are a lot of resources online that list easy, inexpensive recipes, as well as resources that will show you how to shop for the most amount of groceries for the least amount of money.

Shifting your habits is important in other areas of your life as well if you’re hoping to save money. You might have to skip a couple months of buying clothes, or you may have to get innovative and find some fun things at a thrift store. Maybe you and your roommates could work out a deal where you share certain items of clothing, just to expand your wardrobes a bit during this time.

Think through all the areas of your life where you spend money (e.g. gas for your car) and see if you can come up with an alternative solution that doesn’t cost as much (e.g. ride your bike or walk more places).

2. Make it yourself or borrow

Instead of turning to your credit card for all your resources, consider getting inventive and make something yourself. While there are some things you simply can’t make, many things can be crafted, and the internet is a great place to get a lot of ideas. Trying to decorate your apartment? Being stuck at home is the perfect time to make your own art. Had your eye on a cozy throw blanket at Target? Try making your own blanket out of all those old t-shirts you’ve been meaning to get rid of.

At the very least, college is the perfect time to borrow things from roommates and friends because everyone lives in such close quarters. Not everyone is open to borrowing their belongings, so keep that in mind when asking for something, but most people are willing to part with a tool or borrow you some ingredients for a recipe if it’s something you need and ask for politely. Make sure you return the item to the person you borrowed it from in the same shape (or better if possible) as it was before it was in your care.

3. Band together

If your quarantined with roommates, consider pooling your resources and trying your best to care for one another. If toilet paper and paper towels are slim, consider chipping into a group fund to purchase those goods together. See what other ways you can cut corners as a group. Community is a beautiful thing, and if you’re lucky enough to be social isolating with roommates, see if there’s a way you can all help each other out. While togetherness can come with its own issues and anxieties—it can be hard to be in the same space as a few other people for a long period of time—it can also be a blessing. Pray and ask the Lord how you can best serve your roommates respectfully and lovingly during this season.