How to Budget $500 a Month
Budgeting | Saving Money

How to Budget $500 a Month

Do you feel like no matter how hard you try, you still can’t budget your expenses like you originally worked out while creating a spending plan?

Every time you try to spend less over the month, something finds a way to creep up in between your plan of action and immediate needs.

For example, one day, your car is breaking down on your way to the grocery store, and the other, your house must have its roofs fixed before the monsoon season arrives. Just like that, your expenses pile up, and saving money takes a backseat for yet another month.

Waiting for the right time to save money

If all of this sounds remotely familiar to you, you know it’s high time to make some much-needed changes in life. If you keep waiting for the right time to start saving money, take it from us, that time will never roll around!

There’ll always be something that requires your immediate attention, and all your plans will go down the drain effectively. Therefore, the best approach is to stick to a doable, good budget and do everything in your control to adjust your expenses accordingly. For example, a fairly adequate way to keep your expenses in check is to plan for a $500 budget every month and stick to that.

However, if you’re wondering how to do that without stressing yourself completely, you’ve come to the right place. Fortunately, you can implement several techniques and welcome a handful of healthy changes in your life to meet the $500 budget goal every month.

Case in point, below are our top thirty-one tried and tested tips that will help you tweak your spending so that you can get on the fast track to saving money in no time at all!

How to budget your expenses to $500 a month

Calculator and notepad placed over stack of USA dollars

You can only make do with a $500 budget when you practice healthy money spending habits in your daily life. This includes minimizing your expenses in all aspects of life, be it going grocery shopping or paying for entertainment nights and essential utility bills.

Here’s how you can navigate around your minimal monthly budget the right way:

1. Shop online instead of wandering malls

A hefty part of your monthly income is spent on shopping most months. This includes buying clothing items and other everyday essentials in a mall or a grocery store. However, to keep your spending habits in check, you should try something new and go online shopping instead for two specific reasons.

First, going online saves you the hassle of wandering from shop to shop, so it saves time as well as your gas money. Secondly, when you don’t have the real deal in front of you, you can control your impulses to shop for unplanned things much more effectively than giving in to your unnecessary desires.

2. Make a 24-HOUR shopping rule for non-essential items

To make things easier on yourself when staying under a $500 budget, you can abide by the 24-hour shopping rule when online shopping for non-essential items. While you might believe some things could prove to be useful around the house, saving those items in the cart for the next twenty-four hours and coming to see the list one last time before checking out might give you a better perception. Seeing how much money you’re spending on each product when the shopping haze is off your mind might give you an even clearer picture regarding what’s necessary and what’s not.

3. Follow the 30-USE rule for your clothing

Another personal finance tip that can prove extremely useful when shopping for clothes or other fashion-related items is introducing yourself to the 30-use rule. This stops you from buying unneeded things because when you inspect each item in terms of “whether you’ll use the item at least thirty times in total?” things start to make more sense.

Anything you can flat-out say “no” to, you should put it back in the rack, motivating yourself to shop sustainably. This way, you only get to spend money on things that are a must-have, which also keeps you under your designated spending limit.

4. Look for cash back apps, coupons, and discounts before going shopping

If you knew how much money you can save by using cashback apps and coupons in the long run, you might never go shopping without looking for them online or at least asking about them in stores. Shopping at thrift shops or discount stores can also keep your monthly expenses in check when you have to buy things that are an absolute necessity for you or your house.

5. Pay in cash as much as possible

Keeping track of your monthly spending when you’re paying with a debit card or a credit card can be somewhat daunting. That’s because until you don’t retrieve cash directly from your wallet, you can’t have a good estimate regarding precisely how much you’re spending, or worse, have already spent.

In other words, when you receive your credit card bills at the end of the month, including all payments you’ve made with your credit card within the given period, you receive an entirely unhelpful, eye-widening surprise.

Moreover, despite what people falsely assume, buying items with your credit and debit cards doesn’t help you build a credible credit score in any way. Therefore, it’s better to stick with cash from all perspectives.

6. Keep stock of everything you have in your cupboards

Before making your grocery list, it’s essential to make plans for last month’s leftovers first. That way, you’ll know precisely how to utilize those items the following month and not purchase unnecessary stock on your next visit to the grocery store. When you start practicing this habit every time before going shopping, you don’t overdo your already tight budget by buying things you don’t need, spending your money responsibly.

7. Don’t buy anything that’s not on the grocery list

It’s close to impossible not to give in to the smell of those freshly baked cookies in the grocery store when you’re shopping down the aisle. Similarly, spotting your favorite comfort food that you can’t afford to have right now can be quite challenging when it’s right in front of you.

A good way to make sure you don’t spend on things you don’t necessarily need is to do online grocery shopping. That way, your food budget stays under control, and you don’t have to fight the intensive impulse to go out of line and shop recklessly.

8. Create a monthly food calendar creatively

Another key thing keeping you from meeting your $500 monthly budget is how you plan your monthly food calendar. Instead of cooking up a different meal every other day, you can opt more for the type of food you could freeze over and have later on days when you’re tired and don’t want to cook. That’s because these are specifically the days that cost you dearly at the end of the month when you have no budget to speak of due to the expensive take-outs you leaned toward instead.

Moreover, it’s a proven fact that cooking substantially can save you enough money in the long run that you can even make your debt repayment gradually yet definitely while staying under your actual income.

9. Cut down your electricity bill

A significant amount of money from your budget is spent on electricity bills, around 8% of your social security benefit, to be exact. While these are fixed expenses that you have to make payment for directly out of your take-home pay, you can make some healthy changes in life to keep your bills from piling up more than they need to.

For example, many people assume their television and other electronic appliances don’t suck any electricity when they aren’t in use but that’s not the case. In reality, unless you’ve unplugged the switch completely, these machines act like energy vampires that work 24/7, which takes a substantial toll on your spending limits.

Besides making sure to yank the cord from the plug, you can invest in smart power strips and cords that disconnect with the device when they aren’t in use. Plus, it’s always a good habit to switch off all electronics, including lights, when you leave a room to save more on electricity bills.

Ultimately, this practice will help you save enough money that you can even pay your existing debts, including the credit card debt and student loans that may pile up significantly over time.

10. Spend less water daily

Similarly, you can make some improvements in your routine to spend less on water facilitation as well. After all, anything keeping your monthly expenses from piling up is a big step toward practicing a $500 monthly budget. For example, using your water responsibly when taking a shower, shaving, or brushing your teeth can go a long way to save those few dollars that overly stash your expenses at the end of the month.

Moreover, cutting off unnecessary bath time will also help you spend less on the water since using a bathtub means consuming a ton of money that could be used otherwise. If nothing, paying less on water bills might mean you can use the extra money to pay your liabilities on time, positively affecting your credit score.

11. Lower your cell phone bills

black android smartphone displaying qr code If your monthly cell phone bills have started to take a toll on your personal finance register, you need to track down how much money you’re spending on that and readjust your resources adequately.

Most of the bills you pay for your cell services are transactions made through electronic payment methods, so you can assess those to see what you can get rid of, including unnecessarily costly data plans.

12. Get rid of your car

Having one car with fixed expenses doesn’t seem too bad in theory. However, in practicality, the sudden car repairs appearing out of the blue every other month, along with the payments you have to make for car insurance, isn’t as hassle-free as public transportation. Therefore, if you’re looking to save money on the get-go to match your $500 budget, it’s better to get rid of your car and opt for other modes of transportation instead.

Moreover, when you don’t have to deal with all the unexpected expenses associated with your car, you’ll likely stay debt-free in the long run since car maintenance can drain your pockets to even pay for the regular stuff. Not to mention, the credit card debt that piles up during all this makes things get worse for your credit score.

13. Move to a cheaper area

This is one of those ideas that you can immediately act upon if you want to cut a huge deal out of your mortgage or rent payments every month. By moving to a cheaper area, you’ll have more wiggle room to spend on other utilities instead of on your house. Moreover, if you have your own home fully paid for in a considerably expensive area, you can also put it on rent and move elsewhere. It’ll generate a secure source of extra monthly income every month that you can effectively add to your budget.

14. Rent rooms when you can’t afford to move

It can be challenging to make ends meet when you live in an expensive area but can’t afford to move due to several personal factors. However, if there’s one thing that you can do while living in your own home, it is to rent a room that’s not being used to receive a healthy amount of monthly payment every month.

15. Look for a rented apartment that you can share with a flatmate

However, if you live in a rented apartment yourself, you could always move to a cheaper place that allows more than one tenant at the same time. By sharing an apartment with a flatmate, you can easily re-do your budget with more flexibility while making the monthly payment for your joint living arrangement.

16. Say goodbye to brands and buy generic

One of the best ways to meet your monthly spending limit is to say goodbye to expensive brands and start shopping at generic stores. Once you start exploring the online market and your local stores to see what places offer the best deals on a low-cut budget, you can effectively save a ton from your take-home pay. The stores to look out for may include those selling clothing, make-up items, fashion accessories, shoes, medicines, staple food supplies, frozen foods, and even common household necessities.

17. Automate transfers to stash your emergency fund

No matter what, you need to save at least a little money from your fixed income to pile up your emergency fund stack. That’s why it is always an excellent idea to automatically transfer a chunk of your money every month, even if it is only $20, from your checking account to your savings account.

When you automate this process, you don’t have to force yourself every single time to put some money aside since that will be happening all on its own. So, if you are to make consistent automatic payments of $20 to your emergency fund account each month, you’ll have an extra yearly saving of $240. This money can later be used on unexpected expenses each month, including debt payments, student loans, or even monthly credit card bills. If not, you can always treat this account like investment accounts for long-term saving plans.

18. Cut out your cable bill and look for alternatives

Hands down! If you want to reduce your entertainment expenses, the best you can do is cut ties with your cable company. Fortunately for all of us, cable isn’t the only way to enjoy your favorite TV shows and movies anymore since the arrival of multiple streaming services. You’ll have to cut the cord to see just how much of a vast difference there’s in both services that can help you save thousands of dollars each year.

However, that said, it’s still best to only sign up for services that you’ll get to use and not spend on every other package that you find interesting. That’s because if you stop taking these services’ bills seriously, no matter how cheap they sound separate, you may end up spending a lot more altogether than what you paid for your cable initially.

19. Spend less on take-outs and dine-ins

If you knew how much money you might be spending currently on take-outs and dine-ins, you’d be more than surprised. While most of us don’t retrieve our wallets every day to pay for our meals, we usually do it more often than is considered reasonable. If you want to see precisely how much you spend on it, start keeping your receipts and add them up at the end of the month. Ordering from restaurants is always expensive, which is why you’d get to realize sooner than later where all your money goes every time you’re in desperate need of it at the end of the month.

20. Indulge in free or affordable entertainment alternatives

There’s not a person who wouldn’t appreciate doing free things for entertainment purposes. Between hosting dinners at restaurants and going out on movie nights, your living expenses add up to far greater than $500. Therefore, it is essential to consider indulging in affordable, if not free, entertainment alternatives to save yourself from yet another month of a financial crisis.

For example, instead of opting for arranging dinner by yourself to get together with friends or family, you can host a one-dish party to add a flair of anticipation to your parties without spending a lot of money on them. Or, you can host game nights or movie nights right in your home to keep your social life thriving.

Similarly, if you’re looking to have some regular self-time, you don’t have to book a yacht to connect with yourself on a lonely island or go to expensive golf clubs for rejuvenating. It would be just as fulfilling to go for a hike or try your hand at fishing to have some time alone while enjoying nature at its best.

21. Cancel automatic subscriptions that you don’t use on the regular

mage of a television screen displaying Netflix logo If you’re already signed up for multiple subscriptions that automatically debit money from your account, it’s time to change that right away. You may realize upon giving it a thought that most of the services you’re paying for are those that you only use once in a month or so. That’s not a reason enough to keep yourself linked to such services that rob you of a certain amount of the $500 budget every month.

Instead, it’s best to list down all your subscriptions and memberships in one place, including the streaming services you use and your gym membership, and contemplate which ones to keep that you use frequently.

22. Share your streaming services with others

Once you know which automatic subscriptions and memberships to keep and which ones to let go of, you can save a good amount of money from your $500 budget as it is.

However, to make your spending limit even more flexible, you can offer to share your credentials for streaming services with others by opting for an updated account. This allows more than one person to share the screen at a time, while this joint auto-pay entertainment service doesn’t burden you with the charges independently.

23. Look for gym membership alternatives

There’s no viable reason to make gym memberships a part of your budget plan and pay for it unnecessarily when you can easily look for alternatives. For example, you can search the internet for free apps or YouTube tutorials that offer lessons on how to exercise each part of your body without any gym equipment.

Moreover, if you only frequent the gym for light exercises like running on a treadmill, you can get the same results just as competently by jogging in a park, playing tennis with your friends, or even doing some laps in a pool. Ultimately, if you have a substantial amount of debt piling up already, making such life changes can be a notable step toward a debt-free future.

24. Look for local libraries to rent books

Before clicking on the “add to cart” button or paying for that brand-new book in your local bookstores, it’s always best to check your closest library to see if you can borrow it from there. Novels, journals, study books, and other such reading materials are usually heavy on the pocket, which is why they can bombard you with a ton of personal finance complications by the end of the month.

Moreover, you can even check out multiple online websites that provide free or affordable access to the books you want if you prefer that option much better.

25. Invest in efficient-energy appliances

You can further stretch your monthly spending by investing in efficient-energy appliances that cost you significantly less in electricity bills, such as refrigerators, freezers, washing machines, and televisions. While these “energy star” and eco-friendly products might be a little too expensive to buy without any prior notice, you can work it into your budget and save for it gradually so that you can make do in the designated expenditures limit much more easily afterward.

26. Pack your lunch on office days

The amount you pay for having your lunch ordered from a food delivery service is at least twice as much as what you would spend if you were to cook and pack your lunch for the office at home. Therefore, suppose if you were spending $100 every month on office lunch, you could reduce the cost to at least $50 if you pre-cook your meal at home instead.

27. Recycle everything you can

If you want to make do with your $500 budget, you also have to make a conscious effort to use your resources more carefully. A better part of this piece of advice relies upon how you recycle your products, doing the best you can in your current circumstances.

For example, the simplest example of recycling is using your glass jars and plastic bottles until they aren’t in the state of use anymore. After all, why would you utilize your already restricted budget to pay for things that you already have? Even though aesthetics matter at times, there’s nothing wrong with using a jam jar to grow your kitchen flowers or store your homemade sauces.

Similarly, the aluminum foils or plastic wraps you may utilize to store your food can be easily cleaned and used repeatedly, as long as they haven’t been used to keep any raw meat. Ultimately, when all these actions are added together, you’ll realize how such small acts can contribute massively to keeping your expenses under a minimal budget.

28. Reap the benefits of your retirement savings plan

This is also an important step toward saving your money for the long run without affecting your $500 monthly expenses limit. So, if your manager offers all employees a 401(k) match and you aren’t reaping benefits off of it, you might be missing out big time.

You can always talk to your HR department to set up an individual retirement account (IRA) for you, which helps you save money for the impending retirement in a completely tax-advantaged way. However, before doing that, you should ensure that you’re completely debt-free, except for your mortgage.

29. Learn to DIY things around the house

Another thing you should make a habit of to keep the extra money from invading your $500 budget is spending some time to learn basic DIY things that can help you around the house. From learning how to cook to doing small household hardware and plumbing fix-ups, it can all go a long way to saving you from paying a tremendous amount of money on odd jobs.

Moreover, the best part of all this is that you wouldn’t even have to pay money to learn new skills since there are several free applications and YouTube channels that you can explore for mastering new talents.

As for spending your fun money on the DIY tools with a heavy heart, you can always skip that route and borrow those from people who are more than willing to help you out. Similarly, you can ask your close friends, family, or even friendly neighbors to assist you from time to time with things that you are clueless about despite trying to learn.

30. Skip the Coffee Shop to Keep Your Monthly Budget in Check

When you’re already struggling to make do with a $500 budget under your fixed take-home pay, you have to become more reasonable about your day-to-day expenses. For example, taking the coffee shop route to get your dose of caffeine isn’t necessary when you can make your cup of cappuccino just as easily at home.

When comparing your home coffee price with the coffee shop caffeine, you can see a significant difference between the two. That’s precisely why sticking with your homemade cup of Joe can make a prominent improvement in your designated budget.

31. Replace Expensive Trips with Staycations

Lastly, it’s crucial to keep your monthly personal finance situation in check when planning vacations and outdoor retreats. The best way to ensure you don’t exceed your budget limit, in this case, is to revise your definition of extensive trips with staycations. That way, you can spend your fun money much more responsibly and in gradual periods instead of spending it all at once.

By applying these thirty-one tips in your routine, you can tweak your budget to $500 a month without stressing or exhausting yourself out, mentally or physically. Once you have created an overall budget that matches your needs proficiently, you can stick to it until your priorities change. Even afterward, you’ll only need to revisit your spending plan slightly to have it altered more to your liking.