There is no question, living within a tight budget is as much fun as a visit to the gynecologist. Possibly even less fun, because a visit to the gynecologist is one afternoon, whereas budget living is a way of life.

Right now, many of us are worried about money. Either we are laid off, concerned about getting laid off, or watching our 401Ks dwindle in value. I don’t know anyone who is so rich that the current economic state has no effect on them at all.

I’ve been laid off twice in the last year—the first time, from a corporate job I hated, but paid me a lot; the second time from a job I never really wanted, but took because I needed a job. I have run through the allotted payments the unemployment system awarded me. Because I was laid off twice, I should be receiving an additional allotment, but the unemployment office can’t seem to decide if they are really going to give this to me. I am being strung along through the unemployment system and not getting any helpful answers. This is a problem.

Currently, I work part-time. I’m hoping that my part-time job becomes a full-time career, but that will take time. So right now, I make a whopping $8 an hour. Sometimes, I perform duties that have a higher hourly rate, but it’s not always a given that I will get these duties. On average, I take home around $200 a week. This is a huge problem, as my life costs around $625 a week.

To make up for the shortfall, I am delving into my savings and cutting costs. My savings account has not yet been depleted, so I still have a small cushion. I am not completely out of money yet and am trying to go broke as slowly as possible.

To deal with this, I first made a detailed list of all my expenses. I then analyzed them to see where cuts could be made. Then, I tried to make some difficult decisions:

  • I have digital cable with a DVR. Do I really need this? I dropped down to the cable company’s “economy” package and saved myself $20 a month. I haven’t yet given up the DVR.
  • My health insurance is $452 a month. Could some of the coverage be dropped for a lower premium? I found an okay plan that is $246 a month and will switch for January. The co-pays are higher, but not so much that they outweigh the $206 per month savings.
  • I go to the chiropractor every two weeks. This is something I like to do and it makes my body feel better. With my co-pay going up though, can I really afford it? I’m going to save myself $50 a month by only going when it’s absolutely necessary.
  • My car insurance is $78 a month. This is not something I can go without, so I looked into finding a cheaper insurance provider. It turns out there isn’t one, so this cost is staying the same.
  • My cell phone averages $60 per month. I’m stuck in a contract until next spring, but when that’s up, I’m going to make some changes. I can either add myself to a friend’s plan as an additional line or go onto my stepfather’s plan and he will pay for it. Having a parent pay for my phone makes me feel pretty lame, but it may be necessary. Yes, I am in my 30s, but I may have to suck this one up.
  • Food is a huge expense for me. It’s not only nourishment, but it is also my social life. Not anymore. I told my friends that I am now on a tight budget and can’t go out to eat anymore. They understand this and are nice enough to sometimes take me out and foot the bill. This is something I greatly appreciate. As for groceries, I have started shopping at the highly horrible, but highly cheap grocery store near my house. This place is so bad it has nicknames like “Sketchy Basket” and “Crazy Basket.” A friend once had a tomato stolen out of her hand at this grocery store.
  • My student loans have been hanging around for a long time. They are going to have to hang around even longer. I am looking into deferring them for a while.
  • Yes, long-term it is a bad idea, but I’m going to stop contributing to my Roth IRA. I am only putting $100 a month into it, but this is $100 I really need right now. So much for buying low now and selling high when I am ready to retire.
  • Rent. This is one I have thought long and hard about. I live by myself in an urban area. It is expensive, but I love living by myself and I love my apartment. When I lived with roommates or boyfriends, I always had to be considerate of someone else. Living by myself, I can have everything my way. This makes me happy all the time and it is not something I am willing to give up yet. Rent stays the same. If I am getting near the $0 mark in my savings account in a few months, then I will consider moving in with roommates.

Thinking about these expenses and where to cut was a huge bummer. On top of this, I needed to think about other ways to squeeze more out of less. There are a few ways I am doing this:

  • Walking more places to save on gas. This is good for both me and the environment.
  • Hitting up the dollar store. I used to think that Target was the cheapest place to buy things like toiletries and house cleansers. It turns out that the dollar store has them beat on almost everything.
  • Turning off lights and electronics when I am not using them. A few bucks less on the electric bill is a good thing.
  • Figuring out what is in my apartment. I have all sorts of possessions I have forgotten about. That old Xbox can provide hours of free entertainment.
  • Eating all the food I buy, rather than letting it sit in the fridge and go bad. This is something I have been guilty of many times; I know it is terrible.
  • Not using the dryers when I do laundry. Draping wet clothes around my apartment saves me a few dollars.
  • Going to the library. It’s an amazing resource for everything from books and magazines to music and movies.
  • Inviting people to my house instead of meeting them out for food and drinks. I have food and drinks at my house we can partake of.

I am still working on more methods of scrimping and saving. I hate it, but that is the way things are right now. I am hoping to start making more money and slowly pull myself out of going broke as slowly as possible.