How to do extreme budgeting

How to: extreme budgeting

$20 for 2 days. €5 for one day. Yet, the way of how to do extreme budgeting in 2019 lies in human ingenuity, rather than in numbers.

Extreme budgeting is almost always about surviving the last few days until a pay check. Sometimes it’s a week until a pay check arrives, the pantry’s out of food, and the savings are almost all spent.

The approach to doing extreme budgeting, should itself be a little extreme. In more difficult circumstances, extreme and unconventional solutions are welcome.

Read on to find out the 3 very easy steps for successful budgeting, and more extreme budgeting tips!

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How to do extreme budgeting

The answer on how to extreme budget is equal parts directed at saving money, and at seeking out free opportunities. An example would be the use of transportation. While it may be important to reduce car use when on an extreme budget, seeking out free opportunities for transportation is as important for an extreme budget.

Without seeking out free opportunities, solving the problem of how to extreme budget, will just be finding ways to save even more money. However, saving money almost always reduces opportunities related to work and social life. Without them, the cycle of extreme budgeting will continue. Hence, free opportunities should be the focus of those who have to cope with extreme budgeting.

Extreme budgeting, is, of course, impossible without an actual budget. A simple Excel spreadsheet is enough for an extreme budget.

An extreme budget should focus on eliminating all possible purchases and seeking out free opportunities.

Eliminating all possible purchases is the most straightforward solution to the question “How to extreme budget?”. If a budget keeper can survive without some expense, then money shouldn’t be spent on it. It is possible to survive on €5 for one day, if all possible purchases are eliminated. Let’s look at how this would in practice.

Transportation costs can be eliminated by walking to work, or to any other commitments. If walking isn’t possible, carpooling with a friend in exchange for labour could be a solution.

Food costs can be eliminated by taking advantage of free food offered in the workplace. Taking some freely available food home isn’t a crime.

If free food isn’t available at work, then a supermarket or a shopping centre can help. Many shopping centres give away unsold, and perishable food at the end of the way. If the practice isn’t common in the region of a budget keeper, there’s one more way of getting free food. Cafes, especially ones which sell pastries, tend to give away (if a person asks nicely) food at the end of the way.

Other purchases, like entertainment and gifts, also can be eliminated. Free entertainment is available everywhere (free museum visits, free visits of art galleries, free parks), and is often of higher quality than paid entertainment. Online subscriptions for entertainment services aren’t always worth the money paid for them. Moreover, they can be easily cancelled.

Gifts can be made completely free of charge. They can be made out of unneeded materials lying around the house, or in nature. With millions of DIY articles about free gifts, spending money on gifts can be easily eliminated.

Seeking out free opportunities is an often overlooked solution to extreme budgeting. $20 for 2 days won’t buy much. However, seeking out and taking advantage of free opportunities will help the budget keeper to “spend” far more than $20.

how to do extreme budgeting
Seeking out free opportunities for extreme budgeting. Copyright: Money Bear Club.

Free opportunities are not limited to free museum visits or freebies at a local cafe. Free opportunities for extreme budget keepers include free opportunities at the workplace (food, entertainment, relaxation, healthcare), free opportunities from municipalities (transportation, entertainment), governments (financial support, paid opportunities), and from businesses (freebies, referral bonuses, free lotteries).

Spending time seeking out free opportunities is an important step in extreme budget keeping. Not only do free opportunities help to avoid spending money. Free opportunities also stretch small sums of money farther. This helps to avoid situations when a budget keeper has to ask others to loan him or her money.

Ways to save money on a tight budget aren’t limited to eliminating purchases or seeking out free opportunities. Observing your own spending, noticing patterns in it, and creating appropriate strategies for saving money, is one of the uncommon ways to save money on a tight budget. No one other than the budget keeper himself or herself knows the best solutions for their tight budget.

3 easy steps for successful budgeting

Successful budgeting is largely based on avoiding rookie mistakes like oversimplification of spreadsheets, or too detailed budgets. For successful budgeting, avoiding these mistakes, and making the right choices, can be implemented by using 3 easy steps.

The 3 easy steps for successful budgeting are: regular updates, choice elimination, and investment prioritization.

3 steps for successful budgeting and money bear club
Successful budgeting steps. Copyright: Money Bear Club.

Investment prioritization is an unconventional step for successful budgeting. That’s not an advice a budgeting blogger on an advisor would give. However, Money Bear Club is a website about unconventional investing, savings, and budgeting. And it is a place to explore unusual angles in budgeting.

First off, what is investment prioritization in budgeting? Investment prioritization is an unconventional view of building wealth. Most budget keepers (especially beginners) will focus on saving as much as they can. The more of a pay check they will save, the happier they will feel.

That’s a good strategy for those at the start of their budgeting journey. Saving as much as possible creates a heavy incentive to keep a budget, and the rewards for this type of budgeting strategy are easy to see and comprehend.

Contrary to focusing on savings in budget keeping, investment prioritization would take the best of both worlds (investing and saving as much as possible), and put investing first. How would that look in everyday budget keeping?

Instead of just putting away savings every month, a budget keeper intent on investment prioritization, would invest savings every month. For the followers of the “pay yourself first” strategy, investing savings at the start of the month, would be the way to implement investment prioritization

For budget keepers who follow the practice of putting away the savings at the end of the month, investing at the end of the month would be a viable way to implement the investment prioritization strategy.

Investment prioritization is an important step in successful budget keeping. That’s because it has an ability to create a larger purchasing power. Investments are assets, and they tend to appreciate in value over time. Investing savings in dividend-paying investments, or low risk investments, is the easiest way of increasing the purchasing power of a budget keeper. Moreover, the purchasing power increases without taking on too much risk.

Investment prioritization is also important for successful budget keeping because of its ability to discourage unneeded expenses. When savings are freely available, a budget keeper might be tempted to tap into them for unneeded purchases. If savings are invested, converting them into cash would be far more difficult, and likely result in a loss, if it done too early. Thus, investment prioritization can act as a safety check against using savings for unnecessary expenses.

Regular updates is the easiest step for successful budgeting. Regular updates do not require much creativity or intellectual thought. They just require the ability to complete a rather boring task. Although regular updates to a budget spreadsheet is a highly time-consuming task, it will pay off when savings will increase.

Regular updates to a budget is an essential step for successful budget keeping. That’s because they have the ability to keep the budget keeper in check, and to prevent mistakes. Without regular updates to a budget, the budget keeper may lose track of how much money they are spending, and have a harder time adhering to budget limits.

Choice elimination is the lesser known way of how to save money when budgeting. To save money, most would advise just to cultivate the personal will to resist purchases. However, personal will can be manipulated through the power of advertising. While mixed opinions exist about the actual power of manipulative advertising, the effects of the best advertising campaigns are undeniable. The emotional and the physical state of a person (hunger contributing to more food being bought), can also make an impact on the budget keeper’s strength to resist unneeded purchases.

Instead of resisting the pull of advertising and social media, eliminating choices for purchases, is the right way to achieve success in budgeting. Using ad blockers, avoiding entertainment and news which encourage spending (product reviews, purchase guides, product hauls), is the strategy for choice elimination in the advertising a budget keeper interacts with.

For choice elimination in expenses, allocating certain amounts of money to specific purchases, is the best strategy. Instead of just allocating a certain amount of money to be spent on grains, it’s better to specify, which grains and brands will be purchased. This way, the probability of making an unneeded purchase will be lowered.

The same strategy of choice elimination can be applied to any category of purchases. Deciding on certain clothing brands, rather than contemplating all offers from clothing brands, can be used as a strategy to save money on clothing.

These 3 easy steps for successful budgeting may take time to get used to, and to implement them. Yet, they will help to not only minimize expenses, but also to increase the spending power of a budget keeper.

Extreme budget cooking and extreme food budget

Cooking and taking care of groceries on an extreme budget is not the easiest task. Depending on the country, or a world region, this task can be more or less easy. Extreme budgeting tips should make grocery shopping a more efficient process.

An extreme food budget can be taken care of (most easily) by visiting a food bank. Visiting a food bank, however, may not be for everyone. Thus, another easy solution to an extreme food budget is required.

A meal plan is essential for an extreme budget. Thinking ahead, and planning expenses, also applies to food. A meal plan is way to make the most out of the food a person has already bought. A meal plan is also a way to take advantage of sales, and to cook nutritious meals without going over the budget.

The main principle of creating an extreme budget meal plan is prioritizing products that already have been bought, and avoiding spending more money.

Firstly, a list of all food products and spices that already have been bought should be made. Next, a meal plan should be created. The meal plan should focus on using products that perish first. Hence, available vegetables and fruits should be used first, meat next, and all other products later.

If the food products in the pantry don’t seem to go together, and it’s hard to come up with meal ideas, the internet can help. Websites like MyFridgeFood and RecipeKey just require to input the products that the user already has bought. Then, the websites provide recipes, where even the most unsuited ingredients can create tasty dishes.

However, eating on an extreme budget is not always made easier with already bought food. Sometimes, an empty refrigerator and a pinch of salt is all a person will have. How to plan meals then?

An extreme budget grocery list should then focus on food items that are cheapest per pound or kilogram, and offer the most nutritional value. Pastries, cakes, pasta, and ready-made meals, shouldn’t ever be on an extreme budget list. That’s because they aren’t full of required nutrients, and cost a lot per pound/kilogram.

For an extreme budget grocery list, grains, vegetables, and lean cuts of meat would offer the most value for their price. Canned meat can also be a solution for a cheap protein source.

It’s important to remember that not all vegetables offer the same value for their price. While tomatoes and cucumbers have almost the same price, the latter vegetable can be used for many more foods. Yet, if the caloric value is the most important criterion for the groceries list, tomatoes then would be better for an extreme budget grocery list.

Out of the wide selection of grains available in most stores, the cheapest grains actually offer the most nutritional value to shoppers. More expensive grains, like quinoa can be substituted by cheaper grains, which often are more nutritious.

It’s also important to remember that trends can make grain prices explode out of nowhere. Hence, evaluating food products for what they actually offer, rather than their trendiness, is an essential skill for extreme budget cooking.

quinoa grain price from 2008 to 2015.
Quinoa grain price. Source:

Lean cuts of meat are an essential source of protein, and they can be bought with an extreme grocery budget. The most useful hack for buying lean cuts of meat on an extreme budget – waiting for sales, and then buying as much meat as the budget allows. The unused meat can be frozen, and eaten at a later time in the future. This hack allows to make the most out of discounts for meat, and to eat animal protein even on an extreme budget.

An extreme grocery budget should not be larger than 10% of a pay check. The figure should be even smaller at larger pay checks (>$6,000 per month). 10% of a pay check is more than enough for an extreme grocery budget. This percentage figure allows to buy all of the necessities.

Extreme family budgeting

Extreme family budgeting is a matter of controlling the outflows of money out of the household. In the article Keeping a budget: importance and solutions, Money Bear Club explained and analysed the difficulties, and the solutions of keeping a household budget. To simplify, keeping a household budget just requires one member of the household to act as a “manager” of the family budget.

The household budget manager should be responsible for proper entries into the family’s budget, allocating money to every member of the family, and deciding on the amount of savings. For families whose members are enthusiastic about budget keeping, a shared budget spreadsheet can be used for family budget keeping.

Having one person to be a manager of a family budget, will minimize the time and effort it takes to keep a budget. Moreover, one person “specialising” in family budget keeping, will contribute to the creation of a more advanced budget.

Extreme family budgeting is easier than extreme budgeting for one person. The power of budgeting lies in large numbers. Hence, the more people food, clothes or entertainment on discount are bought for, the larger the savings will be.

Some extreme budgeting ideas for families include cooking meals that will be consumed by the whole family (instead of cooking separate meals for each person); foregoing paying for entertainment, and instead creating own entertainment (arts and crafts, storytelling); passing down clothing to younger members of the family; parents or elders of the family working closer to schools or kindergartens of children (to save on transportation costs).

Above everything, extreme family budgeting should concentrate on making the most out of the number of members in a family, and the benefits that come from it. Even brainstorming new family budgeting ideas is easier with more people in a household.

Extreme frugal budget

Frugal living can be difficult. However, an extreme frugal budget, with careful planning, and a precise execution, is possible to implement.

A frugal budget, for most people, would be an extreme budget. An extreme frugal budget is taking the frugal lifestyle philosophy, and reaching its maximum. An extreme frugal budget is a budget that not only focuses on savings, but also seeks out free opportunities. Let’s look at the most important areas for an extreme frugal budget.

1. Food and eating is the first area where an extreme frugal budget makes the most impact on.

Eating out with an extreme frugal budget is impossible, and would contribute to overspending. On the other hand, cooking by yourself, and finding the best food deals, is the way to keep an extreme budget. When eating out, costs like the upkeep of a restaurant, employee wages, and taxes, on top of profits of restaurants, are added onto the costs of meals. When cooking on your own, the budget keeper will just pay for the food, the electricity/gas required to make it, and nothing more. That’s how cooking on your own helps to keep an extremely frugal budget.

For budget keepers who want to maximize their savings, and to minimize their spending, growing own food is the way to keep an extreme budget.

Community gardens are likely the most cost-effective solution for growing food on your own. In most places they are free, and the residents only have to pay for water. A community garden is essentially a completely free plot of land, which residents can use to save money they would have otherwise spent on groceries.

The power of community gardens lies in its ratio of available land, and the costs of upkeep. While the amount of land given to gardeners isn’t very large, the costs of gardening in a community garden are very low.

The next best choice for growing food on your own is by gardening inside (for apartment owners). Gardening on a windowsill, or in a terrace, will yield a small amount of food, but it will be very cheap.

2. Small utility bills make adhering to a frugal budget easier. Using power-saving light bulbs, going to the bed early (to avoid spending money on electricity), choosing lower temperatures for heating, re-using water (using grey water), and cooking multiple foods at the same time in the oven, are ways to lower charges on utility bills, and to make the most out of them.

extreme frugal budget and small utility bills
Tools for small utility bills. Copyright: Money Bear Club.

Utilities is an often overlooked area for frugal budgeting. While not spending money on unnecessary goods and services may produce results that are easier to comprehend, saving money on utilities will add up more in the long-term.

3. Transportation cost savings make adhering to a thrifty lifestyle a more manageable task. Thrifty living is hard on its own. Adding larger transportation costs just makes thrifty living harder. Large transportation costs are easy to avoid, but can be hard to get rid off after certain purchases (e.g. a car).

The management of transportation costs on an extreme frugal budget should focus on maximizing the amount of use of free transportation (walking, riding a bicycle) and minimizing the use of paid transportation (car, ride share services).

If, for one reason or another, using free transportation is not suitable to a person, then public transportation should be used. An extreme frugal budget necessitates minimizing the expenses on non-essentials (luxury transportation); using free or reduced-cost transportation is the easiest road to it.

Using a smaller car, or a more fuel-efficient one, is the solution for frugal budget keepers who can’t use cheaper methods of transportation.

Another forgotten hack for minimizing transportation costs is shopping around for insurance deals. Bargaining for a better deal for car insurance, is also hack that can lower transportation costs.

Extreme couponing

Extreme couponing was once an obscure way of saving money, but in recent years (likely due to financial difficulties people have experienced), it has become a popular way of saving money on groceries and basic necessities. Extreme couponing can be a strong push helping to keep an extreme budget, and minimizing expenses.

Extreme couponing is a free way of minimizing expenses on necessary purchases. Getting coupons also isn’t as difficult as it was in the past. Extreme couponing has been facilitated by the possibility to print coupons at home, or to use digital coupons.

The best extreme couponing websites are RetailMeNot and These websites feature not only a wide selection of stores for shoppers from all over the world, but they also are equipped with easy to navigate designs.

The main separator between the average and the best extreme couponing websites is the quantity of obscure deals. Deals that are rare, and which aren’t found on other websites, often offer the best opportunities to save money.

Effective extreme couponing largely depends on the region a budget keeper lives in. Extreme couponing is far more popular, and easier to do in the USA, than it is in Europe. Some countries may not even have stores which offer coupons to their customers.

In regions where stores give out coupons, effective couponing depends on the perseverance of shoppers. However, some couponing hacks are more effective than the effort of couponing enthusiasts.

Lesser known couponing hacks include asking retail workers for additional coupons, visiting multiple stores to get coupons, setting up Google Alerts for specific discounts, and asking people who don’t coupon for their coupons.

Budgeting and ingenuity

Extreme budgeting, and living with a very tight budget, can be hard to cope with. Just searching for the right strategies for extreme budgeting can be mentally taxing.

From another perspective, living on an extreme budget can unlock a budget keeper’s ingenuity and savings abilities like nothing else. Living on a tight budget can make a person more likely to think out of the box, and more willing to seek out new opportunities.

Extreme budgeting strategies are created for extreme situations. Using extreme budgeting strategies for a large budget will yield big returns, but likely will take out some joy out of spending money.

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