How to Stay Financially Strong Without Giving Up What You Want

Make a budget that prioritizes needs.

If you have a limited income, prioritize your needs. "The rest is just a series of wants," said Donna Freedman, author of "Your Playbook for Tough Times."

Create an Emergency Fund

If you're on a tight budget, you might not think you can afford to put money aside each month for an emergency fund. But, without savings, would you be able to cover an unexpected expense?

Deal with Your Debts Wisely

You don't want to just keep paying the minimum balance on what you owe when you're in debt. However, you may not be able to afford much higher payments, so you should consider other smart debt-reduction strategies.

Take Advantage of Tax Breaks

If you work for a low-wage firm, take advantage of tax breaks like the earned income tax credit when you file your tax return.

Prefer to Eat at home

Food is an essential expense, but it is one over which you have control. Cooking at home rather than eating out is the best way to achieve this. Unfortunately, nearly 44% of Americans' food dollars are spent on meals not prepared at home.

Reduce Grocery Costs

The key to saving money on groceries is to plan your weekly menu and shopping list around what's on sale at the grocery store. Check your grocer's website for the weekly ad, or pick one up as you walk in.

Discover the Best Deals

Don't limit your shopping to just groceries. According to McClary, you should spend extra time looking for the best deals on all of the goods and services you use.

What You Don't Need to Sell

You most likely have hidden sources of income lying around your house, such as items you don't need but can sell.

Maintain Low Utilities Costs

Even if your utilities appear to be expensive, that doesn't mean you have to spend the winter wrapped in blankets or sweating it out in the summer.

Make Use of the Public Library

There's no reason to give up books just because the cost of buying them can quickly add up. The public library provides numerous freebies that can make life more enjoyable and cost-effective.

Find Free Activities

Fortunately, every state has a plethora of free activities, ranging from museums to hiking trails to public concerts. A calendar of events can be found on the website of your city government or a local newspaper.

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