How Do You Budget When You Have Nothing Left to Spend?

Having nothing left to spend in the middle of the month way before a pay cheque comes in is a brutal spot to find yourself in, but it happens to many people. Listen, when we were living on one income with small children before I started my business Thrifty Mom Media Consulting there were many times we had zero money to spend, so I had to get creative.

Living off of credit is a losing proposition that will dig you further into debt so you need to find a way to stay afloat without going bankrupt financially and spiritually.

Believe me I know how brutally hard this is.


Living a life where there seems to never be enough money can be rough. It is stressful and sometimes heartbreaking. Trying to figure out how to budget when you have nothing left to spend is seemingly impossible; especially if you must do it month after month.

Here’s What We Did When Money Was Super Tight…

If you are in this situation, these budgeting tips may be able to help. Stop, take a deep breath and get brainstorming ways to either organize finances better or build in a side hustle of sorts. There are a lot of ways to make it better so don’t give up or spend all week paralyzed with worry. Like I tell my kids often no problem is too big to solve.


Ten Ways to Find Money When The Well is Dry

Know your income –

The first thing you need to do is take stock of what money or income you currently have. Even if you know you won’t have enough to make all your basic expenses, you still need to have a dollar amount to work with. Be sure to account for any irregular income that you may have forgotten about.

Check the Pre-authorized debit charges –

I thought of this because I literally just had to do this myself. At the end of the year sometimes it pays to take stock of what is still coming out of the bank automatically. There was one computer software related program service monthly costing me $30 US which I rarely use. So I cut it out just this week. No point paying for something I do not use. Those fees are ones the companies themselves count on as passive income but they can slowly destroy your budget.


Be Realistic –

Chances are good you are not going to win the lottery tomorrow. Don’t keep banking on it. Settle in during a tough spell and get creative. Buy a lotto ticket if you need to but please do not make that a strategy. It’s not going to help. Get brainstorming options instead.

Do Not Live Beyond Your Means –

Please, please do not travel or buy luxury splurges when you cannot afford them. As much as I love family travel, this year there is less disposable income for that annual family trip. That’s reality. So the trips you see me taking here are ones that are all work related right now. I am a travel writer and a health writer, so I travel and I receive products that are amazing. It’s my job. Honestly if you can’t pay cash for something or you know you will spend the next year paying off that trip to a ski resort then please stop yourself from going.

Lately I see a few people I know travelling to destinations right after I have been there, which is amazing, because that’s part of the job. But if it’s not affordable for you, please wait. It worries me when I see someone that I know who is struggling with money leveraging the grocery money for travel.

Total all expenses –

Make a list of all expenses your family has coming out this month. While you need an idea of how much money you have incoming, you also need to know what you have going out. Don’t forget to include expenses that only come out every so often and pop up expenses that are easy to forget about.

Cut unnecessary expenses –

Once you have all expenses listed, go through your list and cut anything that is not necessary. In other words, take your expenses down to nothing more than housing costs, food and transportation. When you are finished, everything that is a want should be removed from your list.

Sell Something –

Take a look around your home or apartment and find things you are no longer using. It’s never been easier to sell items you aren’t using. Kids outgrow their clothing? Check your local Facebook groups for Moms that are selling or trading old clothing. Old vacuum around the house that you no longer use? Sell it.

Split what you have wisely –

Finally, assign your income to your expenses. Start with your most important expenses. This would be your housing expenses such as rent or mortgage. Next, move onto other housing expenses such as your utilities. If you can’t pay the full amounts of every utility, split the amount you have to work with across each one. It is better to pay something than it is to pay nothing. Once you have covered your housing expenses, move onto transportation. I know it may seem odd to cover transportation first, but if you can not get to work, you will be in a worse situation.

Cover your food costs. Find the cheap grocery stores and get more for less. The clearance produce rack at Farm Boy is one of my favourite food budgeting resources. The other day I purchased about 12 large tomatoes that were less than perfect for $2.50. I made tomato sauce, tacos and salads with them for well over 7 days. Produce doesn’t need to be perfect and I kind of always feel horrified that the entire rack of less than perfect produce could be food waste if someone doesn’t buy it and use it. So that covers two purposes for me.

If you can not buy food, reach out to local pantries or other assistance agencies in your area for help. There are too many people struggling with nothing left to spend. You are not alone.

Use Subsidy if you have to –

Is there nothing left to spend, but the kids still have lessons ongoing? Kids require hockey lessons or swimming lessons? Approach the city or the private organization that runs them to ask about subsidy. This is intended as a temporary fix so don’t abuse the privilege. But it can help in a tough year.

Or maybe you are a senior and have a fixed income but you still need to get out of the house and join a group yoga class or recreational skating. Here’s some information on City of London subsidy for residents who need it. And there’s also subsidy at the YMCA as well as for Child Care if you need it. Do not be too proud to ask.


FIND a Side Hustle –

Seasonal job somewhere stocking shelves? Drive an UBER? Write for someone or help edit something? Become a virtual assistant. Ask yourself what marketable skills you have and figure out a way to offer those. Craigslist? Zip recruiter? Kijiji? You got this.

There’s truly no problem too big to solve.


Mom of two beautiful active girls, traveller, fitness junkie, social media consultant, and keeper of the sanity.


  • Stacie

    This is going to help so many people who are struggling with finances. I remember these days myself. The thing I remember the most is how much Ramen I ate. LOL

  • Colleen

    I love that you included knowing your income! A lot of budgeting information out there forgets that one simple, and most important part of budgeting. You have to know your income down to the last cent so you can allocate it out with the most efficiency.

  • Erin

    After I read your post, I told myself that I need to work on my finance. I took lots of international travels and brought so many food in the past year, and I tried working on my budget so I dont not run out of money before my next paycheck coming in. Great idea on total all of our expenses and cut unnecessary ones.

  • Jeanine

    Preautheoized has seriously messed with me in the past so I had to nix them for sure. These are some wonderful tips

  • Lisa Favre

    I totally agree with not living beyond your means! This time of year especially, money can get really, really tight! I am feeling it myself with all of the holiday shopping!