It’s one thing to make a budget and tell your money where to go, but it’s a completely different thing to live on a bare bones budget.  A bare bones budget is when your budget only what is absolutely necessary to survive.  You might think that this sounds ridiculous.  Who on earth would only live on the bare minimum?  Don’t these people want to have any fun?!  While this may not be the type of budget that people use for a long period of time, it can be very useful every now and then.

How Does A Bare Bones Budget Work?

A bare bones budget covers only the necessities to make it through to the next payday.  This would include shelter, food, utilities, car insurance, gas, and any other important monthly bills.  You basically make your budget and cut out anything that is not 100% necessary for that month.  Categories such as restaurants, gifts, hair care, and entertainment would be left empty.  When you make your grocery list, you would utilize all the food in your pantry or freezer to keep your grocery bill as low as possible.  Every unnecessary item on the budget would be eliminated until the next payday.  Make sure you are honest with yourself.  What can you get rid of for just a short amount of time that is not absolutely needed?

Why Would I Use A Bare Bones Budget?

A bare bones budget is a great option for families that need to save money quickly.  If there was an emergency and your savings has been sucked dry, creating a bare bones budget is a great way to cut expenses and increase your savings quickly.  It is also perfect to help people who are trying to become debt free break out of a plateau.  So often it’s hard to see the progress when progress seems slow.  A bare bones budget allows for a much larger payment to debt which provides a sense of victory.

Bare Bones Budget Example

Enough explaining.  Let’s a take a look at a bare bones budget in action.  This budget is based off my personal family’s expenses and bills.  If you have extra expenses that we don’t have (such as a car payment or credit card) then you would have to add that into your budget.

This would definitely be a difficult budget for our family to follow (especially the groceries and lack of restaurants).  However, we could definitely follow a budget like this 2-3 times a year.  Does it take dedication? A ton of it! Is it easy? Of course not!  Does it yield results? You bet!

Bare Bones Budget Tips

Following a restricted budget is not easy, so set yourself up for success with these tips:

  1. Find free entertainment: know where all the parks are and which ones are free.  Is there a lake or river near by where you can skip rocks, fish, or just read a book?  What about a great area where you can watch a sunset?  We love to check out movies at the library instead of paying for them!  Be prepared to have options so you don’t go crazy at home!
  2. Prepare for an unexpected expense: You know it’s going to happen! Something unexpected is going to come up and you will have an unplanned expense.  Budget for this in advance so that you are not deterred from sticking to your budget when this cost arrives.  In my example budget, I added $100 as an unexpected expense.
  3. Focus on the positives: I’ve written about mindset before, but it’s important to know that living a bare bones budget is just a season.  It will pass.  As hard as it can be to not compare yourself to others, remind yourself of where you are, where you have come, and where you are going.  You’ve got this!

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