Extension Logo
Extension Logo
University of Minnesota Extension

Strategies for spending less

When your family faces reduced income, take immediate action to stop all excess spending. Whether your situation is temporary or extended, you need to get the most for your money.

Studies have found that many families do not adjust their lifestyle for about six months after their income is reduced. Those six months of ignoring the situation can bring disaster. When you take charge of your financial situation immediately, you are making a positive contribution to your family's well-being now and in the future.

Control spending

Following basic money management principles can reduce stress and help you adjust to living on less income. Here is a list of research-tested principles:

  • Make a list of the family's most important expenses while you have less income. (This means things you must have or do.)
  • Make a family spending plan to determine where your money will go. Refer to Setting spending priorities to develop a family budget you can use to cope with your income situation. 
  • Decide where you will spend your money. Stick to your spending plan. With less income, each spending decision is critical.

Most people give high priority to fixed expenses such as rent or mortgage payments, insurance premiums, car payments and installment debt. Flexible expenses such as food, utilities, clothing and household expenses can be more easily adjusted to fit your income. Most people find it easier to cut back on flexible expenses.

All family members need to work together to reduce spending. When everyone pulls together, you are more likely to succeed in living on less.

Together, the family should go through the list under each of the flexible expense categories below. Check the ideas you think would help your family to reduce spending. Add your family's ideas to each list.

As you go through the list, ask, "How can we reduce spending?"

  • Can we substitute a less costly item?
  • How can we conserve resources and avoid waste?
  • Are there opportunities to cooperate with others by trading or sharing resources?
  • Can we save if we do it ourselves?
  • Can we do without?

Related resources

America Saves — Includes information for families on how to save and build wealth.

Minnesota Department of Human Services — Provides information on Medicaid/Medical Assistance, MinnesotaCare insurance, or General Assistance Medical Care.

Sharon M. Danes, Extension specialist and professor, Department of Family Social Science

Revised by Sharon Powell and Sam Roth, Extension educators


Reviewed in 2023

Page survey

© 2023 Regents of the University of Minnesota. All rights reserved. The University of Minnesota is an equal opportunity educator and employer.