How to Manage a Bare-Bones Budget

Bare Bones BudgetWhile I’m figuring out the next steps in my professional endeavors, I could potentially be dealing with a significant reduction in salary. Whether or not it’s going to be a short-term or long-term reduction is still up in the air and contingent upon finally hearing back from these positions I’ve been interviewing for.

Until I’m certain of what my next steps are (ie. an offer letter that’s signed, sealed,and delivered!), I’ll be adhering to a bare-bones budget plan.

What is a bare-bones budget?

A bare-bones budget is exactly as it sounds: Adhering to a budget that’s based on the absolute minimum amount of spending for which your situation allows. It’s a no-frills, no-extras-allowed plan that’s as strict as it is necessary when you’re faced with a substantial reduction in income.

What does a bare-bones budget include?

Your bare-bones budget should only include necessities such as food, housing, healthcare, insurance, and debt payments. For me, this includes the following:

  • Mortgage payment
  • Condo fee
  • Groceries (basics only!)
  • Utilities
  • Insurance (car & homeowner’s is now fully paid for the year)
  • Student loan payments
  • Retirement savings (a non-negotiable for me)
  • A small amount of long-term savings (can be used as a buffer for unexpected expenses if this salary reduction continues for longer than anticipated)


What a bare-bones budget does NOT include:

All frivolous expenditures are officially out the door! For me, this means no more:

  • Dining out
  • Movies, concerts, events that require a ticket purchase
  • Shopping for anything other than groceries
  • Vacations (although Kilimanjaro is still on as it’s fully pre-paid already!)
  • Hobby-related expenditures
  • “Extra” personal care such as cosmetics, manicures, etc. (although I’ve never had a manicure, pedicure, massage, etc. so this doesn’t really apply to my situation)


How to maintain motivation during this phase:

Sticking to a bare-bones budget isn’t going to be very fun. But, it’s necessary and it will be a great exercise in personal strength, tenacity, and willpower. Also, there’s not many better ways to hone your ability to delay gratification!

For those moments where I’m particularly feeling the need to splurge, I’ll be doing the following to ensure my motivation remains high to get through this phase with my e-fund still in tact:

  • Reminding myself that this is a temporary phase. I’m very close to securing a new full-time job, so I know this will be a temporary phase. Unfortunately, these hiring processes are taking much longer than I had originally anticipated, but I will continue to remind myself that I’ll be settled in a new job sooner than later…
  • Seeking out creative options. Reducing expenses to the bare-bones minimum doesn’t mean that fun and socializing goes out the door. In fact, it’s almost more motivating to me because now I have to come up with creative options for spending time with my friends. I’ll be relying on the plethora of free summer activities available in the city as well as surrounding my social time around activities such as running, biking, and hiking–which are free and healthy!
  • Remaining positive. I’ve weathered a great deal of storms in my life, and I know I can get through this phase just fine. I’ll keep a smile on my face and a spring in my step knowing that I’m headed towards nothing but greener pastures. Even if the road to those pastures is a bit uglier than I had hoped, it’s absolutely still one worth navigating…


What do you think of the bare-bones budget idea? Have you ever adhered to one? Do you have any other tips/suggestions?


Photo credit: pathfinderlinden


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We're a team of freelancers who are on a mission to inspire others to live a healthy, balanced life one cent at a time. Work from The Happy Homeowner has been featured on CNN Money, Yahoo! Finance, Wisebread, Lifehacker, The Dr. Oz Show, and many other outlets.

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