Versatility is one of my most important keys to budgeting.
Versatility in many areas helps to stretch a budget farther than it may normally go.
Here are just a few ideas in a couple of different areas:
Wardrobe Versatility: Admittedly, I don't have a very versatile wardrobe. I am a jean/shorts and t-shirt kind of girl, but I do own some nicer things for whenever the need arises. But versatility is not about how large my wardrobe is, but how well I use the fewer pieces I DO have. What I try to do is have some basics that mix and match. A pair of black pants and a black skirt that also go with a black jacket that can all mix and match with multiple tops, a basic pair shoes or two. Then the same type thing in an ivory color all that can mix with the black. Now I'm done. I don't have multiple dresses and multiple 'outfits' that only fit each other. That is the type of versatility that stretches a budget; two suit sets that can become about 30 different things to wear.
Home Decor Versatility: We've not bought too many things 'new' other than our bed and maybe one couch in 25 years of marriage. Since most things are second hand, we look for quality and multi-purpose use. Old chests, covered baskets and crates make good storage as well as decor. Baskets that we hand or display are also often grabbed for garden work or carrying firewood/kindling in the house. A wicker waste paper basket this month may become a planter basket next month. Sheets make good drapes and table clothes and napkins. Old towels are ripped for the rag box. I've never bought a rag in my life time!
Automobile Versatility: When buying a new-to-me vehicle, I've looked for things that have ample trunk space and or a van with removable seats. There have been times that my car/van was our ONLY option for moving larger items. It saved us having to rent a truck or u-haul. Also, we've looked at cars that can be passed on to our kids to buy. Keeping them in good shape is vital, but the Jeep has been earmarked for one of the kids to purchase before too long.
Food Versatility: This one is my biggest key to managing our home expenses. I buy mostly organic (which sounds more expensive, but is better in the long run) and only basic foods. Making one meal that the left-overs turn into two more is always a great dollar stretcher. By far my favorites are using whole grains in multiple ways. Currently I am doing a series on the multi-uses of Popping Corn.... http://www.youtube.com/user/thewheatguy ... from corn meal, corn bread, multi-flavor options, polenta, tortillas and so on.....This list is growing from only ONE grain! We do the same with Organic rolled Oats....
If there is one thing that I'd love to encourage anyone struggling with making ends meet, it is to look at how versatile are (ore aren't) the items you are spending money on. You may be surprised at how trimming back to basic items actually gives you a wider variety!