Use Bonuses & Clauses As Incentive To Reduce Regular Wage Spend
While players will tend to prefer a bigger regular wage (the fixed figure they will receive every week), you could try to convince them to reduce their fixed wage demand by offering them incentives. This may include appearance bonuses, goal bonuses, unused substitute bonuses, annual wage rise clauses, etc. Typically the total value of the contract, should all bonuses be activated, would rise but if you can manage the bonuses in the contract in such a way, by predicting how the player will perform/how regular he will be in the team, you could end up saving some money. For example, you could try get Phil Jones to agree to a pay cut by offering him a £5M bonus if he scores 50 league goals in a single season, or something equally ridiculous... like Romelu Lukaku scoring a goal at all (he has 4 goals by December at the time of writing this). Of course, it is important you find a balance between fixed wage and bonuses. Do the calculations before you offer the deal. It will save you money.
Consider Offering Non-Contracts & Youth Contracts
For those of you who may not be familiar with the term 'Non-Contract', it is effectively an 'Amateur Contract'. A player with this contract may move freely from the club without requiring the club's approval. It is a very useful type of contract for non-professional football teams to use when under a strict financial budget.
As you won't be paying a player with a non-contract, they will be relying on appearance, unused sub & other bonuses to earn money. With this in consideration, you should look at altering the bonuses to suit you as well as you can. If a player with this contract is likely to play very regularly (almost every game), try to reduce his appearance bonus by increasing his unused substitute bonus in return. If a player is more likely to be an unused player on the bench most of the time, up his appearance bonus and lower his unused substitute bonus. It should make some sense if you think about it. Offer a player more pay for something that is not likely to happen.
Youth contracts should be offered to players who are eligible for them. They'll be on a fixed very small amount of money and they cannot be snatched away from your club for free. This partially protects these players from other clubs, as compensation may then be required for a deal to be struck.
Be Wary Of The Length Of Contract Offered
Do not sign a player on a five year deal if you think they may become expendable after one or two. The kind of player who should be signing a five year contract is the kind of player you feel will be of great use to you in five years time. Otherwise you may be stuck with this players' wages for a very long time, and that is not something you want. If you are unsure of how important a player will be to you in the future, you can always just offer him a short term (1-2 year) deal and then offer him another deal later.