There is a little saying, “Nothing worth doing is ever easy”, which is especially true of budgeting. After all if budgeting was easy everyone would be doing it. There would be no lifestyle debt and we would all have plenty of savings. But the reality is budgeting like losing weight can at times be hard work especially when working towards big long term goals like getting out of debt or saving to buy a home.
One of the hardest aspects of budgeting is having to cut back on our ‘fun’ discretionary spending. Spending on things like eating out, holidays, clothes, hobbies and gifts, these expenses might not be essential but they do add to the enjoyment of life. It’s especially difficult when we see our friends going out and enjoying things. It’s hard to say ‘no’ to friends and we feel like we will miss out if we do not join them.
So here are some tips and tricks about how to have fun while living to a budget.
1.) Make it a challenge!
If you are someone who loves competition and a sense of achievement, make your budget engaging by challenging yourself and turning it into a game. If you spent $200 last week on groceries, can you spend $15 dollars less this week? Set up goals to try to do better each week and see how far you can go.
Host a dinner where all your friends have to turn up with a healthy meal that has cost less than $20 to prepare, vote on the best meal and exchange recipes.
If you can find a friend to join you, it will really help boost that competitive spirit! Compete against each other on how much you can save, or come up with your own budget challenges to compete in.
2.) Host Your Friends
Sometimes we feel left out when we cannot go out with our friends. An excellent cost saving alternative is to invite your friends over instead. No one has a problem bringing something for a pot luck dinner, and getting everyone together with a bottle of wine or two for a movie or a games night.
Add fun to it by creating a theme. Pick a country and have everyone (including yourself!) create a dish from it. Have themed movie nights and get creative. Adding a theme to your night can really increase the fun and engagement of you and your friends.
It is usually much cheaper than going out and your friends might just thank you for helping them save a little money.
3.) Look Around your City
Most cities and areas have free or extremely cheap events every month. Look online for your city’s monthly offerings. Most cities have an online portal that advertises events such as these, and if not, there are usually a few organizations that do. Museums often have free or discounted days, and parks usually have some kind of free cultural event, especially in summers.
To give you some ideas, National Geographic has procured a list for some of the biggest cities in the world.
When something breaks around the house or with your car, before getting someone to look at it, have a go at it yourself first. Sometimes the solutions are relatively simple and cheap and you will remove the added financial cost of hiring someone to take care of it. YouTube has a lot of videos about how to do things, and by saving your budget, you may also learn a thing or two!
5.) Explore New Hobbies
Hobbies are great, but some of them are very costly. Hopefully, you don’t have to abandon your current hobbies, but if you scale them back and replace them with cheaper alternatives, it is another way to meet your budget goals while also having fun. There are many hobbies you can pick up that require very little monetary investment, such as writing, drawing, blogging or building a website.
You can learn language basics for that holiday you are saving up for by utilising free language resources online such as DuoLingo. YouTube is filled with instructional videos about dancing, cooking, and much more. There are also a number of sites that have free webinars and classes on a multitude of topics. Take a look at Coursera for ideas.
The concept of upcycling is to repurpose materials we would usually throw away into something usable. This is an area that is a great way to cut costs, be creative, reduce waste, and help the environment. For example, clean out the glass jars that food (like coffee, jam or honey) comes in, decorate and label them, and now you have jars for storing grains or spices, or even money! A broken chair can become a bedside table with some sandpaper and a new coat of lacquer. Old clothes can be repurposed to make new ones, or as rags for cleaning. These are just some simple ideas to get started, but by being creative and putting your mind to it, the possibilities are endless.
7.) Carpool, Ride Share, and Take Public Transportation
If your location provides it, you can save on petrol by taking public transportation and using the time on the underground to catch up on your favorite podcasts, listen to music, read that book you always wanted to finish, or peruse the morning paper. By sharing rides with friends, you can enjoy the morning commute with good company while you save money.
8.) Budget Your Fun
Sometimes when we budget we are so focused on turning our finances around that we forget to allocate money for the fun stuff. Of course the golden rule is that we can’t spend more than we earn but where possible budgeting for fun stuff can be very empowering. Not only does budgeting for fun activities mean we have the money set aside but it also means we can spend it guilt free! Budgeting does not mean no more fun in fact when done properly budgeting should ensure you can still have some fun and achieve your long term savings goals at the same time.