Budgeting is a intense exercise in self-control. Instead of taking a pile of money and spending it on whatever comes your way, you separate it into individual categories on a list of income and expenses. At the end of the task there isn’t much free money available to spend on the things you used to do in the past like movies, meals out, and other activities. In turn, this can make you feel that your just living to pay bills and eliminate debt.
It doesn’t have to be this way. In fact, maintaining such a rigid budget and not adding a category for recharging or doing things with your family can break down your financial plan quicker than normal, returning you to a mode of monetary irresponsibility. Happiness needs to be added into your regular budget, even if it’s not a physical category on your balance sheet. And it doesn’t have to cost you hundreds of dollars to do. Here are some suggestions to add a bit of enjoyment back into your budget for a smaller amount of money.
Dining Out — Going into a mode to pay off your debts as quick as possible doesn’t mean you need to give up going out to dinner. It just means you probably shouldn’t dine out every night at the best restaurants in your area. Like anything else, a meal out should be planned in your budget either at the time you work on the categories or, for a special occasion, several weeks out. The important thing is to stick with the budget and not add another meal or two into the plan once it has been established. Doing so will throw your plan off the next time you budget.
Movies — These days even a early bird weekend matinée can cost a decent pile of money for two people, let alone a family of four who also wants to snack on popcorn and nachos. For those dying to see the movie the first time it comes out in the theater, it might be best to pack your snacks at home and buy movie-sized candy at the local dollar store to save some money. Many theaters also have programs where you can purchase a large popcorn bucket at one showing and reuse it again at another movie for a fraction of the cost.
Those who can wait a bit longer to see a movie should check to see if there are any discount cinemas in the area. These places charge only a few dollars each for the same sound and picture quality you’d get at a first-run theater. You may also want to look for cafés in the area that offer movies along with dinner. This way you can budget both a film and a meal at the same time.
Recreation– Swimming, golfing, skating … all things you may have taken out of your financial plan due to the strictness of your budget. By doing a bit of research and planning there’s no need to deny yourself of these events. Many places offer discounts for late afternoon or early morning participation on less busy days of the week. Ice and roller skating rinks also provide buy one-get one coupons in mailings that can be useful for a larger family. You just have to watch the Internet or local newspaper for the offers.