Feel like your check isn’t stretching as far as it used to? You’re not imagining it. The cost of living is up 14 percent over the past three years, and wages aren’t keeping pace. The rising cost of all things essential, such as food, clothing, shelter and transportation, means that you have even less left over for fun activities like going out. But that doesn’t mean you should stop having fun because keeping a positive state of mind sometimes depends on that fun stuff. So to keep up the good mindset but manage the budget, you need to look for ways to not overspend when you do go out.
In a world of rising costs, it can be difficult to pay for essentials and live your best life. But if you want to pay the bills and have a little fun money to go out with, you must master conscious spending. Do not deny yourself the pleasures of life. Instead, plan to spend money on fun activities that meet your budgeting criteria. Learn more about how to go out more often on a limited budget.
Don’t Rely on Willpower
If you’re broke, you should just stay home? No way! Constantly denying yourself pleasure by staying home will only make things worse because: willpower. Think about the last strict diet you tried. Are you still on it, or did you give up after a glorious binge session? For most, the answer is the latter.
Scientists have found that willpower is a limited resource. Yes, you can exert willpower for a certain amount of time, but constantly resisting temptation takes a toll. They call it willpower fatigue. The higher your fatigue level, the more likely you are to give in to temptation and go overboard. Sure, you may stay home and save money this month, but next month you’re likely to overspend.
Master Conscious Spending
The key to not overspending when you go out is to master conscious spending. That is, you should plan to spend money on reasonably priced experiences that bring you joy. This spending should be planned in advance and accounted for in your budget, but it shouldn’t be skipped unless absolutely necessary.
Select a percentage of your income that you want to spend on these experiences. Call it entertainment if you want to. But really, you could also call it well-being. You should have a good idea of how much you have to work with after paying for essentials and adding to your savings, but even if it’s only a few dollars, this time is essential. Once you have your number, start making plans to spend it wisely. Never spend this money on a whim. And don’t use it to kick in on other things like groceries. Plan budgeted outings in advance and use your precious willpower to stick with the plan instead of denying yourself the fun in the first place.
Shop for Deals and Steals
Planning ahead is the most important thing you can do to stay on track. Check your local community pages for free or discounted events, cut coupons, purchase advance tickets, ask for a group rate — do anything you can to get the price down.
Here are a few $20 ideas for date night:
- Drinks at your favorite bar followed by live music at your local park.
- Matinee movie and a relaxing, romantic stroll around the lake.
- Head to your favorite restaurant during happy hour. Many offer fixe prix menus, or fixed price, menus during the late afternoon or early evening hours.
- Go for a bike ride or a hike.
- Hit up an art fair, but watch that spending!
- String up a slackline in the park.
- Hang a couple of hammocks in the woods.
- Rent a canoe and paddle out for a pre-packed picnic.
- Walk around town and stop for a beer.
- Hit up the local bookstore during a reading and buy one copy of the book to share.
- Make dinner at home and go out for dessert.
Plan outings at or below your budget far in advance. Don’t spend money on the fly. The key to budget success is planning, not sacrifice. Maintaining a regularly scheduled “fun day” can really keep your happiness level up, so don’t neglect this important step to your well-being.