You know you need a budget, but you are worried it will ruin your fun. You are wrong. Life is more fun and contains less stress when you follow a budget.
There are predictable places where people spend more money than they think they do, but those are the easiest costs to cut. For most people, entertainment, going out to eat, and “little treats” are common budget busters.
Here are some ways to indulge without going broke.
Cable TV fits into the budget-busting category and it is an easy expense to cut. With Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, or other streaming services, you can watch plenty of TV shows and movies for less than $20 a month.
If you want to aim for free (or the cost of wifi), YouTube offers many opportunities to learn or be entertained. Or try a podcast. There are also wonderful podcasts to listen to for free. One of my new favorite podcasts is Atlas Obscura
If you want more podcast suggestions, you can find them in 12 Must-Listen-To Podcasts. TED Talks are filled with interesting information and perspectives. TED Talks are one of my favorite ways to be entertained and informed when I only have a few minutes. It is hard to choose, but here are a couple to get you started:
- Steve Johnson, Where Good Ideas Come From
- Be inspired by what is possible physically with an Aerial Silks Performance. (If it is in your budget, aerial arts is a fun way to exercise. It also makes a frugal night out with the girls that is cheaper than dinner and drinks.)
Share some of your own favorite podcasts or TED Talks in the comments. I am always looking for new ones to enjoy.
Ideas for Family Fun on a Budget
Some of the best entertainment options do not involve a screen. Playing cards and board games is classic and cheap family entertainment. Don’t forget about jigsaw puzzles, which you can pick up for a dollar or so at garage sales or at libraries for free.
Pick up some free books while you are at the library. Books can transport you to many new places. Reading is a great way to enjoy leisure time. You can read alone or read to your children.
A teacher friend told me that one of the best predictors of high-achieving students is that those teens’ parents read to them even in middle school. You could read classic young adult literature or the latest young adult authors. Another option is that everyone can read their own books and occasionally share interesting passages with the rest of the family.
Spending time outside moving is fun and healthy. Biking, hiking, and walks along a trail or around the neighborhood are all fun and good exercise. Geocaching is another great family activity, and who doesn’t enjoy a treasure hunt? You get to be outside and walking around, but also you have a purpose.
For those who live close to a national or state park, there are many free activities. Some of the things that our family has enjoyed at state parks here in Northern Minnesota are: a pontoon ride down the river with a history lesson, a starlight pontoon ride with Ojibway constellation stories, and a lesson on tapping trees to make maple syrup.
The junior ranger program at Mt. Rushmore in South Dakota kept our kids busy for more than an hour as they went exploring to answer the questions in the Junior Ranger book and turn it in for a prize. Check out your local park’s event calendar.
Budget-Friendly Alternatives To Eating Out
To avoid restaurants, you need to plan. I have a great plan to get healthy meals on the table in 20 minutes or less that I would love to share with you.
You can follow my Pinterest board on Weeknight Meal for more ideas.
There is a wealth of resources online for meal planning and getting the most out of your grocery budget. I use this Food in a Flash system to get meals on the table faster than going out for dinner.
You have heard that $5 coffee drinks add up, and they do. If you get one twice a week, that is $520 a year! It’s no problem if it is in your budget, but if not, there goes half of your $1,000 emergency fund.
Some of my favorite budget-friendly treats are:
- A hot bath, especially with essential oils. Eucalyptus and thieves are two of my favorites.
- Reading a good book.
- Doing my nails so I have an excuse to sit still and binge on Netflix while they dry.
Maybe none of these things seem like they save you very much, but added together it can easily equal an emergency fund in the bank to ease your overall stress. It is much easier to stay on your budget if you control your spending by limiting going out to eat and choosing frugal entertainment and frugal self-care.
What are your favorite ways to stay on budget for meal planning, entertainment, or treating yourself? Tell me in the comments.
Do you know you need a budget, but it is like eating healthy–you are just not sure how to do make it happen? You can find information on getting started in Budgeting like a Boss.
Hi, I’m Tamara the creator of Empowered Single Moms, a single mom, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LICSW) and the author of Thriving a Single Mom’s Guide to a Happy, Positive Life and Thriving a Single Mom Journal. I have a solo private psychotherapy practice where I treat anxiety, depression, and relationship issues.
As a member of the Empowered Single Moms community, I believe you can stop carrying the weight of the world alone and build a life you love. Join my mailing list and get 5 Keys to Single Mom Success.