Budgeting in the Fun
“Budgeting” and “fun” are two words that rarely find their way together in a sentence.
For most of us, budgeting is a necessary chore: good for you, but not terribly pleasant – a Personal Finance equivalent of eating your brussels sprouts. [No one actually enjoys eating brussels sprouts, do they?] It’s made all the less pleasant when it involves (as it generally does) reining in discretionary spending on fun non-essentials, which tend to be things we like ... a lot. I wish I could tell you that there was a way to make this aspect of budgeting less painful, but since I haven’t uncovered the secret of making money appear out of thin air … alas, it is not to be. Nonetheless, there are ways of budgeting “fun” into your life without, well, breaking the budget.
Set Up a Slush Fund
If you want to have guilt-free fun, save up for it. Many people do this for big-ticket “fun” items, like vacations, but there is no reason to stop there. Budgets are often blown by (many) little purchases rather than one-off big ones, because they tend to be easier to justify in the moment, and forgotten the next. It’s easy to think that a hobby is harmless when it rarely involves spending more than a few bucks at a time; but add it all up in a monthly budget, and it can become alarming in no time. Instead of focusing solely on cutting back, prepare a spending plan and fund it. Figure out how much you can afford to set aside each month, and keep that money separate from your regular chequing account, all the easier to keep track of it. The next time you’re pondering whether you can afford a particular indulgence, the answer will be immediately apparent.
Saving up money for fun indulgences delivers benefits apart from spending guilt-relief. If you’re on a tight budget, getting a slush fund going is not necessarily easy; inevitably, you will think twice about what’s important enough to justify spending part of it. Prioritizing fun activities will help you stay on budget and get the most bang for your buck.
Cut Your Costs - or Your Hobbies
Speaking of prioritizing, if your saving efforts are not enough to keep your slush fund in the black, you have two choices: find ways to minimize the cost of fun, or your re-consider your definition of "fun". Ok, truth be told, neither is a, well, fun option. Personally, I don't like doing things I really enjoy by halves; if a hobby or particular activity is important to me, I'd rather sacrifice other, less important things to ensure that I have all the money I need to truly enjoy my passion. Fear of missing out (FOMO) is something that rarely figures into my budget planning; rather than spreading my "fun money" between a half dozen activities, and having a "low cost" experience with each, I prefer to splurge on one or two that mean the most to me. For other people, variety is the spice of life. The bottom line: figure out what you're willing to sacrifice - quality or quantity - when it comes to fun activities and budget accordingly.
Subsidize Your Hobby
Everybody dreams of making a living doing something they love. Admittedly, that can be a tall order – especially if your hobby is, say, shopping (guilty as charged). But there may be creative ways in which you can subsidize your hobby to lessen its financial impact on your budget. Like photography? If you have a good eye and the right equipment, you might be able to make a few bucks doing special occasion photo shoots for friends. Have mad knitting skills? You may be able to sell your work at local craft fairs, or make a bit of money teaching others how to knit. Love to shop? Try my approach and offer to act as personal shopper for your friends; even if you don’t charge for your services, you at least get to experience all the shopping fun without spending any of your own money. Willing to go even further? A friend of mine works part-time in an eye-glass store because she loves buying (and wearing) a ton of different frames, and the employee discount means that she is able to afford ones that would otherwise be out of reach. Similarly, my husband used to volunteer at a local bike shop, helping to build and refurbish bikes for under-privileged youth in exchange for the space and tools to work on his own bike projects. You may not have the time and dedication to go to similar lengths, but think outside the box and you may be surprised at the options you do have for keeping your “fun” costs down.