If you really wanted to skim the excess and get down to your budget bare minimum, you could cut the entertainment cord entirely. No more blockbuster movies, swanky new restaurants, or afternoon ballgames.
But where's the balance in that?
For me, entertainment is a necessity because it helps strengthen my relationships, experience the fun side of life, and refresh my mind and body for the work that actually helps me produce an income.
But I also don't believe in a no-holds barred approach either. It's about finding the happy medium where you can take part in more for less. Here are 5 steps that can help you do just that.
#1 – Find out where your money is going.
This might not seem like a cost-cutting measure, but awareness is sometimes the missing link between what we should be spending and what we are actually spending.
Spending mindlessly happens to the majority of us, and doesn't necessarily stop until we pair exact figures to our assumptions.
When I started tracking my spending I realized I was spending an exorbitant amount on full priced movie tickets which, in my neck of the woods, can be as high as $15 a pop. The ironic thing was, only a few of the movies were even worth seeing.
#2 – Decide what you're willing to replace.
We all have things we could give up and not feel the pinch and other things that would make us feel deprived and resentful of our budget. And what is a common reaction – subconscious or conscious – when we feel resentful? To do the opposite, i.e. scrap the budget altogether.
I could easily give up movies and not be upset (after all, I could have a massive Redbox movie marathon and still not spend close to $15), but I won't entirely scrap dinners out with family and friends. That's just not happening.
Be discerning in determining your entertainment priorities – after all, eliminating one thing can free up space for something you enjoy even more.
#3 – Learn to say a proactive "no."
The way we spend money on entertainment is oftentimes a lot like buying convenience foods at the grocery store – we're rushed, out of ideas, and just want to get to the good stuff. In this case, that's having fun.
So we resort to what's familiar – and often times, a little on the expensive side. This is especially true in groups.
I am usually the most cost-conscious out of my group of friends, so if I want to spend time with them without going over my budget, I need to come up with alternatives to the regular plans.
So instead of just saying "no," I say "no" with a proactive solution – one that is much less expensive or free.
#4 – Come up with fun alternatives.
Going hand in hand with #4, take your set in stone entertainment priorities and see if you can replicate the experience in a more cost-friendly way.
I like going out to eat because I enjoy the atmosphere and taking the time to catch up with friends and family. I get that same fulfillment from having a drink out and making the meal at home.
I like going to concerts because I enjoy the crowds and listening to music (obviously). Luckily I've found a variety of free weekly concerts in my area that offer both.
I also love to read – a habit that, in the past, has left me with an extensive library of expensive books I likely won't read again. That is, until I received a free kindle for switching banks (a positive move for my money), and started checking out all kinds of books from my library. The best part? The books are free and I don't have to leave my couch to get them.
What alternatives can you come up with for the things you like to do?
#5 – Budget for fun and check your guilt at the door.
If at all possible, allocate a portion of your budget to fun. This will cut down on the guilt, and give you free reign – within a reasonable window – to expand your world, lighten your load, and really get the most out of life.
Creating a space for it makes sticking to it seem like an entirely reasonable and achievable feat. It also gives you the feeling of freedom, something that can help you feel more inclined to spend proactively in other areas of your life as well.
When I know that I have money to spend on the good stuff – i.e. experiences I can look forward to – I don't mind scrimping and saving on other things in my life, because I know there's a payoff. And that is a magical thing.
Hopefully these tips will help you save money while still enjoying life! If you want more advice, check out our Budgeting Tips resource center and keep on learning.