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Living on a Budget and ENJOYING It!

If you have stumbled upon this article than I am guessing that you are either living on a budget and NOT enjoying it or you’re not living on a budget and hoping to get there at some point, likely very soon, in your life.

Good news is that regardless of what made you click on this link; I am here to help!

The single most important thing of creating a budget and sticking to it is that you need to know what the ‘why’ is.  Why do you want to live on a budget? 

Maybe you’re not saving enough for retirement, or you have debt up to your eyeballs, or you can’t but the Christmas presents for your kids that you’d like to – or maybe you just have that feeling that it’s time to have a budget! 

No matter what your ‘why is’ you just need to have one and it needs to be personal and important to you. 

I’ll be honest – budgeting isn’t fun. 

Who actually wants to limit their spending?  I wish I could go buy anything at all with no regard as to what future consequences it might endure, but that’s not life.  But if you have a really strong ‘why’ then you’re going to be much more likely to stick to your budget.

At first, budgeting won’t be fun – but once you can actually start truly sticking to it, you’re going to create a lot of momentum and it’s going to become addicting.

Previously, I have outlined a way for you to create budget from a blank excel spreadsheet and if you’re sitting here without a budget at all, then that’s a great place for you to start.

If you already have a budget and are sticking to it but it’s absolutely killing you, let me first say that I feel your pain.  Budgeting is tough.  When you first started it was likely a major change from your current habits and you probably felt a bit restricted. 

Let me tell you that there are truly ways for you to be able to live on a budget and still enjoy your life.

So how do you do it?  Easy! 

BARGAIN HUNT!

Note that some things that I am not saying include:

  • Eating out less
  • Doing less ‘fun’ activities
  • Traveling less

You can still do all of these things while still on a budget!

Not too long ago I outlined some of the ways that I saved money on my budget when I lived in downtown Chicago and they really are a major part of what allowed to me still go out to bars and restaurants with my friends and still stay within my budget!

So, let me give you some actual concrete suggestions of how to accomplish this!

  • Eating Out/Bar Tabs – Yes, you can save money by simply avoiding them, but there’s other great ways too, including:
    • Searching for local happy hours.  For us in Chicago, we pretty early on created a ‘Chicago Bucket List’ of bars and restaurants that we wanted to try and then when we wanted to go out to eat or grab a drink, I’d search for specials and if there was a place with a special that was also on the Chicago Bucket List, then we went there!  Not only were we saving, but we were going to a place we wanted to go to even when money wasn’t a discussion point!  And, maybe even most importantly, it took the inevitable 30-minute debate of where to go out of our hands!  That was a huge win lol.
    • Host Dinner and or a pregame with your friends – this is cost effective and sometimes can be even more fun as you’re going to be able to have a more conversational evening with your friends!  You can save some serious money on grocery and household items simply by using the Amazon prime account that you likely already have
  • Doing less ‘fun’ activities
    • Find things that are free to do! A simple google search can help you with this.  We used to live about a ½ mile away from a free zoo, so we would go there frequently just to break up the day.  Go on hikes.  Host a viewing party for a show or game with friends.  All of these are free or very cheap!
    • Take advantage of Groupon! We used to always go to the Laugh Factory in Chicago which would have comedy shows for $17 but we could buy the same tickets on Groupon for $5.75!  So, now we’re paying $11.50 instead of $34 for the two of us to go to a show.  Going to a show once/month would save you a total of $270 throughout the year.  Not a huge chunk, but that’s the type of activity that can add up when combined with other frugal tips.
  • Traveling less
    • Rather than traveling less, travel to where your friends are so you have a free place to stay
    • Rather than flying to new cities across the country, drive!  Try to stop on the way and check out a few different places before your final destination.
    • Rather than go to a new city on a weekend trip, go camping!  A camping spot is usually $25/day and then all of your food, drinks, activities are all included at the campsite or are store-bought items that will likely be much cheaper than eating out!
    • Travel and stay in a hostel!  I have never done this, but I have friends that have, and they absolutely love it.  It’s cheap and you can meet new people to spend time with while you’re in the city.
    • Hold onto your hotel/airline/credit card points to maximize value when you’re traveling!  This can get you a free trip out there or a few free nights in the hotel.
    • If traveling for work, simply take vacation and stay in the city a couple extra days. Your work likely won’t mind and then your transportation has been covered to get there and back.

These all might take a little extra work than you’re accustomed to, but they should!  You do have to change a little bit to adjust to this new mindset of living within your means.  None of these are hard to implement, they just take some time and a bit of focus.

If you implement some of these tips, chances are, people are going to question how you can do so many fun things and will assume that you’re not accomplishing your financial goals. 

Spoiler – you are! 

Some people just don’t take the time to focus and find creative ways to have fun and save at the same time, but the truth is you really can live on a budget and still enjoy your life.