Learning how to have fun on a budget is an essential step on your journey to financial well-being.

How to Have Fun on a Budget

by Kenneth Medford III

Here at Nav.it, we’re all about saving over slaving. We want to see you reach your financial goals and live your best life on your terms. However, as the saying goes, all work and no play is the WORST. The dilemma then becomes, how do you have fun on a budget? It’s not nearly as hard as you may think. Let me give you a few of the tips I use to avoid busting my budget on good times.

Catch It On Sale

Get everything on sale. All of it. All the things. That means even the things you care most about. For me, that’s video games.

As a gamer, paying the full $60 per game just doesn’t equate to fun on a budget to me. Unless there is some type of timed bonus to purchasing a game or it’s something I’m REALLY into, I just wait. Most sports titles drop in price during the holidays after being released a couple months prior, fighting games usually go on sale after a tournament or two, and RPGs. . .well those take a bit longer, but you’ll be rewarded for your patience. 

Flex affordable fashion

When it comes to clothing, you’d be hard pressed not to find a sale every weekend if you cast a large enough net. Personally, I love to shop with smaller, niche shops and having email alerts helps me stay on top of any upcoming or currently running sales. (Better yet, wait until a holiday weekend and stack your savings.) The feeling of getting a collection of five dope shirts for half price and being able to get ahead of my savings schedule just hits different. 

Avoid spending too much on food

At grocery stores, ALWAYS make sure you have whatever reward card is available. A lot of times when you see those 2 for 1, 3 for $5, etc deals, they’re specific for card members, not just general shoppers. You might be picking something up thinking you’re getting a deal, but a second look at that receipt shows you just got got. And don’t be afraid to have the store price-match. Learning store policies can help your dime get you further. Afterall, what you don’t know might be costing you. 

Finally, consider sales when it comes to buying food, both for the home or going out. Keep an eye out for local food festivals or “food week” events. Not only do you get a nice day/night out with some quality dining, but the meals are usually discounted to attract as big an audience as possible so they won’t break your pockets. 

(Looking for more specific ways to save on your grocery bill, despite inflation? Check out this article, but don’t forget to remember what our friend Mackenzie wrote: Sometimes, it’s better to follow your gut when it comes to food.)

Moderation Makes the Moment

If you’re like me, you might not have that many local places to hit up for dinner. You have a bar with a specialty or two, maybe a bbq place, and if you’re really lucky, a sushi spot. Imagine if you went out every other day or even every week. No matter how good the food is, eventually, it gets old. On the path to ruining your outing experience, you’ve probably demolished your budget. This is the definition of a lose-lose situation. 

Now, consider this: how thrilled were you the first time you went out to eat when quarantine started to lighten up? You could’ve gone to McDonald’s and you would’ve been happy just to eat somewhere that wasn’t your own house. Remember that feeling. Internalize that feeling.

Not only can you save more money by eating out less, but you get more out of the experience when you allow moderation to make the moment special.

And I fully understand not everyone is like me and enjoys cooking. Trust me, I get it. Meal planning can take a bit of the sting out of the process and really help you get the best bang for your buck. Make an event out of it. Get the whole house involved as you put together your lunches/dinners for the week. If you live alone, throw on some music, catch up on your favorite podcasts, or rewatch your favorite movie (just make sure you have an alarm set for your food).

How do you have fun on a budget? You make the most of every moment by changing your perspective of fun.

Change Your Perspective of “Fun”

Let’s say you had the most fun you feel like you ever had over the last week. When you look back at it, checking your account, reviewing the receipts, or simply checking in with your Nav.it app and swiping your transactions. . .how much fun did you really have? If you really had to look at every purchase you made and categorize them, would you swipe right, left, or go neutral? Sometimes, it’s not all about the money spent, but the experience.

My main points to review before I do something are:

  1. Do I really NEED to spend this much?
  2. Is this going to be a unique experience?
  3. Is this something I can save up for and do later?

That’s not to say you can’t ball out every once in a while, but dropping a stack at the club might not be as fulfilling as a get together with good friends and it definitely isn’t helpful to your pocket. Reddit and Pinterest are fantastic places to get outside of the box ideas that can change your perspective of fun and make saving feel less like a sacrifice and more enjoyable. 

Keep Your Eyes On The Prize

At the end of the day, you chose your financial goals and you know what it will take to reach them. Never forget that. One of my major financial goals is visiting Japan again. Any time a new game comes out or I want to buy another pair of sneakers, I consider whether or not that’s worth delaying that trip even one more day (spoilers: it’s never EVER worth it). The fun I’ll have stuffing my face with ramen, sushi, and sake helps me keep everything in perspective.

Creating an Auto-Save is a great way to tackle your financial goals.

Keeping an eye on my financial progress really helped me change my perspective of fun. Seeing my weekly insights on the Nav.it app let me really see that I was not only doing the right thing to achieve my financial goals, but I truly felt good about it. There’s just something about seeing my heart and mind on the same page that really puts a smile on my face.

There isn’t only one path to your goals, and it doesn’t have to be filled with obstacles and sacrifice. Reframe your mindset. Utilize the tools at your disposal, learn to see things in a different way, and know that the things you want are achievable. You deserve it, now go out there and get it!

Looking for something a little more – like a vacation on a budget? Check out this post.

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