Budgeting for Fun
I've always been something of a cheap hedonist. If it's going to break the bank, or it's not fun, why do it? Yet, in this economy, I have been cutting back - on everything, including my fun money. Instead of buying discounted movie tickets through my work, I downgraded my Netflix to two videos a month and started relying on my library card. I'm learning to cook and always bring my lunch to work. I've always been a thrift store maven, and am keeping a list of all the things I need once garage sale season starts. I don't own a car, and decided this year won't be the year I purchase one.
While I've been able to save more, it hasn't been enough. Colleagues in my industry have had 20% pay cuts that have left them nearing bankruptcy and me quaking in my boots. Will I be next? It terrifies me, but I know that the only control I have is to plan for the worst while hoping for the best. I don't want to save less, and I refuse to lower my 401k contributions, so I have determined that I need to cut back my spending to less than 60% of current levels.
As I was cruising through my bank statements, I realized that prioritizing my spending means I won't have to sacrifice as much as I'd thought. In fact, many of the changes I'm making will save money while at the same time reduce stress and increase my happiness.
I visit all of Chicago's major museums once a year, and pay full price. Most cities' libraries have free tickets available to residents, and I am totally getting on that gravy train this year. I'll have to reserve far in advance, but hey! I'll get to go for FREE. I'll also be taking part in gallery walks - free, regularly scheduled tours that visit neighborhood galleries.
I'm positively phobic of chemicals in the foods and products I buy, yet holy cow organic is expensive. To save on groceries, I'll be venturing out to area farms over the summer for you-pick fruits and vegetables, and I'll be purchasing poultry and meat from the Amish, about three hours from my home. A friend and I are going to learn to can. I'll be able to eat locally grown, in-season, organic, free-range food all year long for significantly less than what I spend at the grocery store. Plus I'll be improving my pathetic cooking "skills."
Festivals and Parks
I live in Chicago, a city famous for it's summer festivals. I'll be taking full advantage of these over the next few months, especially the Movies in the Park and free concerts.
Park districts are amazing resources. Where else can I take a digital photography class for $30? I'll get to improve my pictures while making friends with similar interests. Maybe we can go on picture-taking adventures after class? Win-win!
This year, I'm going to invite friends over for potluck crafternoons. It'll be lovely Sundays with my girlfriends, filled with mimosas, yarn, and laughter. I'm also hoping to learn tie dying and soapmaking. Surely one of my friends can teach me? For free?
I love riding a bike, it makes me totally and completely happy. While I will be spending a pretty penny on a good bike, it will eliminate the gym membership I don't use. I'll be biking to and from work along the city's gorgeous lakefront, and I'll use the gym at my work in the mornings. Bonus - my work has a bike room and showers!
I love gift-giving, and always overspend by magnitudes of 2 or 3. To save money, I have already budgeted for Christmas, Hanukah and key birthdays, and have a box in my closet labeled, "presents." Through the course of the year, I'll be purchasing gifts on clearance, and storing them until birthdays and holidays roll around. I'm also giving mostly hand-made items this year, so most of my crafting heads straight into the box. Hopefully, I'll get the hang of canning so that I can give homemade jellies, jams and fruit butters for the holidays!
These are just some of the ways I'm limiting my spending while improving or maintaining my quality of life. Pinching pennies doesn't necessarily mean misery. In fact, I'm really looking forward to biking to and from work and having friends over on the occasional Sunday.
Readers, what steps have you taken to save money? How have these changes improved your life?
Shannon, AKA FatChick, is the author of Musings of a Fat Chick, where she writes about life, becoming a Single Mother by Choice (SMC), scuba diving, and body acceptance.