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Opportunities for fun are all around us, but unless you’re living with a bottomless bank account (one can dream, right?), your social life can drain your budget, fast.
There’s a single change in behavior that will help you spend less without stirring up FOMO: planning ahead.
Here's the trick: Take the same planning energy that you have for building your emergency fund, saving for retirement or paying off debt and put it toward factoring in the fun stuff. Being intentional about how you spend on food, going out, shopping, spa visits and splurges will help you maximize your social life, guilt-free.
Give it just a few hours of planning. Here’s how.
The markup on most take-out and delivery options is huge and besides, the food is often nutrient deficient, laden with salt and sugar — or both. A smarter option for your health and your wallet is to meal-plan.
Your Plan: Start with a list of 10 simple dishes and build from there, because nothing squashes good intentions like boredom. The fewer the ingredients in a recipe, the better. Keep a running list on the fridge and take it with you on weekly grocery store runs. Only buy produce for recipes being featured that week, and learn which seasonal items cost less.
Double recipes and bring leftovers for lunch or freeze portions for hectic nights when cooking doesn’t fit into your schedule. Stock up on food storage containers and a tote or lunch bag to take to work — there are tons of sleek options that won’t make you feel like a grade-schooler again.
And remember, you can still eat out or order in, but planning for it can reduce your food waste and mindless spending.
Is splurging on drinks every Friday night really your favorite way to pass the time — and spend your money? Check in with your social routine, and it might reveal that you’re in a rut. A little planning can help you break out and add some affordable variety to your life.
Your Plan: Find free or low-cost activities in your area — they’re often posted on social media, blogs and in local papers. From there, take a few minutes each week to find cool things happening in your community, add them to a calendar, and share that list with friends.
You could also bring the party home by hosting potluck dinners instead of going out. Try new recipes, share in the planning and then save toward the expensive activities (like a live concert you just can’t miss) more intentionally.
You don’t have to Marie Kondo your wardrobe to rein in your shopping spend. That said, if you have no idea what lurks in the recesses of your closet, you’re much likelier to buy more of what you don’t need.
Your Plan: Every time the seasons changes and clothing is rotated out, take stock. If you haven't worn those oversized boyfriend jeans since college, they go. If you own duplicates of the same thing, pick your favorites and donate the rest or, if they’re of value, sell them online (then, put that money toward something special and new!). Once you’ve pared down the total volume of clothing, you'll have a better idea of things you might need and you can resist repeat buys.
Being caught off-guard by birthdays and special events has a sneaky way of costing us more. No one wants to miss out on the celebrations and memories, and luckily we don’t have to.
Your Plan: An often forgotten component to creating a yearly budget is setting aside funds each month for gifts. Put all important birthdays, anniversaries, and rites of passage in a calendar and use them to estimate a dollar amount. You can also check this against your gift spending for the previous year. For bigger events, like being part of a bridal party, start setting aside money well in advance and find ways to minimize your spend in the lead-up.
Taking advantage of irresistible opportunities is an adult privilege. Planning ahead is the best way to be able to say yes to splurges and special invitations — and really make them count.
Your Plan: Following a healthy and intentional budget should result in a few dollars left over at the end of each month. Build up a "treat yourself” fund using the 90/10 rule: set aside 10% of bonuses, tax refunds, gifts and other windfalls to spend guilt-free on the things that make life fun.