We moved to a new area when my husband started his job this past June, so although we made a tight budget in order to pay off school loans, we wanted to have some spending money to go out with new friends. AFTER budgeting for necessary categories, the entertainment allowance was determined. It’s hard to pass up going out every time we’re asked, but we’ve been learning to pick and choose.
Here are ways we stretch our entertainment allowance:
1) Plan ahead. What do you have going on this month that would be considered entertainment? It may help to pre-deduct for specific events so you don’t end up spending it all in the first week.
2) Eat before you go out with friends and/or split a meal or appetizer.
3) Bring the amount you want to spend in cash so there’s no compromise if you see an item costs more than what you want to spend. Don’t forget to include tax & tip.
4) Take advantage of discounts offered by sites like Groupon. Often, there are offers that will get you $20 worth of food for $10. However, if you’ve already spent $35 of your $40 allowance that month and the Groupon is $10, either say no or you’ll have to take out $5 from next month’s allowance to compensate for it. Don’t get into the habit of doing that though; it’s a slippery slope that adds up after time. Good thing we’ve never done this (cough).
5) Ask for gift cards as gifts. My husband really wants to see a baseball game next summer, but two tickets will cost about $40- our entire monthly allowance. We asked for gift cards to restaurants for Christmas and boom- we’ve got some entertainment covered in gift cards & we can use the $40 toward tickets. We’ll eat beforehand and pack our own cooler to leave in the car so we won’t get caught spending extra toward overpriced ballpark food. If you follow tip #3, you probably won’t have cash on you anyway since the game is your allowance for entertainment. No cash, no spontaneous expenses (assuming you’re disciplined enough to not cheat and use plastic to pay!)
6) Libraries- we rent fairly new movies from our library a lot. I rented a book that taught me how to start up this site and I’ve picked up some books on CD for my drive to work. Ours even has the most recent subscriptions to magazines.
7) Search for free things in your area. Sometimes there are listings of events if your city has a website. There are always shows, parks, games, and community events that are free; you’ve just got to do some research.
I won’t lie- sometimes it’s hard to stick to the $40. This area has been our weak spot in the budget. Things come up and we catch ourselves going over our limit. We’ll be revisiting this area to see if we just need to buckle down more or if we can move $5 to the entertainment budget from one or more categories we don’t typically hit our limit in.
Please share some tips on how you stretch your dollar with entertainment, we could use them too!