Many think that budgets are all about setting strict limits, preventing yourself from spending too much, and all other sorts of doom and gloom. Some of this is true; budgets are about limits and discipline. But there are benefits to be excited about. My favorite upside: I budget for fun.
I thought about this a bit after reading a post on Get Rich Slowly about “Adult Allowances,” which is basically setting aside a chunk of money each month to spend on what you please. The idea is to set aside enough money so that you’re able to enjoy what you wish but not compromise your other financial goals while doing so.
My strategy works a little differently, mostly because I like to budget for each thing that I know I’m going to spend on. There are limits set for everything, but budeting for things that I like to do ensures that I can afford all of them. Here are some examples:
Beer brewing: Perhaps my favorite hobby, I try do brew a batch of beer every month or so. It costs about $50 a batch, so that amount gets figured into my budget each month.
Meals out: I try not to eat out for meals a lot, so I go out about once a week, maybe less. When I do go out, I pick ethnic foods that I like and I often enjoy my meal.
Drinks: This category covers both buying alcohol for home consumption as well as going out for drinks with friends. I would consider myself a beer aficionado and tend to buy craft brews that are more expensive than Bud or Coors.
Nights Out: This could be anything from going to see a live show, to the movies, or a party.
Outdoor Activities: I love camping and hiking, so this is an important part of my budget (at least when we’re not buried in snow in the Northeast).
I’m basically free to spend the money how I wish in any of these categories, and my goal is to spend everything in each category. For example, in January, I went most of the month spending very little of my Drinks budget. After noticing that in my spreadsheet, I let myself spend freely the last few days of the month. I ended up having a great day out with friends enjoying some amazing craft brews.
One caveat: I do allow shifting funds from one account to another. If I’m (accidentally) going over my budgeted amount for eating out, I have to take money away from the Drinks or another category. I try to avoid doing this, but friends and other outside influences do impact my spending a bit.
While I do (unfortunately) have to keep my fun stuff budget lower than I’d like it to be, you can definitely increase it if you make more. To me, the hidden benefits of having a budget like this is a) I keep track of spending so that I don’t spend too much on anything and b) I don’t feel guilty when spending in these areas. While the goal is still frugality, I’m completely against penny pinching to a degree where I don’t have fun at all.
Next time you think budgets are all bad news, realize that your financial goals can incorporate the fun, enjoyable things you spend money on.
What would you budget for?
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Photo by: bhanu.t