This is Part 5 of our Stop Living Paycheck to Paycheck series. You can find all of the previous posts in this series HERE.
Written by Mr. Crumbs
Back when we were a dual-income household – kid free, debt-ridden from credit cards and other miscellaneous loans – we were super good at spending money and doing ANYTHING we wanted. No remorse. We were living in the moment.
For example, while we lived in Texas, we decided on short notice to fly out to Virginia beach for the weekend. Forget the high-priced air fare… we just went!
Tiffany was a sushi snob, so hey, let’s go out to dinner with friends and load up on that sashimi-grade sushi that only costs you an arm and a leg per roll.
Even worse, I decided one weekend to buy a high-end remote control helicopter simply because it looked fun.
Forget the fact that I crashed it less than a week after owning it!
Traveling? Yup. We were all in.
Entertainment. It’s that one expense that we can all cut back on – and many of us probably spend more money in this category than we care to admit.
Entertainment comes in many different forms. It’s not just that Friday night concert, vacation to Disney or special dinner at your favorite restaurant. It’s the subscription to Netflix, your Redbox rental and the one hour drive to the beach
It also includes the meal you ate out, even though you packed.
Going to the movies counts too. Or what about the data plan for your smart phone, the new tablet PC or that gadget you think you need, when you really don’t?
Entertainment is the “category” of life we think we need to spend money on, but we really don’t.
Can I Afford to Spend on Entertainment Right Now?
That’s a great question! Whip out your banking statements and write down what you are spending each month on various forms of entertainment. Include all of the examples I’ve already mentioned, plus all those I haven’t.
Now, let me ask you a few questions (that you may not like) to help you determine if you should be spending money in this category in the first place:
- Do you have all of your debt paid off (not including mortgage/rent*)?
- Do you have a 6-month emergency fund saved up?
- And do you have money already saved for any big trips coming up? (Which are considered entertainment, by the way.)
If you answered “no” to any of the questions above, you probably shouldn’t be spending ANY of your income on entertainment!
Keep in mind, we are a very conservative family (financially speaking), but this mind-set has benefited us greatly and it’s much easier to sleep at night without creditors calling us.
*I’m not including mortgage or rent here because for many families, paying a monthly fee for housing is unavoidable.
Entertainment for you and your family doesn’t have to cost much, or anything at all. With a little bit of creative thinking, there is A LOT you can do without a lot of spending. Here are a few ideas you can do with your family that are FREE or cost very little!
Learn a new skill
Don’t sign up for classes to learn how to be a mechanic. Instead, bake a loaf of bread with your family. It’s challenging the first go around, but it’s fun, tastes AMAZING, and in the long run saves you money. Plus, your house smells great.
Yup… Skip that fancy-pants restaurant and brown bag it. Find a beach, park, forest (or other cool location) to hang out. Pack a football or Frisbee and enjoy being outside with your family.
Go to the library
I used to think this was a really LAME idea, until I started taking the kids regularly. Now, we spend a few hours at our local library 1-2 days per week. The kids have learned to LOVE reading and so has dad! Plus, they have a large DVD section (FREE!) which is perfect for movie nights.
Check out a local community calendar
Often, there are local events (near you) that are free. We’ve found that Santa Cruz offers free Friday night concerts. When we’re on budget for the month, we’ll fill up the gas tank, pack lunch and dinner and spend the entire day/evening at the beach.
Pizza night with some friends
One of our favorite traditions with our friends is to have a potluck pizza night. We bring the homemade dough and sauce, one person brings cheese, another family brings a few toppings and someone brings dessert. You spread the cost around, eating delicious, gourmet pizza with your friends for just a couple of bucks!
Take a day, clean your closets and purge your junk. Sell it on Craigslist/Ebay and enjoy your new found wealth.
There are really HUNDREDS of ideas, so don’t let this list stop you from enjoying frugal entertainment.
Needs vs. Wants
The common denominator in our “Stop Living Paycheck to Paycheck” series ultimately comes down to needs versus wants.
If you answered “no” to any of the questions in the above section, take some time to think about whether you should be spending any additional income at all. In other words, if something is a want, decide on a simple substitute for entertainment. Forget that cup of gourmet coffee and hold off on that new iPad until you’ve saved up cash to pay for it!