I was talking to a friend a couple weeks ago and we discussed how to meet financial goals and still do things you enjoy. There are a lot of hardcore finance communities that shudder at the thought of spending one penny outside of fixed expenses and paying off debt.
Others, like myself, have tried to go for weeks at a time without spending money for fun, and the misery I felt became too much to bear. For most people, it will take at least a few years to pay off all of their debt. If you spend 2-3 years sitting at home because you’ve willed yourself not to spend $10 to see a movie, it kinda takes the “free” out of financial freedom, doesn’t it? With that in mind, I’ve come up with 5 ways that you can manage your money and have a life while doing so.
1. Set aside a minimum of $5 a week.
Even for those with fluctuating or low income, I think most of us can commit to setting aside a few dollars a week. It might mean sacrificing one takeout meal, but considering how easy it is to waste $20 a month anyway, this is about as painless as it gets. Also, once you put this money away, PRETEND THAT IT DOESN’T EXIST. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself dipping into savings for an “emergency,” and before you ask, a Sephora clearance sale does not constitute an emergency.
2. Give yourself a boredom allowance.
I try to keep myself busy so I have less opportunities to think about spending frivolously. However, there always comes a time when I have an extra day off and inevitable boredom kicks in. Whenever this happens, I do what any millennial would: Google “What to do when you’re bored and on a budget.” Even though I’ve done this on several occasions, the results that come up are often less than thrilling. I’ve seen suggestions that range from rearranging your furniture to learning how to knit. Lawd. Why don’t I just adopt 6 cats and start wearing Depends while I’m at it? insert hard eye roll During one of my recent searches, I finally found advice that was more appealing. Grayson Bell at Frugal Rules talks about suffering from the boredom blues, and takes out a small amount of spending cash each week. Once the cash is gone, no more spending. I like this idea because it allows you to indulge the human desire to overcome boredom, while still being responsible.
3. Visualize your financial goals.
Most of us are visual beings, so when you’re paying off debt or saving, create something you can SEE every day. Veronika from Debts to Riches puts a chocolate coin in a jar for every $1,000 that she puts towards her student loan debt (and plans to eat all of the chocolate once it’s paid off….oh my!). Kitty from Bitches Get Riches uses a brick wall graphic to represent her mortgage payment, and colors in one brick for every $1,000 paid towards the principal. We all get discouraged during the long (and tedious) process of reaching financial milestones, but visual cues can help keep you motivated.
4. Pick one day where you don’t think about finances AT ALL.
This one can be tough, especially when you’re obsessed with everything finance (like yours truly). However, if you’ve taken steps to contribute to savings, pay off debt, etc., take a day to give your mind a rest. Treat yourself to a bubble bath, binge watch a Netflix series, read a book, or whatever you need to relax.
5. Don’t be afraid to adjust your budget.
As a creature of habit, I’ve found myself trying to stick to the same budget every month, only to realize that expenses may come up that weren’t there last month. There may be months where you put $50 into savings instead of $100, or spend more because of holiday shopping. There’s no one-size-fits-all option when it comes to money management. As long as you have a general guideline (and pay yourself first!), give your budget some wiggle room.
What are some other financial strategies you plan to use in 2018?