This is part of a series called How We Saved Enough Money to Change Our Lives and How You Can, Too. Click here to get all the posts delivered directly to your email inbox or feed reader. You’ll want the inside scoop on how we saved $75,000 for the adventure of a lifetime!
Now that you’ve worked out how much your big dream will cost, where you are currently spending your money, decided which expenses are necessary and which are not, and put that all together in a new budget with a savings plan, you should be very proud of yourself.
But you are probably wondering how you are going to keep on enjoying life while you save money for your big dream. It doesn’t have to be a no-frills social life, you know. You can save money and still have fun.
When we first went on a budget, we felt like we hit a brick wall in our social lives. We had been going out frequently, enjoying trips out of town and out of the country, and not blinking at ticket prices for our favorite entertainers. And then…nothing. It took us a while to figure out that we could still have fun on a tight budget, and below are some of the things we discovered. Perhaps you have something to add to the list?
Replace going out with staying in
- Potluck is in. You can linger at the table as long as you like when you are in your own home. Invite your friends over for a potluck dinner and prepare the main dish. When everyone brings a bottle of wine and their best dish, you have an inexpensive evening that allows you to get to know your friends better. I would have never known one of my friends is such a pumpkin fanatic had we not shared homemade food together. The best part? Your friends will pay back the favor, insuring that your social calendar stays full.
- Host a game night with your friends. Whether you choose video games, board games, or charades, you will be surprised at how much fun it is to unplug and just be with your friends. One game we like is a take-off on charades called “Celebrity” and you only need a pen and paper. Each player writes down 10-20 celebrities on small strips of paper that will be folded and put into a bowl. The celebrities can be fake, like Homer Simpson, or real, but they must be well-known. At your turn, you choose a celebrity and help your team guess the name. In the first round you can use words but not the name, in the second round only one word, and in the third round no words. (each round means going through all the papers in the bowl). This is a really fun game, especially if the players grew up in different areas or are different age ranges.
- Start or join a club. It can be as simple as starting your own book club with a few friends or branching out to meet brand-new friends through a group like Meetup. These meetings are usually free or very low-cost. My book club meets once a month, and the 15 or so women in it each bring a food or beverage item to share. We laugh and talk for hours once a month and stay connected through sites like Facebook in between. If you want to pursue a different interest, you will likely find it on Meetup. The motto is “do something, learn something, share something, change something,” which covers a lot of ground! I’ve used Meetup before to meet other new people to Seattle and other urban hikers. Just type in your interest and your location to find meetups near you.
Tip: If you choose to host an event, make it special by using a free service like Evite to invite your friends. It makes it seem more festive than a potluck and allows you to easily share photos after the event with guests.
Change your definition of going out
- Explore your city. When you’ve been in an area for a while, it is easy to overlook the events that happen around you. Check your city’s event calendar to find out about free performances, festivals, and events around town. Many are free or low-cost. Just this summer I attended a lunchtime concert downtown with a fabulous band called “Children of the Revolution.” The sun was shining, the music was terrific, and the musicians put on quite a show. It was a free and fun way for my friends and I to connect over a sack lunch.
- Change the time you go out. Do you always go out to eat or to the movies in the evening? Try a morning date! I love to go to the movies, and I was thrilled to find a 10 a.m showing on weekends at a special rate. By bypassing treats in the movie theater, you will have plenty left over for a breakfast special before or after. You can make a whole morning of it. We also exchanged dinners out with happy hours and appetizers, saving big bucks and still enjoying the feeling of being out.
- Try an old tradition in a new way. Warren and I always have a “wine and cheese” picnic in the hotel room one night during our trips. It is one of those things we did once out of necessity and loved, so we kept doing it. Now that we aren’t traveling very often, we’ve just taken the idea into our home. We make two little perfect cheese trays with fruit, pour our wine, and curl up on the couch for a picnic at home with a foreign film to transport us to another place.
Do all those things you never have time to do
- Organize your recipes/pictures/mementos. If your pictures are like mine, they are a mess. You can easily join a free service like Picasa to edit and organize your pictures into online albums that you can then share with family and friends. I like this because it makes it easy for me to make customized cards with my Send Out Cards membership (this is an affiliate link – I have had this membership since I owned my consulting company and plan to continue with it to send cards to family and friends once we start traveling – no worrying about international postage!). It can be fun going through old pictures, recipes and mementos again, and once you have them organized to share online you can spend hours reminiscing with your family and friends.
- Learn a new language or skill. Warren is making good progress learning Spanish with Rosetta Stone, and we were lucky enough to win this program in an online contest. But there are many ways to learn languages that are free or almost free. You don’t have to have an iPod or iPhone to sign up for a free iTunes account. Once you have one, you can search the iTunes store for podcasts on just about any subject under the sun, including language lessons. Most podcasts are free, and you simply download them to your iTunes account and listen to them from your computer.
- Exercise. I live right off a lake near a bike trail and just down the street from another lake with gorgeous scenery and a walking trail. In addition, you can rent a kayak or canoe for just a few dollars. It wasn’t until we started saving money that I started utilizing these great resources for exercise. Even better, I invite friends to join me so we get to chat and workout at the same time.
What do you do for fun that costs little or no money?