When you think of budgeting, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? I’m going to guess it’s not freedom or fun, or pretty much anything positive. Am I right? Instead, you’re probably thinking it’s a hassle, it’s complicated, or that you’ll be depriving yourself of good times.
Well, I’m here to defend budgeting. It doesn’t have to be like that. I won’t go so far as to say that budgeting can be fun (I kinda have a thing for spreadsheets but I know that’s not the norm), but it can fund your fun. What does that mean? By building fun money into your budget, you can spend without guilt. That’s what budgeting gives you; guilt-free spending.
Building Fun Money Into Your Budget
I am not the person who wants to save everything for a rainy day. You guys know this. I’m all about that balanced lifestyle. I want to set myself up for the future but not to the point where I’m sacrificing my lifestyle today. That’s where my fun money comes in.
I’ve built my budget so it covers all my expenses, incorporates short term and long term spending, and leaves enough money so I can drink that pumpkin spice latte (half sweet please) and splurge on the twelve dollar cocktail when I go out for dinner. Because yes, I’ll be going out for dinner too. That’s not even considered fun money; eating out has it’s own separate budget category.
The best way I’ve found to ensure all the essential budgeting items are getting covered so you can spend guilt-free is by working backwards.
This is the part that will take a bit of work if you’re brand new to budgeting. You’ll only have to do it once though. If you need some guidance you can get a copy of the budgeting spreadsheet I use by signing up here:
Start with your essentials. And I do mean your essentials. Of course you need to include housing, utilities, and groceries here but we’re not only focusing on the things that will keep you alive. I want you to include anything you consider a must for a happy life. Don’t worry about what the ‘experts’ tell you is an essential. This is your budget, make it your own.I’m not here to judge. Some people can go without cable; I can’t. In this house, it’s essential. Cell phone bill, Netflix, dog food, pet insurance, etc. Those are all bills I have that aren’t going anywhere, so they get factored in here.
Add all those up, and you’ll come up with your average monthly spending. At this point, we’re not including the random spending you do for fun. That will come in a minute.
Next step is to factor in your savings. What are you saving money for? Retirement? Your first house? A vacation? It’s easy enough to figure out how much you need to set aside for shorter term goals. You’ll have a good idea how much a vacation costs or how much you need to save for a down payment in your area. And you’ll know how long you have to hit that goal. If you need an $80,000 downpayment and want to buy in two years, then you’ll need to set just over $3,000 a month. Simple math.
Longer-term goals like retirement are more complicated. How the heck much do you need to save for retirement?
To give you an idea you can plug your info into a retirement calculator and it will help ballpark that figure for you. A lot can change between now and retirement but having a number to strive for can be motivating.
Now that you know you much you’re spending and how much you need to be saving for each goal, you can get to the fun money part. Subtract those monthly expenses from your monthly income and the difference is your guilt-free spending allowance.
What if your fun money isn’t enough?
One of two scenarios will play out when you get that final number. You’ll either be thrilled by how much you can spend each month. Or you’ll come up short.
If you’re not feeling good about your number, you have a couple of options. You either need to bring in more income or be more mindful about your spending. I know, not ideal. That’s the thing about money; it doesn’t always fall precisely into place. Your finances should be the driver of your lifestyle, not the other way around.
Guilt-free spending comes from living within your means. It can take some practice, but once you get a handle on it, your money stress will decrease even as you’re spending less. If you’ve been used to spending freely, then there will be an adjustment period. You’ll get the hang of it though. That’s the thing about budgeting; at first it can be painful, but after a few months it feels like second nature, and you’ll wonder how you ever spent so much. I’ve been there!
Avoid The Dreaded Deprivation
The goal of creating a budget that includes fun money is to allow free spending, but not at the expense of savings. It also makes it that much easier to feel in control of your money when you know how much you can spend.
One of the most common complaints I’ve heard about living on a budget is you feel deprived. If that’s how you’re feeling though, you’re doing it wrong. A lot of people jump into budgeting just like they would a crazy new diet fad. You start out motivated and spend next to nothing, but eventually, you’ll end up miserable and itching for a shopping spree. It’s far more effective to start off slow and allow yourself the odd splurge.
By doing so, you’ll feel like you’re the boss of your money instead of being the victim of another regretful credit card bill.
Do you have a preferred style of budgeting? Do you factor fun money into your budget?
This post was proofread by Grammarly.