On the surface, entertainment expenses can seem completely discretionary. But it is part of human nature to want to enjoy life. I mean “the pursuit of happiness” is in the Declaration of Independence as an unalienable right!
This month, I will show you that if you are strategic, use cash, and plan ahead, you can have big fun with a small budget.
This is the sixth month in the series where I am writing about my experience with The $1,000 Challenge by Brian J. O’Connor. My goal is to save $1,000 each month on my expenses: $100 savings in each of 10 spending categories. In previous months, I have reviewed transportation, utilities, kid costs, work, and personal expenses. This month’s expense category is entertainment expenses: movies, concerts, dining out, gym memberships, entertainment-related babysitting, and date night.
In order to save on movies, we take advantage of early weekend show times, discount/reward cards, movies on cable (instead of the movie theater), and borrow movies on DVD from the library.
We rarely go to any concerts. If we do, we save up or cut out something else that month to free up extra cash.
Does this sound like you? “You throw away your entertainment money by grabbing ready-made grub just because you’re irritable and hungry and you don’t know what to cook.” Hearing the author’s sentiment tells me I’m not alone. Instead, we will plan and prepare meals to enjoy during most days of the week. We will reserve date night for dining out.
We don’t have a gym membership anymore. We used to have a family one with the YMCA, but we cut it out several years ago when our income was temporarily decreased. Then, we never reinstated it.
Another way we save on entertainment is to match up date night with a night when the kids are occupied (i.e. son is at football practice for two hours or daughter spends the night with grandma). This completely eliminates the need for babysitters.
Even if you are on a tight budget, don’t cut out date nights completely. They are an important part of keeping your identity as a couple and maintain a level of intimacy. You can save money on date night by having a lunch date instead, as lunch is typically less expensive than dinner. If you want to stick to dinner, look for coupons and special offers. Even if you don’t have a budget at all, there are many ways to have a date night without spending a dime.
Other ways to save on entertainment
Switch discretionary spending to cash. This gives you a hard limit, unlike the debit card, which can easily allow you to spend a few dollars more.
This Month’s Savings
By making the decision to trim $25/week from “the entertainment budget,” we are saving $100/month. That yields a $1200 a year!
$1,000 Challenge Recap
While reviewing my monthly transportation expenses in the first month, I was able to make a few small changes that yielded a savings of over $50 each month. In the second month’s review of my utility expenses, I was able to trim nearly $80 each month by simply changing the way I pay bills. The third month brought in a savings of $61. The author’s review of work expenses yielded a savings of $90. Adding personal expenses was $47 and entertainment expenses was $100.
That was a grand total saved of $428 each month. That is $5,136 per year!
Come back in a few weeks to see if I was able to trim $100 from my life insurance expenses.
Here is the entire $1000 Challenge series from the beginning:
- The $1000 Challenge
- The $1000 Challenge: Utilities
- The $1000 Challenge: Transportation
- The $1000 Challenge: Kids Costs
- The $1000 Challenge: Work
- The $1000 Challenge: Personal