budget

How to Budget Without Sacrificing What You Enjoy

By Rachel Cruze

8 Minute Read

No two budgets are exactly alike because no two people are exactly alike. Thank goodness!

That’s the beauty of a budget. You get to decide who or what gets your money each month. If you love cooking for your family, budget more for groceries. If you love working out, budget more for a great gym. You’re the boss of your own budget.

But what if you start to notice that you’re overspending on those gourmet groceries or kickboxing classes? All of a sudden, you’re paying more for those than your monthly rent or mortgage!

So how do you strike the right balance between doing what you love and budgeting for your money goals? Here are a few ways to save on some of the fun categories without cutting them out completely.

1. Groceries

You’re addicted to cooking shows. And you’re always impressing your crew with an exotic dish from a country you can barely pronounce. It’s a challenge you love.

Budget Trick: That truffle oil and those imported sauces aren’t cheap. Instead of wowing your family with five-star meals every single night, make that your Saturday night specialty. That way, you don’t have to fully give up your love for preparing exotic dishes and your family can look forward to that special meal once a week. The rest of the time, just keep it simple with budget-friendly meals like a nice salad, grilled chicken or pizza.

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And if you can’t get enough cooking shows, why not watch one that specializes in cooking for your family on a budget—they’re out there!

2. Gyms

You’re training for your next marathon. Way to go! You’re in the best shape of your life thanks to your lovably tough personal trainer at the gym.

Budget Trick: Instead of paying the price tag for an elite workout, why not replace a few of those expensive gym sessions with workouts you can stream at home. You can find plenty of workouts on YouTube (for free!) that will get your heart rate up. You’ll still get a great workout, and you definitely won’t get bored. And if you start to feel like you miss the community that you had at the gym, start a running club or an exercise group in your neighborhood. Bonus: You’ll be exercising with friends and have built-in accountability partners! Win-win.

3. Travel

New experiences are more important to you than new things. That’s why you can’t wait for that cruise to Alaska or your next trip to NYC.

Budget Trick: Traveling during the off-season is a great way to get the experience you want on a budget that you can handle. Look online for travel deals that entice people to travel during off-peak times of the year. Of course, you’ll want to do more than sit in your cabin or hotel room during your trip. So before you take off, research great local restaurants that are off the beaten path and don’t inflate their prices for tourists. This is a great way to experience the culture of the area and "eat where the locals eat."

Don’t forget the beauty of a staycation in your own hometown. You can "do the touristy thing" in your own city, experience the free museums, or take in a wine and food tour! Dig deeper to see what your town has to offer—it might be full of a history you never even knew existed!

4. Entertainment

From the latest superhero flick to live concerts in an amphitheater, you love entertainment. It’s how you and your spouse relax and take a mini-escape from work, kids and life.

Budget Trick: A night at the movies can hit your wallet pretty hard, especially if you’re paying for an $8 bucket of popcorn, a $10 soda and a babysitter. Pick one or two movies per month that you’re dying to see opening week, and wait for the rest to hit Redbox or your favorite streaming service. Then put the kids to bed, pop in some fridge-to-oven cookies, microwave some popcorn, and enjoy!

As for concerts, check to see if there are any free shows happening in your local parks or at nearby festivals. You may even be able to see live local bands at restaurants in your area. You’ll get dinner and live music for the price of two cheeseburgers—can’t beat that!

5. Restaurants

Winston and I love going out to eat, so this is totally us! It’s convenient, and there are no dishes! Plus, food always tastes better when somebody else cooks it, right?

Budget Trick: Got small kids? Consider splitting a meal between two kids, or if you only have one child, you and your spouse could share your own plate with them. Restaurant portion sizes are huge, anyway! And keep an eye open for those restaurants that still let kids eat for free.

Figure out a reasonable amount of restaurant spending for your family—maybe that’s twice a week, maybe that’s twice a month. Then, prepare everything else at home. Use a Sunday afternoon to chop and freeze some slow cooker meals for the week.

6. Clothes

You can’t get enough new clothes, shoes and accessories to satisfy your passion. Great-looking clothes make you feel great. And everywhere you turn, the latest trends are always catching your eye.

Budget Trick: Good news—there are plenty of ways to shop for clothes that won’t ruin your budget. Go consignment shopping, especially for kids’ clothes! They grow so fast, and it’s tough to justify paying full price for an outfit they will only wear once or twice. Plus, when those clothes don’t fit anymore, you can sell them right back to the consignment shop—which gives you more money to spend on clothes. That’s music to my ears! Don’t forget about shopping outlet stores and the end-of-season sales, too. That way, you’ll stretch your budget instead of a credit card limit.

7. Cable

Every year, there are countless new shows added to the prime-time television lineup. That’s a lot of good (and bad) new TV, not to mention the new seasons of your go-to favorite shows that you can’t wait to watch!

Budget Trick: If you have to have your TV show fix (which I completely get), look for affordable alternatives to cable that still provide the shows you already watch, like Sling TV, Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime or HBO Now. There are plenty of alternatives to cable.

Or maybe even turn off the TV one night a week, pick up a book you’ve been meaning to read, and cozy up on your couch. Quality entertainment doesn’t have to come from that big screen hanging on the wall.

8. Electronics

Apple Announcement Day is a holiday as far as you’re concerned. That’s when you get to drool over all the awesome new technology coming out. In a few short weeks, you’ll be the coolest kid on the block.

Budget Trick: If you need the "next new thing," prepare for the cost by selling your old device. Don’t just toss it to the kids or throw it in the drawer with all your old flip phones. And when you are financially ready to buy that next new gadget, don’t waste money getting the warranty the cashier will probably try to sell you. It’s just not worth it.

9. Decorating

Every now and then, you get an itch to spruce up your surroundings. So you buy a new rug. Then you decide to paint the room... and get new throw pillows... and find new chairs. Same room, new bling.

Budget Trick: It’s great to freshen things up, but don’t get too carried away. For inexpensive decorating ideas, watch your favorite HGTV show or grab some magazines and decorating books from the library. You can also find great DIY décor inspiration on Instagram and Pinterest. It’s crazy how many resources are available to help you decorate on a budget. And it will give you a chance to stretch your creative muscle!

You don’t have to choose between loving your life or your bank account. Get started with an EveryDollar budget today!

About Rachel Cruze

As a #1 New York Times best-selling author and seasoned communicator, Rachel Cruze helps Americans have a life and a bank account they love. She’s authored three best-selling books, including Love Your Life, Not Theirs and Smart Money Smart Kids, which she co-wrote with her father, Dave Ramsey. You can follow Cruze on Twitter and Instagram at @RachelCruze and online at rachelcruze.com, youtube.com/rachelcruze or facebook.com/rachelramseycruze.

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