9 Ways Staying on Budget Can Be Fun (Really!)
Ok, sure, "budget" isn't always synonymous with "rollicking good time." But there are ways to make the process more fun at every stage, from assessing your finances, to setting goals, to meeting those goals, to reaping the rewards. And the more fun you can make the process, the more likely you are to stick with your budget. (See also: Evolve Your Money Management Beyond a Budget)
These ideas may help you to stay on course and have fun, while you are budgeting.
1. Try an App
Check out Wally, Moneybook, or iReconcle (love their rollover feature). Besides smartphones being an enormous help (because they're always with us when we shop), just the act of being able to toy around with a new gadget can make budgeting that more fun. View your finances in cool new infographics and charts, build organized and professional-looking budgets, and just generally nerd out! (See also: 10 Sites and Apps to Help You Track spending and Keep a Budget)
2. Get Help From a Celebrity Pro
Check out free forms from Dave's Budgeting Forms (Dave Ramsey) or Suze Orman. Read their blogs, or follow them on Twitter, and you'll get even more information — and find other people who share your questions and issues. Join in the conversations and see that you are far from being the only one who needs financial information. You're suddenly in a club!
3. Buddy Up!
Your partner, friend, family member, or co-worker may want to try budgeting and saving money along with you. Try approaching them with an idea about how fun it can be (like this envelope idea). It's even more fun when you can compare notes, cheer each other on, or get a little competitive. If you feel the urge to spend, a buddy may be able to divert you to a different, free, activity. For instance, I might email my co-worker when I feel like dining out, instead of my brown bag, and she'll remind me about my goals and come eat brown-bag with me. Or, when I want to hit the mall, my girlfriend will say, "Let's go thrift-shopping, instead!" I like to be able to tweet or text my buddies when I am feeling sorely tempted — they keep me on track.
4. Think Tiny Rewards
If you have brown-bagged it all month instead of going out to lunch, a nice reward is to treat yourself to a moderately-priced restaurant. Some of my girlfriends used to love going out for manicures — until one of them figured out how to do her own. Hawaii not in the vacation cards this year? Consider a staycation. Sometimes, just for making my own breakfast and brown-bag lunch, I'll treat myself to an hour at the library (cell phone off, of course!).
The point is, you don't want to burn out on budgeting. If the fun factor goes down, you'll regress, and go looking for an expensive activity that will blow your hard work. Find your carrot. Movie night? Trip to the bookstore? What activity, or thing, will help you to feel less deprived?
5. Enjoy Anticipation
We're happier when we wait and anticipate the purchase, believe it or not. Also, for me, on those really "blah" days at work, knowing I am working for something tangible helps to get me through. Children love marking days off of calendars (I still remember my Advent calendars before Christmas), illustrating how close they are getting to a special day or vacation.
6. Visualize It
Are you budgeting for a vacation? Saving for a new car? Put a picture of your dream location on your refrigerator, desk, or medicine cabinet. Seeing the goal will be a good reminder. Starting a visualization board is a fun thing to do. We have one in our hallway. You can also create a virtual one (or several, for different categories of your budget) on Pinterest.
7. Enlist Your Family
Rally your kids. They are great at collecting change and surprisingly good savers. Count it together each week, or find a Coinstar machine (our credit union offers free use of one). Let 'em go crazy with the couch cushions. Be sure to include the family in the "tiny rewards" to keep the fun going. ("Okay, we saved $20 this week, so let's have ice cream tonight.")
8. Learn With a Group
Check your local community college, library, YWCA, or even churches to see if classes are offered in financial planning. I was surprised to find several in my area. All seminars were completely free! Many will first help you learn how to get rid of your debt.
9. Learn New Things
Spending a lot of money dining out? Try a cooking class. Maybe you can learn to change your own oil, or start a garden. You might learn a skill that will enable you to make a side income. Several of our neighbors have yard-care businesses. Another does flower arrangements. Saving money may be the ultimate end, but there's no reason the means can't be an adventure in and of themselves!
See? Budgeting really can be fun. How do you make it fun?