Nobody likes budgeting. It’s like a mundane task that you force yourself to do every month, and all you can think about is expenses. But what about your personal activities? Do you ever budget to go out and have a good time?
We work so hard for our money and need to take time each month to enjoy ourselves. Whether it be a movie once a week, drinks with your friends on a Friday night, or simply getting yourself the latest Stephen King novel, we need to have a bit of fun. So, how do we budget for the good times and bad?
Start with a Plan and Budget
Before you can go out and enjoy your personal activities, you need to calculate how much you have to spend on yourself. Start by setting up a budget on either a spreadsheet or use one of the many free or paid-for apps available for your phone.
Budget to zero by giving every dollar a name. This is called a zero-based budget. It won’t mean you have no money left in your account. Instead, it means your income minus your expenses equal to zero.
Once all your expenses (including debt) get allocated to their respective amounts, add categories for savings, retirement, and personal activities. Set aside an amount for your fun budget, but make sure it works with the rest of your budget.
Track Your Progress
Now that you have your budget set out, you can start to spend on yourself for the month. But how do you not go over budget and spend too much? Tracking your progress is imperative to make your budgeting a success. You want to avoid overspending on your personal activities, which could result in taking your joy away.
You can keep track of your personal activities budget by using a budget app. Every time you go out and have fun, or buy yourself something personal, make sure to input it into the app to track how much you have spent and how much you have leftover. Various apps will send you a notification when you get closer to your budget limit. This will help you re-evaluate the rest of your month’s personal activities.
If you’re not tech-savvy or prefer to have things organized more traditionally, then use a spreadsheet to keep track of your spending.
If you’ve already set up your budget for the month, open an extra sheet and input your daily spending. You will have to keep your receipts throughout the day and recon them in the evenings. Don’t leave it for too long, as you might misplace a receipt or overspend on your budget.
Keep in mind that you will need to track the following:
- What you spent your money on
- How much you spent on each item
- Whatever notes you want to add
Pen and Paper
If you’re a very traditional person who likes to keep a small journal with you wherever you go, then consider using a pen and paper to keep track of your personal activities spending—every time you buy that book or walk into a restaurant, write down your purchases immediately.
At the beginning of each month, write down on a new page your personal activities budget, and as you spend, subtract it from the allocated amount. You’ll get to see your balance every time you open your journal.
The envelope budgeting method
The envelope budgeting method is a firm favourite amongst budgeters! If your personal activities budget for the month is $100, withdraw the cash at an ATM and put it into an envelope. Whenever you have a bit of fun, take the envelope with you and leave the rest of your money at home. This way, you won’t overspend on your budget, and you can physically see how your money gets less after each purchase.
Plan Ahead for Future Personal Activities
There will be special occasions when you want to spend big on yourself, but you don’t have the funds to make these big purchases. Whether it be a vacation, a music festival, or a new pair of Nikes, you sometimes need to save for these. Decide how much you need and exactly how much you will have to save each month for it. Make sure to set a date to have the money saved by.
Use the envelope method and put your savings away, and don’t touch it until you need it for your fun event or expensive buy. Alternatively, open a separate savings account and automate your savings so that the money gets saved immediately. Your money will earn compound interest while you save to have fun!
Check-in with Your Budget
Throughout the month, you can check in with your financial goals. Your income, expenses, and priorities can change at any time, so revisit your budget as much as you need to.
Just because you have a set amount for personal activities doesn’t mean you have to spend it all. If you have a relaxed month with some of your budget left over at month-end, allocate it to the following month’s entertainment budget, or consider adding it to savings. No rule says you need to spend every last cent!
By setting savings and financial goals, you have clarity of where your money is going. Having a good time doing the things you love the most won’t make you feel guilty, as you planned for it.
Remember, budgeting gives you freedom when you have control over your money. Let your money work for you, and celebrate the small wins by rewarding yourself.
Go ahead, plan that night out. You deserve it.