How to Say Yes to Fun Stuff

In the much anticipated sequel to my declining invitations post, this article is taking the notion of extreme saving from a different perspective. Going out to lunch? Getting drinks with friends? Out-of-state wedding invite? All of these events could receive a “yes” response. But it all depends on whether you’re living on a bare-bones budget, or living-large.

Most people would claim that they’re living somewhere in between:  If I’m declining multiple invitations (however big or small); if when I hit the “maybe” button on that Facebook invite it means “not a snowball’s chance in hell,” it’s because I’m clenching my wallet (literally?) between my ass cheeks.

Conversely, if I’ve become a regular “yes man” then I’d eventually have to pull the caravan over to the curb, and button-down the money wagons.  So this article is geared towards finding that happy medium, to properly build up my Fun Stuff budget category; which means being able to say Yes to more invites (at a moderate pace) down the road, or not.

Step 1

Let yourself do fun things that require money.  Let some Yeses in the door.  The reason I’m saying this?  Because your budget affords you the ability to do so.  You do have a budget, right?  Of course you do.  But is there a fun stuff category?

If not…  Oh boy.  Guess it’s time to organize those sweaters in the closet from lightest to dark along the color-wheel, beginning with yellow (or white if you’ve got any).  ‘Cause you’re not going anywhere.  Fast.

What’s that?  Oh you do have a Fun Stuff category in the budget?  Good, BUT, it’s probably more effective to move that cash into a completely separate checking account.  Yup, that’s right.  We’re going back to the days of segregation folks.  Separate but equal?  You bet.  Go ahead and open a brand new checking account, and put the minimum balance in it.  Now, every month, add $50 – $100 to it.  This effectively is a self-sanctioned allowance that may be used sans judicial analysis (i.e., without judging).

Shared Finances Made Easy

This way you won’t have to analyze every single Amazon purchase made by your spouse.  If I spend all of my fun stuff money, then I can’t go asking my wife for cash.   And vice versa.   Living the solo-life?  It still helps to designate expenses from finances.  You can be single and still going out several times / week chasing tail.  Not being in a long-term relationship may even mean more opportunities to do “fun stuff.”  So it’s recommended to have a separate checking / savings accounts.

If you’re single: make weekly automated transfers from checking to savings account.  Do not touch the savings account unless it’s an emergency.

If you’re in a long-term relationship:  consider opening a joint account, from which to pull money from into a separate checking account.  You should be saving regularly , as described above too.

Step 2

This step requires a subtle shift in spending habits related more to bargain hunting (vs. how to save up).

Bargain hunting for fishing gear.
The one on the left is the new-to-me addition.

I mean if you’re gonna buy something new, why not get a great deal?  Having bought both brand new stuff, and new-to-me things, I can attest that there’s quite a bit more satisfaction after walking away with the used item.

For example, there’s a local flea market in the parking lot of Metlife stadium here (where the Jets and Giants host their home games) during summer months.

After scouring each booth for about an hour, finally found what I came there for…  the ol’ fishing tackle stand.  I walked away with (what I feel) is a bargain for a rod + reel and three packs of sinkers, for the princely sum of $40.

In today’s world of Groupon, Ebates, and free Yelp Events, it’s hard not to find some kind of discount on things you may be interested in doing anyway.  Anything that I get invited to, which is outside of my Fun Stuff budget, I won’t be able to attend; however, if I’m making plans with friends, there’s a good chance they’ll be interested in “cheap” dates just as much as I am.  So why not bargain hunt first?

Step 3

Okay so you’ve made plans that fit into the Fun Stuff budget category, have shopped around for deals and found the most cost-effective thing or event to participate in, and now it comes time to leave the house.  One last scan of the budget tells you how much there’s available to spend.  After the last spritz of cologne/perfume covers your body, you hop in the car and drive to the bank.   Time to hit up the ATM; because it’s so much harder to part with cash (vs. swiping your credit card), this last step will ensure that you stick to the plan while out in the field.

True story:  my wife and I were invited to a dinner-out with her friends in the lovely water-side city of Hoboken.  She was tired from a long workweek, and requested that I drive that evening.  As we set off, I insisted stopping at the ATM before getting gas because I’ve developed the habit of using cash whenever possible.

During our fill-up I noticed her windshield wiper fluid was low, so stopped in the shop to pick some up.  Long story short, we ended up missing the dinner completely because of all the dilly-dallying on my part.  Preparing for the evening’s festivities ended up costing us the festivities themselves!

Becoming Known As the Frugal One

These steps can be summarized into three simple acts that help the budget-conscious to avoid societal spending pressures.  Whether it’s spreadsheets or software, make sure your budgeting income towards future expenses (and have a Fun Stuff category too).  Stick to the budget by turning thrifty-bargain hunting into fun itself, and don’t be rash about using cash.

When I’m going through my finances monthly to determine net worth (will be creating a post on how to do just that sometime); it helps to pause and ask myself the following questions:

  • How much money do I want to have in the bank (in 1, 5, and 10 yrs.)?
  • What can I be doing today to meet my financial goals?
  • Is my income level appropriate to my skill-level and/or job requirements?
  • Am I generally satisfied with my life at this moment?
  • Will my life satisfaction be more or less than it is now, if I continue along this path?

In conclusion, it’s more than Okay to miss out on some things.  Just so long as I’m present for those important milestones that really count in life.  My friends are all adults too.  And they have a full understanding of this, I’m sure.  Finding the balance between work and social life will never cease to exist.  So we oftentimes just gotta roll with the punches.

Being a rideshare driver in the Big Apple means sometimes I’m working on weekends, and sometimes I’m not.   Understandably, friends won’t be acquainted with me forever if every time I’m invited someplace my response is, “sorry bro, that doesn’t align with my 5-year plan of saving money.”  I know.  So we all do what we can, and that’s it.

featured image courtesy of 30 Lovely Pictures of Children Playing