I’ve recently been thinking about entertainment budgets. While they aren’t necessary and they can actually be completely free (as the Frugalwoods have shown us!), entertainment does add value and fun to our lives. We all have different ideas of what entertainment is – but I think we can all agree that it’s spending money on an item or activity that will make you happy. Superficial? Sure, but sometimes you have to get out of your house and live a little (and maybe spend some money).
To me, entertainment means seeing movies (either in theaters or renting), going to concerts, traveling, shopping, visiting museums and I’m even going to take it one step further and say it can mean going out to eat or stopping for a coffee. While those expenses can be classified under “Food,” they’re more entertainment for me as I could easily eat at home or drink my coffee at home. It’s an “extra” and therefore – it’s entertainment.
This past Friday, a friend of mine asked if I wanted to join her for a fun day at Discovery Place with the kids. I looked online and saw that it would be $27 for us to get in, but I wanted to go anyways. While this wasn’t “in the budget,” you can’t plan for everything. I had no idea my friend was going to suggest that and after being sick for two weeks, I knew it would be good to get out of the house and socialize.
This weekend, we also went to Starbucks (twice) and spent some time driving around neighborhoods and exploring new areas. While this money also wasn’t written directly into our budget, we had a great weekend and I finally feel back to myself after all of us being sick for so long. We didn’t go into debt, we didn’t spend an astronomical amount of money and we didn’t not meet our saving’s goals because of these outings.
But this did get me thinking – do most people (who budget) plan for things like this or do people just leave a little extra room in their budget for miscellaneous events that pop up during the month? Since we’re new to the area, we don’t have too many social obligations and normally know in advance if we’ll be spending extra (like when my parents came to visit). Since I have so few friends here, if something pops up sporadically I want to take advantage of it. What fun is sitting at home alone all day even if I have millions in the bank?
Should I have told my friend, “Thanks for the invite, but we’ll have to pass. Are you available next month so I can put it in the budget?” Definitely not! Life isn’t perfectly planned, which is why it’s nearly impossible to have a perfectly planned budget. I’m learning, slowly, that this is OK. There is more to life than money. Starbucks is not a necessity, but it does make me happy every now and then. Driving around neighborhoods may be considered wasteful, but it allows my husband and I to chat, dream and create memories.
So how do we decide what’s OK to buy and what’s not? Well, it’s pretty simple actually even though we both work for ourselves. Our goal has always been to save all my income and live off of my husband’s income. This has not happened perfectly, but we do our best. That’s always the goal we have in mind. If we can save extra – great, and if we save a little less – that’s OK, too. Working for yourself is unpredictable and therefore our budgets can be a bit unpredictable. If all our bills are paid and we have the money, we do it. If we’re waiting on a payment and money is extremely tight, we say no. Again, our goal is to always save as much as possible, but we want to enjoy our life while doing so. And quite frankly, that sometimes means spending money (especially if kids are involved!).
photo credit: Flickr via Theen Moy
What does your entertainment budget look like? Is it a lose budget or do you plan out your entertainment in advance?
Emily @ Simple Cheap Mom saysat
This year we doubled our entertainment budget. We have $20/week for family entertainment, and $20 a week for getting together with friends and family. We’re trying to spend more time with friends and family, so we worked them in the budget. While usually we’d like to be under budget. I think we’re going to push to actually spend the friend/family budget.
Sarah Brooks saysat
That’s a good thing though!! It’s always nice to spend time with family and friends. If you can do it for free, great, but if not, I don’t see any reason to miss out on the fun!!
Mrs. Maroon saysat
We don’t have a specific budget for entertainment items as you suggest. Also being new to the area we don’t know too many folks. But our neighbors invited is to watch the game tonight. They were doing pizza. I felt it was only right to contribute also so we got salad mix, wings, and cookies. The cookies were way out of the ordinary for me. But I made the choice based on the gathering with friends. That’s what’s it’s about. So we keep it flexible – I am all about planning, but life can be pretty boring that way. Much more exciting to he flexible.
Sarah Brooks saysat
Totally agree!! It’s impossible and boring to have everything for the month planned out. That’s the main reason we don’t stick to a “monthly budget” per say. Instead, we re-evaluate our finances pretty much daily and make decisions based on that. Life is way more fun if it’s random!!
We don’t budget for entertainment, but we do have a $200 miscellaneous catch-all fund. Most of our entertainment options aren’t expensive so they fit in there rather well.
DC @ Young Adult Money saysat
Besides cable and netflix, we don’t really budget for entertainment. We just assume we’ll need a little extra money for random entertainment expenses, like the once-a-year trip to the movie theater haha.
Christina @ Embracing Simple saysat
We don’t really have an entertainment budget, but like you I also consider things like going out to eat and getting coffee at a coffee shop entertainment versus food. It’s more of an experience versus the food/drink itself.
Most months we don’t really spend much on “entertainment”, maybe just 3 bucks for the month to rent a movie from Red Box or something. I think once we start going on more date nights as the babe gets older though, I won’t even bat an eye at spending money on going to a comedy club or a movie theater or something along those lines. Those nights are so few and far between for us!
Jayleen @ How Do The Jones Do It saysat
We have a sliding ‘expendables’ fund. it’s for groceries, dog haircuts, anything that we need for the month. I say sliding because we aren’t super good at sticking to it;0)
It’s great you were able to get out with some new friends! Definitely worth spending a little on!
I consider cable tv to be part of my entertainment, but I have a miscellaneous budget I tap into. I don’t go out too much since I don’t know very many people here, so this isn’t a huge spending area for me. But I agree with you – sometimes those spontaneous moments with friends is part of living life and worth the splurge!
Sarah Brooks saysat
Exactly!! As long as we’re not going into debt over random entertainment functions that pop up, I don’t think we should miss out on having some fun!
Laurie @wellkeptwallet saysat
Great post, Sarah. We work an entertainment budget in every month and we also track our spending, including entertainment, each month. That way if we spend more on entertainment budget for a special occasion, we can spend less in the following months to make up for that. Our entertainment budget is pretty small for our family of six ($60 a month) but we’ll likely raise it when the debt is gone.
Sarah Brooks saysat
That’s great!! We never really factor entertainment into our budget because it’s usually very small…but then there’s always those occasions that pop up so I should just start assuming we’re going to spend a little bit in that category. Thanks for your input!!
$400/month. This pays for a babysitter every week of the month for 3-4 hours, a couple of nice dinners and our time to go out and spend time with each other. Sometimes, we involve the kids […]
I think that when you first move to a new place, especially with kids, it is important to say yes as much as possible. It is like a long term investment in friends. So if we had recently moved and it was a new friend who was asking, I would say yes.
Sarah Brooks saysat
I totally agree!! I would probably have been more inclined to say “no” to those types of activities if we were back in AZ, but since we’re new here it’s important to make friends, even if it does cost money at first. Thanks for the input!!
Mrs. Frugalwoods saysat
I think it’s all about building a life that’s meaningful and fulfilling, which absolutely yields different entertainment spending for everyone. The key, in my opinion, is tracking and knowing how much is being spent. At the end of the day, life is to be enjoyed 🙂