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?