How we still have fun on a budget

When we initially set a budget and started paying our debt off, my husband and I were afraid that we wouldn’t be allowed to do anything. We had allocated a small budget for entertainment each week, but we had to be creative with how we spent that money. We came up with some fun ways that we earned money throughout the year and still could go out and do things.

Cash in your points

Most of you have points saved up on various cards or reward programs that are just sitting in your wallet. I know we sure did. We had grocery cards, air miles and lots of points on various cards that we never used.

When you think about it, we hold onto these cards forever, saving up for a certain purchase or just letting those points add up, never with the thought of redeeming them. These cards will eventually discontinue their points program and you will be out of luck, never collecting cash or redeeming them for gift cards or products.

With our budget being more restrictive, I decided to go through my wallet one day and see what we could get by cashing in these points. It didn’t take me long to go online and see how many points we had between the two of us. I cashed in a few cards and received Starbucks gift cards for the points.

Seek out reward programs or apps that pay cash back

We started looking for ways to get cash back or points for every dollar we spent. I’ve listed a few below that we started using, although I’m sure there are more out there.

Co-op Connection – This gas station opened up in our town about a year ago. For a one-time fee of $10, we joined to become a member. There are no points to collect or miles to accumulate. Each time we shop at a Co-op location, the amount of our purchases is added up. Co-op’s share their local profits and at the end of each year, we receive cash back  depending on the amount we spend.

Checkout 51 – Each week, they update a new list of offers that you can purchase at any store. All you have to do is pick the offers you like, purchase them at any store, and upload a photo of your receipt through their mobile app or website. You will receive money back (specified on the app) based on each offer your purchase. When your account reaches $20.00, you can request to have a cheque sent to you in the mail. It’s that easy.

Negotiate your bills down

With our cell phones and cable bills, we called each company and negotiated them down. You have to be willing to cancel these services and trust me…these companies will not want to let you go. They will go down in price just to keep you as a customer.

Our cable bill used to be $120 a month after taxes and that was way more than we could afford. After some negotiating, our bill is now $65 a month. That’s a $660 saving over the course of a year.

Dine out without going over budget

We love going out for dinner, its always been a treat for us. In order to keep our budget in line, we had to cut this back. BUT we got creative when we did go out for dinner and saved some serious dollars.

  1. Review the menu ahead of time. We looked at the menu online to determine what we wanted before going to a restaurant. This way we knew down to the penny, the amount we could spend. There were no additional expenses and we could still enjoy a nice meal together.
  2. Stick to water. We don’t order alcohol or any beverages. I know this may sound boring but alcohol and drinks could easily double your bill. That is where restaurants make their money. We would have a drink before we went out for dinner or after we got home.
  3. Share, share, share! Another way to cut down the expenses at a restaurant is to share dishes. At one of our favourite sushi restaurants, we always seemed to have leftovers. So instead of ordering two dinner combos, we ordered the right amount of sushi rolls to share. This saved us around $10 each time.

Check out thrift stores for clothing

I grew up going to thift stores and garage sales for all sorts of things. As I got older, I thought it ‘wasn’t cool’ buying second hand clothing. You would be surprised at the amazing items they have at a thrift store and for a fraction of the price.

After I had my daughter, I realized how expensive it was to buy new clothing for a growing baby. By the time they wore an outfit once or twice they have grown out of it and you are on to the next size. Shopping at Value Village and other thrift stores allowed me to buy multiple pieces of clothing at a fraction of the price…some were brand new with the tags still attached!

Determine a gift budget for friends and family

At the beginning of the year, we set a budget for gifts for all the family to $25 a person. We sat down with everyone and let them know that was our budget and we wouldn’t be spending over this. We set aside money each week to ensure we had money for gifts.

Determining a budget ahead of time forces you to be creative with your money. For some reason, it narrows down your mindset and the perfect gift always seems to pop up within your price range.

Stick to the dollar store for cards

Birthdays, anniversary’s, mothers day, fathers day, valentines day and the list goes on. Did you know that some cards cost up to $10 a piece?!? That ridiculous right? We have decided that you can get just as nice of a card from the dollar store as you can from anywhere else, without spending $10. A huge savings each holiday.

If you’ve made it this far you are on the right track. Stick with your budget and you will be debt free in no time.

Do you have tips on saving money while still having fun? Let me know, I would love to hear them!