Spring has Sprung!
Yes, it is finally spring, and most of us are ready to get outside and enjoy going places and doing things. It is also a time for many celebrations such as weddings. BUT – and it is always the proverbial BUT – we also just went through tax season. So, you either owe taxes, broke even, or are getting money back. Regardless, it is always a time to reflect and maybe reevaluate your budget.
For many, this time of year is also a time to begin that austerity program again – especially if you did not like what you saw when filing your taxes. Often it is a wake-up call to assess where all of your money is actually going.
I like pie charts to help me visualize where my money is going. It is a quick and easy way to see if you are spending too much money dining out and not enough on saving and paying off debt.
So… what does this have to do with spring and getting out of the house or weddings?
Plenty! Everything, really, if you want to enjoy life and keep to a budget that will help you pay off debt, so you can REALLY live and enjoy yourself without worrying about bills and debt for the rest of your life.
So, how do you find that balance? How can you stick to a budget and pay off debt while still enjoying yourself and going out?
Those of you who follow me, know I am all about planning. There are things that come up in life that you can plan for. These are the incidental things that you can put into your budget ahead of time, so they are not quite so expensive and/or unexpected. For example, weddings and all of the things that go with being invited to them such as shower gifts and wedding gifts are easy to add to the budget. You get plenty of notification about these events so plan accordingly. Put them into your budget and stick to the allotted amount, but you can also shift things around. Perhaps you can’t dine out as often, but you can still get the gift and go to the wedding which is an evening out. Planning is key.
Also, be frugal about entertainment. There are so many ways to get out and do things that won’t wreck your budget. Many are free. You just need to make yourself aware of the things your local community has to offer.
Here are some things to check out that won’t wreck your budget :
- Libraries – Local libraries organize a variety of different activities for all ages and abilities, and they are all free. Some of these are educational and some are purely for entertainment. Our local library, for example, has things like scavenger hunts, movie days and nights, science and STEM learning adventures, and contests. These change each month, so there is always something free to do. That is in addition to the normal things they do like lending out books in print and on tape as well as movies and music. In addition, they also offer services such as transferring old records to current platforms such as DVDs.
- Cities – Many cities do amazing jobs organizing a variety of activities year round. They try to appeal to a variety of interests and age groups. Most of these are free and open to the public, but others cost a nominal fee and are restricted to citizens only. Some of the common free events include free concerts, flower swaps, festivals, camping nights, and plays. Along with these free events are events that cost a small amount and/or are discounted such as mini marathons, yoga and other athletic instructions, farmers markets, garage sales, and city discount days at professional sport events and amusement parks. It makes sense to check with your city as well as cities around you for monthly listings of the events they offer.
- Local Parks – Obviously most parks are free in and of themselves. But in addition to all of the amenities that the parks offer, they also often host a variety of activities geared for different age levels and interests. Of course, you can just enjoy the parks for what they offer. Each park has its own appeal such as climbing ropes, bike trails, skateboarding, etc. But beyond searching out different parks for their individual aspects, you can make it a fun and cheap day by packing your lunch or dinner, food that you already have, and turning the day or evening into a picnic.
- Workshops and Crafts for Kids at Stores – Home Depot, Lowes, and JCPenney are a few of the stores that offer creative hands-on activities for kids. You can purchase kits for kids from Home Depot for a nominal fee to take home and create. Lowes hosts free events at their stores on select Saturdays from 9:00 a.m. to noon. You need to register at their website in order to participate. They provide all of the materials that you need to build things like birdhouses or a miniature putting green which is great for your little one to give to Dad on Father’s Day. If you prefer to make the kits at home, you can pick up the free kits on the day of the events at the Customer Service Counter from noon until 8:00 p.m. In addition to the workshops, they also have craft kits available for a relatively low price. JCPenney has their “Kid Zone” on the second Saturday of each month from 11:00 a.m. to noon. You do not need to register for these, just drop by and enjoy the crafts. In addition to the craft, adults accompanying the children get a 10% coupon that can be used at JCPenney. Children participating at Lowes and JCPenney must have a legal adult with them.
- Free Bowling for Kids – During the summer, at participating bowling alleys, kids can bowl up to two games a day free. You can find out what bowling alleys are participating in your area by going to the following link: https://www.kidsbowlfree.com/all_centers.php. You need to register, but the age restriction is up to age 15 at most bowling alleys.
- Outdoor Activities – Now that the weather is breaking, it is a great time to get outside and enjoy nature. For little to no cost at all, there are so many options including walking (check out local walking clubs including those sponsored by libraries that also often offer light refreshments after the walks), hiking, bike riding, and fishing to name a few.
The sky’s the limit, but you definitely don’t need to wreck your budget to have fun and enjoy yourself. Planning is always key whether it is preparing for showers and weddings or finding things to do for entertainment. Always remember to stick to your budget. For more budgeting advice or help with creating a budget, contact me.