When my wife and I were just married, as I have shared before, we struggled to make ends meet. We had an emergency fund in place so we never had to stress about whether we were going to be able to pay the bills, but we always wanted to pay our bills with our income and not draw from the emergency fund. That is, after all, not the purpose of an emergency fund.
In order to achieve this goal, we had to cut back in many ways. This meant only eating out once a month and doing free hobbies. Naturally, we focused on hanging out, doing stuff outdoors, and board games. This is all great fun… for a while. Eventually, these free activities get old and they did. We got very tired of playing the same board games over and over. As a result, we were forced to find new hobbies that didn’t break the bank.
Find Cheap Shared Experiences
The first thing we did was to look for new ways that we could spend time together that wouldn’t break the bank. If it meant spending a little more money to have new experiences, we were okay with that. But we weren’t willing to spend too much money that would compromise our financial position. Here’s what we came up with:
Movie Night – One of the first things we did was implement a movie night. It wasn’t anything glamorous and 90% of the times, we got the movie from our local Redbox. That way we could make dinner at home and watch a $1 movie. It didn’t just involve sitting around the house, but it somehow became a time that we looked forward to. We eventually watched all of the movies that we wanted to on Redbox, so we had to splurge and spend $10 per month on Netflix. I know, big spenders!
New Scenery – Another thing that we did together was to explore new areas. If there was a park that we hadn’t visited, we scheduled a time to visit. In a matter of months, we saw several waterfalls, went on tons of new hikes, and just enjoyed experiencing new things. There are only so many times that you can do the same hike without feeling a little boredom.
Develop Personal Hobbies
Another thing that my wife and I realized is that we needed time to ourselves. Not only because it’s important to have alone time, but also because we each have different interests. My wife likes to do some crafts and I like to bike and build websites. We gave ourselves a little bit of spending money to find new personal hobbies.
Crafting – My wife instantly realize that the enjoyed doing crafts. Normally, she is not the stereotypical woman (doing all the girly things), but this was an exception. Yet, as many people probably already know, crafting can add up. She came back from the craft store the first time spending $80. Wow! That was a shock and forced us to find cheaper ways to continue this hobby. Now, we look for coupons or deals (like Jo-Ann Fabrics coupons) and are keeping her craft expenses to a minimum.
Biking – One of the first things I needed to do was to buy a bike. I looked on craigslist and wasn’t able to find a bike that I wanted. I ended up using some Birthday money to buy my bike and then enjoyed a practically free hobby. If only my wife could enjoy a free hobby.
Saving money while developing hobbies and discovering your interests is always a difficult balance. For us personally, we found the best success with prioritizing savings first and then allowing us to splurge a little bit as we made more money. This meant that we didn’t live with any regret and we were able to slowly enjoy ourselves even more.
Have you had success balancing saving money and enjoying yourself?