Creating and implementing a budget seem like arduous tasks if you think of them only as limiting your freedom to spend your hard earned money.
A good budget starts with debts and living expenses, but the best budget gives you room to spend money doing the things you love.
You’re far more likely to stick to your budget if you factor in funds for having fun.
Read on for a few quick tips to help you build entertainment into your budget and save money along the way.
Why You Need an Entertainment Budget
When you craft a budget, you have to include expenses like your student loan repayments, mortgage or rent, insurance, medical bills, power, food, and water. These are known as living expenses as they’re critical to your everyday life.
While going to the movies or taking a vacation aren’t quite as crucial as the expenses above, fitting them into your budget is.
If you fail to allocate some of your budget to entertainment, you’ll struggle to stick to the budget at all.
We all need some money built in for fun, otherwise, a budget is bleak, restrictive, and destined to fail.
How to Budget for Entertainment
Building entertainment into your budget requires you to plan ahead and stick to the bounds you set in place.
After establishing your basic needs and monthly bills, jot down your interests, hobbies, spending habits, and any bucket list items you want to check off.
From there, see which of those wants fit into your budget and set timelines for major purchases.
Most financial experts suggest you allocate around 5% of your budget to fun money, but that number can change depending on your situation. For instance, if you’re a recent college grad in a low paying job with student loan debt and rent to pay, you may have less to spend on entertainment.
Conversely, if you’re a successful professional with a steady high income and a robust emergency fund, you may have more money to put towards fun.
Regardless, take the time to plan carefully, assigning a set dollar amount to entertainment and sticking with it.
Without further ado, here are a few spending areas you can attribute to your entertainment budget and ways to stretch the dollars you spend on them.
What to Include In Your Entertainment Budget
Eating Out or Ordering In
We all need food to survive, but those meals don’t always have to come from restaurants. One of the biggest strategies for saving money on food is to buy groceries and cook at home. Packing a sandwich rather than going out on your lunch break can save mountains of money over time.
While that may be the case, everyone loves and deserves to go out on occasion. If you crave takeout from your favorite Chinese restaurant or enjoy a weekly date night at a restaurant downtown, you should build that into your entertainment budget.
Knowing that you’ll be treating yourself at your favorite restaurant is great motivation to stick to your budget.
Take advantage of discounts, coupons, and gift cards to save money eating out. And just because your budget is stretched thin doesn’t mean you can’t go out with friends. Order an appetizer or special from the menu.
Going to the Movies
A trip to the local movie theater isn’t cheap. With most movie tickets ranging from $9-$12 and outrageously priced candy, popcorn, and drinks, a movie night can get expensive pretty quickly.
Does that mean you should wait a year until your favorite flick is released online? Of course not. It just means you need to budget the cost of going to the movies into your monthly spending.
You can also save money by using student discounts, catching matinees, joining rewards programs, and being selective with the movies you choose to go see.
If it looks like it’s worth your $10, or $30 if you don’t sneak in your own candy and drinks, then go for it. Otherwise, wait for a movie you actually want to see.
There’s nothing like being at a lively football or basketball game and cheering on your favorite college or professional team. If you’re a sports enthusiast, you know how pricey sporting events can get.
Luckily, there are plenty of ways to build sports into your entertainment budget and save money on games.
At the start of the season, take a look at the calendar and choose which games you want to go to. You should be able to map out ticket prices from there and save accordingly. You can also save money by waiting until the last minute as ticket offices sometimes drop prices, but doing so comes without the guarantee of getting into the game.
Secondhand tickets are another great way to save money on games, but they aren’t without risk. If you buy tickets from a second-hand source, whether it’s a group on Facebook or a resale site, be sure to check the seller’s credentials, ask for verification, and proceed with caution.
Concerts and Shows
If you love live music or Broadway numbers, your entertainment budget should reflect it.
Much like sporting events, concerts and theatre performances warrant planning and a spot in your budget. These events also come with plenty of advanced notice.
As soon as you see that your favorite artist is coming to town, note the ticket price and go ahead and work it into your entertainment budget, also considering the cost of parking and the pesky service fees you’ll likely encounter.
You can also find great deals on shows that haven’t quite sold out at the last minute, or by using discount sites.
We live in an era of entertainment subscriptions. While you may have had to purchase box sets of your favorite TV show a decade ago, you can find every season in the archives of Netflix or Hulu with a few simple clicks.
Fortunately, the best streaming video services are affordable, and so are music subscription services, many of which allow you to download playlists and albums to stream when you’re offline.
Streaming services can provide an affordable alternative to cable and satellite, and many services come with bundles and family accounts.
Because these services come at a set monthly fee, you can easily factor them into your entertainment budget with little fluctuation.
If you’re an avid gamer, you need to budget for gaming purchases. Whether it’s as small as an app on your iPhone, a more substantial purchase like a newly released video game, or a gaming system, you need to plan for these purchases and save money for them.
While yesteryear’s Nintendo Wii might cost you $100, you can expect to pay far more for a Switch or PlayStation 4.
Maybe you aren’t a gamer, but simply in the market for a new TV, laptop, or camera.
Whatever electronic device you’re looking for, scout out deals and promotions on Amazon or at local retailers. You can save loads of money on these purchases on Black Friday or Cyber Monday. Again, it’s all about planning.
Whether it’s a month in Europe or a weekend at the lake, you need to schedule a little R&R into your entertainment budget. Otherwise, you may find yourself dipping into your emergency fund or struggling to pay your living expenses come vacation time.
The best way to save money on vacations is to plan ahead. Look at the most affordable times to travel to your destination and stay alert to flight prices. You can also save by being flexible with your dates and taking advantage of promotions offered by travel sites.
When you plan a vacation, you should allot money for transportation, stay, food, and fun money. By steadily setting aside money for your vacation fund, you can set yourself up for a relaxing and rewarding vacation.
The expenses above are pretty standard components of an entertainment budget. Beyond those, though, there are bound to be plenty of miscellaneous fun purchases.
- Books: While not everyone is a bookworm, if you read frequently and enjoy purchasing new releases, you should be sure to work those purchases into your budget. If you’re open to reading ebooks or purchasing used books, you can save even more money getting your literary fix.
- Classes: We’re not talking about the Bio 101 course you’re required to take to graduate. Maybe you’re an aspiring photographer looking to expand your hobby or a dancer looking to pick up salsa. Look up classes in your area and designate some fun money to old and new hobbies.
- Gifts: If your mom’s birthday or your anniversary is coming up, be sure to budget in some money for gifts. Giving gifts can be a lot of fun, especially if you aren’t frantically pulling from your savings to buy them. You’ll thank yourself next Christmas for allotting fun money to gifts.
- Shopping: Beyond the basics, if you love buying clothes, antiques, records, jewelry, sports equipment, or any other purchases regularly, designate a percentage of your entertainment budget to shopping and spend it as you please!
A budget is essential to managing your money properly and finding financial freedom, but it doesn’t have to be boring. Setting aside money for fun will make your budget far easier to follow.
Be sure to consider all of the costs above, and any other forms of entertainment you indulge in, as you build your monthly budget.
With some thoughtful preparation and savvy savings strategies, you can get the most out of your entertainment budget.