Remember that time you chose to stay at home and watch Netflix instead of going out with friends, because you didn’t wanna drop $60 on restaurant bills and bar tabs? We’ve all been there. Living life is expensive, I mean that’s just the way it is. Food, gas, rent, clothes, entertainment, gifts, and medical bills add up quick. Truth is though, we could all be doing things a whole lot cheaper.
It’s important to go out every once in a while and have a good time. That’s why I’m not going to discourage eating out, or going shopping, or treating yourself to a nice dinner, but rather I’ll give some insights about how to do all of that on a budget and still have money left in the bank. Sure, it’s easier said than done… but I want to help you get it done. I want to help you turn those thoughts and hopes and dreams of living the good life into a reality without sacrificing your bank account along the way.
I’m not going to write about about retirement and credit and taxes, while that’s all important I’ll save it for another day. As Sia said, “Baby I don’t need dollar bills to have fun tonight.” and you don’t either! Here are 9 tips that’ll help you “treat yo self” on a budget.
1. FREE EVENTS
Everyone is constantly looking for entertainment. We take our families bowling and drop $70, or hit up mini golf for $12 a person. It doesn’t have to be so expensive to keep ourselves and our families busy and happy. Next time you have an open night you’re trying to fill, hop on Facebook and search for local events in your area. I just did this myself and found a free movie night happening tomorrow at our local mall. They will have activities for kids, free popcorn, and a movie playing over a big projector. How fun!
You can also hop onto your community page or stop by your local library to find events the city is hosting. Often you’ll come across free classes, concerts, clubs, and more.
Another resource I LOVE is meetup.com. This is a site where people post about local events to bring together people in their community. These range from business meetups to crochet groups to 5K runs. Take a step away from the basic game night and spice things up a bit for you and your family!
2. FOLLOW SOCIAL PAGES
Social Media is a crazy good way to stay in the loop about what’s going on in your area. Open up Instagram and try to search for some pages dedicated to posting about the happenings in your town. I live in Provo, Utah and some of my favorites are: @utahfunactivities, @utahwithkids and @downtownprovo. These pages are always posting about free concerts, festivals, grand openings, barbecues, and other resources for local events and deals on food and entertainment.
Lots of restaurants and shops also post deals and specials directly to their company page. Some of my favorite local restaurant pages are @swignsweets, @chipcookiesco, and @waffluv. They are always posting yummy food pics with exclusive offers to make treating yourself realistic and affordable.
Another plus- big giveaways are happening on these pages every. single. day. I made an effort last month to follow tons of local businesses on social media. Every morning I woke up to a handful of contests, specials, deals, coupons, and other offers. All of a sudden I was in the know about the “free day” at the community pool, $2 Tuesday at the Museum, and the discounted Monster Jam tickets. The world is online, and businesses take advantage of that. Follow your favorite pages to stay in the loop and save big!
3. LITERALLY JUST ASK
More times than not, cheaper options are available. Have you ever heard of the Get Out Pass? For $150 you receive a pass you can use to go to laser tag, bowling, arcades, theme parks, ziplines, skiing, and hundreds of other fun activities. Seems like a great deal, right? Well, I thought it would be worth it to call and see if there was a better price available. On the phone the staff gave me more information about the Get Out Pass and told me it was $150 – the price advertised online which was not bad, I could’ve went for it! But I figured I could do better, so I asked if they had any discounts available. They put me on hold and came back about 10 minutes later confirming that they have an active code for $40 off, making the pass $110. We bought two passes, and saved $80 just for asking! It’s important to have fun and it’s ok to have a budget for that, but don’t be afraid to dig deep for the best deals. Don’t be that sucker that pays full price!
4. REWARD PROGRAMS
If you are willing to blow up your inbox a little bit, you’ll be sure to score some free food! When you pull up to a restaurant, bust out your phone and check their website for a rewards program. You could end up finding a great coupon, scoring a free side, or getting some points towards a reward. I mean, what can you lose?
Some restaurants (Cinnabon, IHOP, Zaxbys) will give you free food right off the bat just for signing up for their emails. For others (Noodles and Co, Starbucks, Chick Fil A) you can earn points for each dollar you spend and earn rewards to your inbox. Either way, I recommend setting up an email just for your freebies and then going crazy with the sign ups. Before you know it, your inbox will be filled with coupons and freebies!
5. BUY USED
We all like having new things, that’s just human nature. It’s easy to splurge on new clothes, shoes, and home decor, leaving the mall with empty pockets but feelin 100 percent. Something about walking around sporting those new kicks makes us feel like a million bucks. Truth is, you don’t have to break the bank to update your wardrobe or other aspects of your life.
Take a second to look up thrift shops in you area, and spend a Saturday poppin tags. You can get a whole new wardrobe and look the part without paying for it!
This goes for furniture and home decor too. Recently, I moved into a new apartment, and had to furnish it entirely. We bought absolutely everything used, and ended up furnishing our whole apartment- beds, couches, dressers, nightstands, TV, kitchen table and chairs, TV stand, coffee table, EVERYTHING- for under $1000. Nothing was brand spankin new, but it was all new to me and I was happy as can be.
Some great places to start are Savers, Deseret Industries, Goodwill, Uptown Cheapskate, and Plato’s Closet.
6. CHECK YOUR SUBSCRIPTIONS
Who doesn’t love opening the mailbox each month to a sparkling pink package filled with fun makeup samples? However, here’s a fun fact: subscription-based companies make a large chunk of their money because 35% of U.S Adults pay for services they don’t remember signing up for. There’s nothing wrong with subscribing to Pandora, Netflix, Spotify, Hulu, Ipsy, Amazon Prime, Adobe, your local gym, Dollar Shave Club, your favorite magazines, etc. Unless you’re not using them, then there is something wrong with that.
Take a moment to sit down and find those silent culprits draining your bank account. Print out a statement of your transactions for the last month and go through them line by line. Cancel the subscriptions you don’t use, and identify any that you could be overpaying for.
I’ve had a gym membership for as long as I can remember, and have always paid $20/month. Recently, I thought “hmmm, maybe I could save some money there.” I went around town getting prices, and found that I could get a membership for $75/year. That saved me $165 a year! Ask around, get prices, and SAVE while still enjoying 2-day shipping and unlimited streaming.
7. BE AWARE OF DAILY SPECIALS
Go see movies on Tuesday, or go bowling on Thursday, or to the nail salon on Monday, or whatever the local deal is in you area. Here’s some that I’ve heard about recently:
- Dave and Busters: Play ½ price games every Wednesday
- Top Golf: Half price on Tuesdays
- Buffalo Wild Wings: BOGO traditional wings on Tuesdays!
A lot of places have daily specials, and you can save a ton on choosing the right day to go. Movies at our local theatre are $12, but on Tuesday they’re only $5.25! If you’re planning a date night this week, look up specials and plan around them.
Don’t throw away your receipts! This is one surprising way to save money that most people don’t recognize. Start paying more attention to your receipts, and you’ll find that many of them have great deals or even free offers! I’ve scored free food at Chick Fil A, Panda Express, and Taco Bell just by filling out a quick survey! Get free food just for sharing the love!
9. MONEY SAVING APPS
Don’t you love companies that do all of the hard work for you? One of these is the 2for1 app. I may be biased, but this is my all time favorite way to save money. This is basically a database for hundreds to thousands of local deals. The app has tons of deals for buy one get one free, which has split the cost of my date nights in half!
My husband and I have always been suckers for late night Denny’s runs. The only downside, we always dropped about $25 after meals and drinks and tips and tax. After downloading the 2for1 app, we found a coupon for BOGO on any entree, and can now have our late night munchies for way cheaper. And did I mention, the app is completely free!
Stop living paycheck to paycheck and stop cringing when you open up your bank account. Make some of these changes right now, to work towards your savings goal.