There is nothing that will squelch the joy in frugality faster than pinching your pennies so hard that you never have any fun. And if you’re planning to practice thrift for the long haul, you need to strategically come up with ways to keep life interesting, exciting, and fresh.
Just because you don’t have a lot of money or are trying to live on little doesn’t mean you can’t find ways to have fun and splurge a little without breaking your budget. Here are a few things we’ve done:
-Go out for dessert and coffee. Or, if you’re really strapped for cash, skip the dessert and split a latte. We used to do this at Barnes and Noble back in our law school barebones budget days. We’d browse books, buy a drink and split it (often paying for it with a card I’d earned through reading emails from MyPoints!), and then sit and read and talk for awhile. It made for a very relaxing evening that cost us next to nothing!
-Take your children to the pet store and then to McDonald’s for $0.99 cones. (Use the seasonal free cone coupons–if you have them–to save even more!)
-Plan one nicer dinner each week. If beans and rice make up a large part of your diet, plan ahead so that one night per week, you have “feast”. It doesn’t have to be anything elaborate–maybe something like meat loaf, a potato dish, some homemade bread, veggies, and a dessert. Or if you can’t even afford that, add a dessert to your normal fare and bring out the nice dishes or add a centerpiece. A dessert and a candle can make you feel like you’re having a gourmet dinner even if it’s hamburger helper!
-Ride your bikes or put the kids in the wagon and walk to the nearest ice cream shop and order a few cones to split.
-Have a progressive dinner at your own home. Decorate four different rooms with four different themes and then serve a coordinating menu item for each.
-Rent a movie with a free code from RedBox (or the library), make some special snacks, and watch the movie together under blankets in the living room.
-Plan a CVS “date.” Have extra ECBs to spend? Why not make a fun evening of it? Let each person pick one treat for under $3 to buy and then go to the park and share the goodies!
-Go yard-saling or thrift store shopping as a family or couple. Give each person a small amount of cash to spend and see who gets the most bang for their buck!
-Go to the library as a family (or as a couple, for date night!) and browse different books that you usually don’t get a chance to look at and check some out. You’ll feel like you went shopping and you won’t have spent anything!
-Have a “Loose Change Date.” Take all of the loose change you can find in the house and figure out a creative way to maximize it. Divvy it up between the family members and let each person decide how they want to spend their part for a family evening out.
-Find out if any nearby bowling alleys have $0.99 night or discount nights (many do). When we were first married, we’d go on $0.99 night and rent our shoes for $0.99 each and play two games at $0.99 each–and it was such a fun outing and it only cost us around $6!