A few weeks ago we put out our 2015 Reader Survey. The results were awesome, and I don’t mean they were all positive. The feedback we got was all over the board and extremely helpful. I’m not here to go over all the feedback, but I do have to highlight one anonymous comment. This person commented that they’ve enjoyed the My Money Life blog posts by myself and Alex, but that we seem a little “miserly.” He/she asked, how does someone with friends who like to hang out budget? I legit LOL’ed when I read the comment. I was seriously laughing about it for the rest of the day. Just typing it now made me laugh more! My goal today is to try to get my laughs under control and address this comment seriously.
Here’s the thing, he/she is right. When I write or think about money I definitely have a “miserly” attitude. I’m very obsessed with being debt free and making the most of the income I earn. Maybe it’s because I work for Pete or maybe it’s because it’s a naturally occurring obsession, but whatever the motivation is, I am miserly about my money.
Most of the time that is. What isn’t covered in my blog posts, or in my conversations about money, is how much I spend on entertainment in a month. I’m 30, single, and have a disposable income. I. spend. money. I go out every single Friday and Saturday night. The last time I stayed home on a Friday night was because I had surgery that morning and couldn’t drive (yes, I had the first surgery. A long story for another blog post.). I live alone and work hard during the week, so going out on Friday and Saturday nights is a mental-health necessity for me. Judge if you must, but I’m perfectly aware it has to do with my stage in life. Those of you who feel me, know just how important going out is to a single/young(ish) person. So while I am a penny-pincher in just about every other area of my life, going out isn’t one of them. Though my miserly money attitude does tend to sneak in…
Here’s how I budget for going out:
- I have a weekend budget, it varies between $50-70 depending on what I have going on that weekend or what financial goals I’m trying to accomplish with the rest of my money.
- I’m not a huge drinker which really helps because drinking seriously adds up. Though if I am planning on drinking a lot, I’ll generally eat at home before going out so the night doesn’t end up cost 100 bucks. My friends and I have also recently discovered buying a bottle of wine at a restaurant can be cheaper than each of us buying a glass (depending on the bottle, obviously).
- If I do brunch, I skip a dinner out when possible. I love brunch, but if I ate out every meal of the weekend I would be in a major bind.
- I love going to cultural events around the city, but I try to be slightly picky about the expensive ones I go to. When I do go to an expensive event on Friday night, I’ll opt to have friends over/go to a friends house for drinks and dessert on Saturday instead of going out.
- Having money-conscious friends seriously helps. I can’t count the number of times this year one of my friends would suggest we do an activity that is less expensive due to their own personal financial situation. Having budget-conscious friends helps keep me accountable to my financial goals.
- Because I spend so much on entertainment on the weekends I do not eat out during the week. I eat out on a weekday *maybe* 3-4 times a month. I make my lunch and bring it to work and I make my dinner (or TBH, just eat snacks) during the week.
- Sunday is a no-spend day. Sunday is for relaxing, catching up on work, and cleaning my house. It’s rare that I even leave my house on Sundays, which means it’s truly a “free” day.
- Go over budget. Yeah, I know, it’s not great advice, but I go over budget semi-regularly. I’m young and unencumbered and I want to have fun. Sometimes I spend more than I should, and honestly, I’m totally okay with that. Sure, it kinda sucks to try and make up for it in other areas throughout the month, but it’s usually worth it.
Just like “bossy” got a feminist redefinition a few years ago, I’m going to try and redefine “miserly.” Why does it have to be negative? A miserly money attitude helped me pay off $10,000 of medical debt a few years ago, it helped me buy a house at 26, and it continually helps me think before committing to large purchases. Sounds dramatic, but a miserly money attitude has changed my life. I still worry about money, but instead of worrying if I’ll have enough money to make it, I worry if I’m prioritizing my money appropriately for the future. A big distinction I wouldn’t have understood before my miserly conversion. I figure if I can be on the path to a debt-free lifestyle and still drink Champagne on the weekends, I’ll proudly and happily wear the miserly label. Cheers!
Peter Dunn a.k.a. Pete the Planner® is an award-winning financial mind and a former comedian. He’s a USA TODAY columnist, author of ten books, and is the host of the popular radio show and podcast, The Pete the Planner Show. Pete is considered one of the foremost experts on financial wellness in the world, but he’s just as likely to talk your ear off about bass fishing.