If you have a limited income, creating a budget is essential to manage your monthly bills. You may assume budgeting only involves mapping out your essential expenses, and that recreational expenses may be unnecessary. However, recreation is, to some degree, essential. Without it, boredom quickly sets in. Also, recreation plans may not always be within your control.
For example, if your family members or friends go out for dinner, saying no because you have not budgeted for it may be upsetting for you and your loved ones.
According to 2016 data provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average American household spends $2,913 per year on entertainment. However, your desire for recreation and entertainment does not mean that your recreation budget must be extravagant. It may be sufficient for you to set aside a small amount of your income for recreational activities. Therefore, here are some ideas to help you budget for recreational activities.
Define Your Personal Recreational Budget Needs
Before you can accurately budget for recreational activities, you must identify what those activities are. Overall, the term “recreation” can encompass many types of activities. The types of activities you enjoy doing in your spare time directly impact the amount of money you need to pursue them. If you consider yourself a home body, you may require a low recreational budget. However, you must still be conscious of your recreational spending, because you most likely have some hobbies and habits that fall within the recreational category. Common types of recreational expenses include:
- Paying for movies, cable TV or streaming services.
- Attending concerts or sports events.
- Dining out with family members or friends.
- Hiking or camping in the wilderness.
After identifying your favorite forms of recreation, examine which activities you engage in more frequently. To do so, it may help to look at bank statements and receipts from previous months. After reviewing those statements, you will be able to determine how much you typically spend on recreational activities. Does the amount seem reasonable and fit for your current budget? If so, use the total you calculate to establish your recreational spending budget. Otherwise, take steps to trim your recreational activity spending.
Decrease Recreational Spending to Lower Your Recreational Activities Budget
After determining your recreational preferences, you can find ways to make your budget work. For example, if your spending is currently higher than your income allows, decreasing your recreational expenses may be the best option. One way to do that is to change your habits. If you enjoy eating out at restaurants, reduce your recreational budget by cooking at home more often and inviting friends over to join you. Turn such gatherings into pot luck events for even more savings. Similarly, you can enjoy watching movies without breaking your budget by using such techniques as:
- Visiting local theaters during matinee hours or on days when special promotions are offered.
- Renting movies or paying for inexpensive streaming services online.
Another way to reduce your recreational activity budget is to take advantage of reward programs, coupons and other promotions relating to your favorite activities. For instance, your favorite restaurants may offer special coupons and promotions when you sign up for their online mailing lists. They may also have special rewards programs providing you with point-based rewards or free menu items when you dine in often.
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Restaurants are not the only recreational establishments that offer reward programs and discount coupons. You can use popular websites to locate a variety of deals on recreational activities near you. Such resources are also useful for finding inexpensive new recreational activities to try. Doing so makes sure that you find entertainment options without breaking your budget.
Decrease Other Spending to Create a Comfortable Recreational Budget
Several strategies can be used to decrease other expenses and increase your recreational budget. You can start by tracking your spending for an extended period of time, such as a few months. Then, use that data to determine areas where you can reduce your spending. For example, if you notice you are spending a lot of money on groceries, you may be able to adjust your shopping and cooking habits. Creating lists before shopping and using rebate or coupon smartphone applications, for instance, can help you save money when buying groceries.
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Another expense you may be able to decrease in order to create more recreational flexibility is your utilities budget. Despite the fact that you must keep enough funds to pay your monthly utility bills, you do not have to settle for your current costs. Making simple changes, such as washing your clothes in cold water instead of hot water, can greatly reduce your energy consumption.
After making such simple changes, your monthly utility budget can be lowered, freeing up more funds for entertainment purposes.
Increase Your Income to Pad Your Recreational Budget
If you are struggling to save the money you need for recreational activities, the problem may be traceable to your income. It may be necessary to find a completely different job or add another source of income in order to earn the funds you need to enjoy your favorite hobbies. Otherwise, you may consider asking for a raise at work or taking additional training to gain the pay increase you desire. If those methods are insufficient, applying for another type of job with better pay is an alternative option.
On the other hand, you may not want to leave your current place of employment. Perhaps the pay is low, but the benefits are good. Moreover, you may enjoy your work too much to leave, even though your pay and benefits are disappointing. If you are in such a position, you will need to establish additional sources of income to remove the financial pressures you feel. Such activities, such as working from home on a part-time basis or pet-sitting when neighbors are away, can bring in additional funds. Furthermore, those funds can allow you to keep the job you love without sacrificing your favorite hobbies and recreational activities.
Nonetheless, even if your primary job pays well enough, finding sources of extra income are always beneficial. These funds can be used to pay for special recreational activities that are not in your regular monthly budget, such as family vacations or other experiences.
Related Article: Ways to Track Your Spending
By Jennifer Symonds –