It’s not fun to set a budget for yourself when you go into it expecting to cut out things that are important to you. Looking good, feeling good, and having fun can take up a big portion of each paycheck.
But these things don’t have to be all-or-nothing. You can still have what you want if you’re willing to be just a little bit creative. You can stop overspending and still enjoy some discretionary buys.
Here are a few suggestions to get you started.
Exercise is certainly important, but if you’re carrying a gym membership that you hardly use and definitely don’t enjoy, it’s time to try something else out. Start jogging in your favorite park, pick up a workout DVD to do at home, or ask your yogi friend to show you how to do some yoga sequences.
You can also go online to websites like FitnessBlender.com or even YouTube to find all kinds of free workouts, from cardio and HIIT to yoga and strength training.
And you don’t even have to drop your gym membership in its entirety if it provides value for you. Just consider switching to a different, cheaper gym or look for a new membership tier at your current workout spot.
Bonus: Interested in the latest fitness tracker but don’t want to shell out that much money? Here’s a roundup of alternatives to the FitBit.
Expensive Nights Out
There’s nothing wrong with going out for a night of fun, but doing it every week or even multiple times a week can really chip away at your financial situation. A great alternative? Go out for happy hour and then head home, kick off your work shoes, and cook your own fabulous meal. Or consider taking a mixology class and hosting your friends for drinks!
If the idea of cooking is really intimidating, once again, turn to the Internet for help. There are countless resources available that will help you get started in the kitchen. Try running a Google search for some specific meals, like “how to cook vegan dinners” or “paleo recipes.”
Plus, if you cook at home, you can enjoy the leftovers for lunch the next day and save even more money by eliminating another meal you might usually buy on the go.
Books, Newspapers, and Magazine Subscriptions
If you love books but the cost of buying new reads all the time is killing your budget, the library is your friend. A library card won’t cost you anything, and these days most libraries have an ebook catalog you can access through your tablet, smartphone, Kindle, or other e-reader.
When it comes to magazines, if you aren’t reading them, cancel them now or just don’t renew them when you get the renewal notice. Or, switch to online subscriptions, which are often less expensive.
A lot of content that’s in newspapers and magazine is also available online for free.
Many of us think insurance is a “set it and forget it” thing -- it’s definitely mandatory and for good reason. But that doesn’t mean once you choose a policy, you can’t periodically check for better rates or options for your needs.
Review your insurance coverage each year and make sure you’re not paying for anything you don’t actually need. You may also be paying too much for coverage, so evaluate how much protection you need and what your tolerance for risk is.
Getting a haircut every 6 weeks really adds up, especially if you’re adding color services or other treatments. Same goes for manicures, pedicures, and other salon services.
Many cities have beauty schools (think Aveda Institute) that offer student services for free or at a steep discount. Most schools will have an experienced stylist check each student’s work during and after the cut to make sure nothing’s going wrong -- and these are students with a level of experience, not total newbies who have never handled scissors before.
You can also go the DIY route and do your own mani-pedis. Cutting your own hair may be harder, but a family member could realistically help. Financial bloggers and self-proclaimed “frugal weirdos” The Frugalwoods Family does this to save on haircuts!
While most clothing that says “dry clean only” on the label really shouldn’t go through a regular washing machine cycle, there are ways you can cut down on your dry cleaning expenses. The obvious first line of defense is to try to avoid buying clothes you can’t wash yourself.
For everything else, look into at-home dry cleaning kits or go online for washing instructions. Many natural fibers (like silk and wool) can be washed at home by hand even if the label says to dry clean them.
Do a little digging online and research what’s on your clothing labels. And of course, you can always stretch out the time between cleanings. Most of us tend to overlaunder our clothes, which not only costs more but also wears our clothing out faster.
It seems like a no-brainer to have your own car, but having a car is expensive and there are usually much less expensive alternatives. Rather than leasing or buying a new car every couple of years, keep the one you have until it bites the dust. (Imagine going years without a car payment!)
Look at public transportation options, rideshares, or carpooling options. Biking to work is also becoming much more common.
Keep Hacking It!
No matter what part of your budget you need to trim, there’s an online community of “hacking” for that. Groceries, travel, insurance, technology…. you can find all kinds of information about saving big on any expense.
Try running a Google search for what you’re most interested in saving on, and check out the blogs, videos, and social media accounts that come up in the results.
All it takes is a little bit of time and a touch of creativity to get a healthier budget without missing out on the things that are important to you!
About the Author: Ashley Gainer is a writer and coach who makes great content for entrepreneurs and small businesses and teaches other writers how to do the same. You can find her online at ashleygainer.com or on Twitter @ageditorial.