I’m an extrovert. When I’m around crowds of people, I feed off the energy and feel excited to be alive. In a college town, with little else to do than drink yourself silly or try a new restaurant, I frequently opt for a moderate balance of both. Unfortunately, this is a black eye to my carefully crafted budget.
Participating in these social romps are one of the highlights of my weeks. Meeting new people and getting to know someone on a deeper level – there’s nothing better! But let’s face it, they do take a toll on my ability to pay off more debt. Sometimes I wish I could have the best of both worlds: social time and the frugal life. Thankfully, there are some simple mind tricks that help keep me within my budget and enjoying the company of others.
Pretend it’s a necessity
Most visitors to Frugaling are likely a part of two camps (look at me already dividing people): those who need to reduce their expenses and make more, and those who want to reduce their expenditures. If you don’t need to trim all the excess from your budget, you’re usually less inclined to do so.
The motivation for creating and following a budget is highly determined by your financial situation. The more stability you have, the more likely you’re going to be comfortable spending money on a night out with friends. Nonetheless, my guess is that if you visited this article, you at least want to reduce your expenses.
Maybe you have a little emergency fund, a great big checking account, and/or a sizable investment portfolio. Being frugal may be a life choice more than anything else. For me, I need to get my budget balanced, but I have this generous wiggle room that the federal government taunts me with: student loans.
When I’m out on the town and could pay even more for food, I think about my aim: I don’t want more loans. That places me somewhere between choosing frugality and needing it. For me, the trick is pretending like it’s a necessity to stay in budget.
For instance, let’s say I had $300 this month for food. That budget included everything from restaurants, fast-food, and even supermarkets. If I hit $300, I’m out of money for this month. More importantly, if I pretend and remember that that limit is a stopping point before catastrophe, I’m going to be very careful about where I put my money next. By pretending it’s a necessity, I realize how great the consequences of my actions can be.
Predict, plan around your social desires
Despite tricking my mind into realizing the necessity of a solid budget, there’s a humble need to share and socialize. Somehow, I want that to be filled. If most everyone is venturing off into the little downtown nightlife, I’d like to be able to go with them. Unfortunately, this is rarely friendly to my budget.
A night out on the town that includes dinner and drinks at a couple bars may cost about $40-50 after tips. Done once a week, and that eats away $200 a month from my budget. That’s not an option!
The trick here is simple: Know both your social and financial needs before the invite comes and night sweeps you away. If you’re gearing up for a fun, late, Friday night, there are a couple things you can do that will really add up:
- Eat at home, before you go out. Maybe get an appetizer when you’re at a restaurant with friends.
- Like those kooky college students always do: pre-game at home. By the time you’re out on the town, you’ll be ready to drink water instead of another expensive booze concoction.
Stories beat stuff
The great country of New Zealand has a wonderful advertising campaign to attract tourists. Ads feature young people skydiving, eating exotic foods, and experiencing the diverse geography of the Hobbits’ native land. All of the marketing centers around one tagline: “Stories beat stuff.”
All they’re saying is that you should get over materialistic wants and show the world what you’re made of! Rather than collecting another display piece for your home, a luxury car, or buying expensive jewelry, try running around, taking a random road trip, or flying to another country! Let these experiences fuel and motivate careful decisions regarding your budget.
It’s important to gain those experiences because ultimately they can help perpetuate and fuel a well-balanced budget. Debt destruction is easier when you’re psychologically well and whole. I guess what I’m trying to say is that every now and then, that night out on the town is a short-term loss for long-term gains.