How to Budget—but Not Kill—Your Social Life
The truth is, unlike Carrie Bradshaw, the amount of shoes and cosmopolitans we can buy is directly related to our income. According to Bank of America, 69% of people cite money as a top stressor. And while a social life may not be as critical as shelter or food, it is a necessity for our mental health. Oh, how we wish that the endless Sex and the City wardrobe and entertainment budget could bankroll our own lives!
But even without the fantastical splurges of our favorite fictional New Yorkers, there is no reason to eliminate fun and glamour from your cash-tight existence. We’ve put together a list of nine tips from top experts on how best to budget a full social calendar, without completely draining your bank account.
“Go for the all-cash diet,” recommends Olivia Hamilton, an adviser and founding partner at financial advisory startup GuideVine. “It may sound painful, but it’s not. Take your spending budget for the week, and split it into seven envelopes. Take one each day, and that's what you spend. It's simple, makes you resist temptations to overspend, and if you know you have a social event coming up, you'll find yourself subconsciously trading off that latte on Thursday for a martini on Friday.”
“Have the amount you want to save taken out automatically from your checking account and transferred to a saving account,” says Hamilton. “If you’re automatically saving, you don’t feel guilty with every ‘unnecessary’ expense.” You’ve got to love a girl who finds a way for us to shop guilt-free!
When you’re on a budget, one of the most stressful (and unpredictable) money strains is the group dinner debacle. Yes, we love to celebrate life over a cocktail-fueled dinner out with friends. But splitting the bill evenly, especially when you’ve intentionally ordered light and one party guest is on his eighth martini, is not an option. How do you deal with this?
If a friend is hosting a special meal, especially if said meal is a set price per person, let them know about your situation beforehand to see if you can still attend the dinner, but with a modified price tag. If you’re going for a casual gathering, be upfront. “Simply saying ‘I’m trying to save money’ is enough. You don’t need a major excuse,” advises Hamilton.
The queen of friendly financial wisdom, Femme Frugality says that the key to experiencing life as a social butterfly, without the massive financial strain, is to make your home the It spot to hang out. Have some games and extra glasses on hand so you’re always ready for friends to bring the fun to you.
The first thing Alexa von Tobel, founder and CEO of LearnVest, does every morning is take a money minute. She logs into her money center on LearnVest and digests a snapshot of her personal finances. Thanks to her money-minute practice, Tobel always knows where she is against her budget. She also catches common errors such as double charges or adjusted tips and always refutes these incorrect charges. “It’s helped me save hundreds of dollars almost every year,” says Tobel.
Would you rather blow your entire week’s food budget on one dinner out with friends, or get creative in the kitchen and be able to eat more than cereal the rest of the week? We choose the latter. Host a potluck so that all of your friends can get together and cook, eat, and laugh in one place without the dreaded bill eclipsing the night’s festivities. Sure, every once in a while it’s okay to splurge, but for regular get-togethers, a cooking party is a great way to appease your budget.
Grocery shopping is usually a solitary task. But why not make it a social excursion? We think a produce-buying morning is a morning well spent with friends, family, or a date. And buying local, seasonal produce is not only the trendiest way to grocery shop, it’s also the most cost effective. So do your wallet a favor and head over to your farmers market this week. We love basing our monthly menus on the produce of the moment.
We love a good Sunday brunch. But why spend north of $30 on sugary carbs and mimosas when you can enjoy a gorgeous outdoor hike with your best friends? Young Adult Money advises friends, or lovers, to plan hanging out around working out, as opposed to the usual restaurant-centric friendship habit that dominates our weekend spending.
It pays to stay on top of local happenings. Some of our favorite nights out have been at store openings, product launches, and live music events that didn’t cost a dime. U.S. News and World Report recommends keeping up with your local museum calendars, subscribing to your local entertainment venues, and checking deal sites like Groupon on a regular basis.