AJ: Learning to enjoy life without spending an arm and a leg is a bit of an art. This post is so near and dear to my heart since many of the things I love most in this world are indulgences, and I really dislike denying myself the things I love.
Start by planning and STOP paying more for everyday, super not fun things
- a. I buy in bulk as often as possible, and I’m not talking Sam’s and Costco. When chicken is cheap, I buy 10 pounds, divide them into meal-size portions and freeze them. When you save $5 more by purchasing more toilet paper, I buy 64 rolls. When deodorant is $3 off, I buy 8. It can skew our “monthly” expenses but it prevents us from (1) running out of things we regularly use and (2) overpaying for products that have an incredibly long shelf life.
- b. If I need new running shoes, I start researching months before I’m in a situation where there’s no tread on the bottoms. In my house, simply paying attention to things like this can take A LOT of effort. I know it’s hard, but pay attention. Stores regularly have sales on every single thing they sell. You can Google specific companies and find a plethora of information on annualized programs, loyalty programs, and email clubs that will earn you discounts immediately.
- c. Document known expenses and plan for them months in advance. We buy more than 100 pounds of food for our 3 animals every 2 1/2 months. If I didn’t pay attention, I wouldn’t know when they would run out of food until we hit the bottom of the container and six sets of eyes started plotting their revenge against me. In months when we have to buy $150 worth of pet food, I plan our meals to include more of what is already in our freezer and pantry and less of the things that I want to try that are new and contain more expensive ingredients. It means never going over our budget and never having to sacrifice on things that we want in lieu of poorly accounting for the things we need. Do this for things like hair cuts, toll tag payments, make up, birthday gifts, dry cleaning, doctor appointments, and vet visits.
Know what you need
AJ: Not like food, water, and sleep, but what you need in order to feel whole. I need to eat spinach dip and cheese fries at least once a month. I need to go to pilates when work gets really overwhelming. I need to buy baskets to organize all of our stuff, so I don’t freak out over piles forming in every corner. I’m thankful that Kirby and I are both employed and that we have the freedom to splurge a little. I need to see my husband over the dim light of candles at an all you can eat Churrascaria. He’s handsome all the time, but even more so after a few months of long days and evenings of working too hard finished with a complete indulgent beef experience.
KJ: With a caveat, as long as your budget can accommodate it and it’s not detrimental to your well being (drugs, gambling, etc.), then by all means go for it! Sometimes, in trying to fight that urge or ‘draw,’ you end up over-compensating when you do give in. When was the last time the diet you tried (you know, the one where you avoided all the pleasures of daily life) left you in a better position six months later? It goes against our innate behaviors, so we subsequently over correct.
Resign yourself to the thought of spending on what you love
AJ: Will you DIE if you don’t scuba dive once a year? Probably not (although, I may die if I ever scuba dive again. Fear of drowning while diving…for real!). Recharging our batteries is one of the things that Kirby and I have learned to do. We both reach a certain point where we need a three day hiatus from our lives, pack our bags, and leave for a few days. We’ve been known to watch marathons of TV shows we’ve never even heard of for two days just to let go of all of the pressing things we need to take care of at home. If splurging on three nights at a hotel means that you can make it another 100 days without a day off, that’s an investment in your sanity, and I’m fairly certain your co-workers might even chip in to help cover the cost!
KJ: Some of my favorite gifts and memories were ones that had a lot of time invested (and not money) … sure the wedding ring and proposal was probably one of the greatest on the list of memories, but let’s set that one aside for now :). Some of my fondest moments were in college with hours of time spent creating photo books with reflections from the year and figuring out how to spend time with ‘my girl’ on a college budget. $5 Papa John’s pizza night anyone? Creativity not only gets you brownie points (a confusing concept for me when I had a teacher in Elementary School called “Mrs. Browning” wherein I thought these ‘brownie points’ were somehow related to her class and schoolwork), but it gives you lasting memories of time well spent.
Rely on people you trust
AJ: My girl at Ann Taylor lets me know when the pair of shoes I’ve been eyeing drops 40% in price. My travel agent sends me email updates when the all expenses paid resort we love has a special. My dog food provider lets me know when they’re running a 10% off special. Tom Thumb’s Just for U program tells me when stuff I buy regularly is especially discounted. I don’t have time to check on all of the things I want weekly, but positioning myself alongside people who are at my favorite stores daily (because they work there) means I can feel good about the deals I get on the items I really want.
The same goes for finding a good auto shop that you trust to make decisions on behalf of your vehicle and your safety. If you’re like Kirby and I, you know close to nothing about cars. Not because we don’t want to know, just because as soon as you open the hood suddenly everything looks like organs (oh, and I don’t know anything about intestines either). Find a great contractor, a great A/C repairman, etc. We do our best to plan for everything but there are just some things you can’t know to anticipate.
KJ: Building relationships around you that foster trust is a critical life skill (much easier said than done!). You really need people you can truly rely on as you progress from one stage of life to the next (graduation, marriage, home buying, starting a family). Not to be the devil’s advocate for this section, but just because you trust someone doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be well informed! It’s often when we get lackadaisical about expecting someone else to take care of our own interests that we get complacent and things can go awry. So learn to master the triple threat of bargain hunting and budgeting: (1) do your research, (2) ask good questions, and (3) rely on a trustworthy contact.
- What do you do to enjoy life without spending an arm and a leg?
Are some of your favorite memories times when money was spent or was there little involved
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