7 ways to make living on a budget fun

by Burke Does

When I tell people I'm sticking to a budget, I usually get one of a couple reactions: people either totally understand, are on-board, and very supportive or they think I'm ridiculous and need to "live a little." A budget is not a ball and chain. A budget gives you permission to spend your money. It lets you be level-headed because you've planned out your spending. You may think that budgeting isn't fun (you don't have to geek out over it like I do), but it doesn't have to be painful either. Sure, living on a budget means we don't spend extravagantly, but when I'm debt-free next fall, ask me how I'm doing. Here are seven great ways to make you look at spending and saving in a whole new way.

piggybank and money tower


Living on a budget is more than just saving money; it's also about finding ways to supplement your income. Do you have any old sports equipment or electronics that you're not using anymore? Sell them on eBay or Craigslist. Clean out your closet and take your gently worn clothes to a consignment store. Some will even pay you cash on the spot so you don't have to wait. Sign up for Swagbucks as a very passive way to make some extra money.


Make a game out of holding out to see how long you can go without spending anything. Whether you're doing a No Spend Challenge or a category Spending Ban, game-ify not-spending-money and it will be fun! Can you wait an extra day to go grocery shopping? How about cleaning out your closet to see what you have instead of buying a new outfit. See it as a challenge. Or maybe you can find another way to get what you need without buying it. Can you barter or trade for something?


Entertainment can be one of the biggest expenses in a budget. Going out for dinner and drinks every weekend adds up. Check your local area for free activities like festivals, nature centers and museums. Visit a local state park for a hike. Challenge yourself to find one free activity every week. Libraries are great for FREE books!


There are plenty of apps to help you track your money; making the process of sticking to your goals more fun. I use Everydollar and Learnvest! My sister prefers Mint. One's not better than another, they're just different. Find the one that works for you.


Can you find an online focus group or review group to join that will either pay you in cash or gift cards that you can use to shop? There are several sites out there, find one you like and spend a little time in the evening or on the weekend filling out surveys or review products for a little extra green.


Doing something you don't like becomes more fun when you do it with friends. Find an accountability group where you can get together with friends to compare notes about saving money. If you can't find a group, start one of your own. You may find it easier to stay motivated with like-minded friends sharing. Start a Facebook Group to share ideas and articles you find that everyone can benefit from. You might like the Shield Sisters Sanctuary.


When you reach it, find a way to celebrate. A manicure for paying off a loan! A pedicure for hitting the next thousand mark! You deserve it!

The post 7 ways to make living on a budget fun appeared first on Burke Does.

RELATED: 11 budgeting skills everyone should master

11 budgeting skills everyone should master
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11 budgeting skills everyone should master

1. See Money as a Tool

We tend to think of money in a lot of different ways. Money can be freedom, it can be despair, it can mean power or significance, or any one of a number of things. The point is, to be good at budgeting, develop the mindset that money is a tool. It helps you do the things that you want and need to do. No matter how much or how little you have, your money can help you achieve your goals.

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2. Record Your Transactions

On a practical level, you will need a record of your transactions to start a budget, and you will need to keep recording them to continue budgeting. You can do this by hand, via an app, or once a week on a spreadsheet. Do it however works for you, but learn to record your transactions and you will be well on your way to budgeting.

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3. Assess Your Spending

Recording your transactions won't help if you never think about them. Learn to categorize your transactions in whatever way is meaningful for you, so you can see how much you're spending in different areas. This can help you decide where to spend more, where to spend less, and what cutting back might look like in your everyday life.

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4. Make a Budget

This might be the most obvious skill in this list, but it's also one of the most important. There are spreadsheets you can download, programs like YNAB and Mint that help you see your spending in different ways, and more. Some things to think about before you choose a method involve deciding whether you want to go old school or online, and whether you want to store it on your personal computer or in the cloud.

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5. Write It Out

Throughout the budgeting and recording process, it will help if you actually write things out. This can be on a computer, though there is something about the act of writing something and then seeing it there in your own handwriting that helps you remember. Whatever you do, don't keep your budget in your head. It's easy for numbers to become fuzzy and for you to forget about your budget entirely. Instead, put your budget where you can see it often, so that it feels real and you remember your goals.

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6. Plan Ahead

When you make your budget, don't just think about what you need right now, or even your monthly expenses. Think, too, about expenses that only come around every so often. Car insurance, life insurance, and property taxes are a few line items that can fall into these categories. Then, save a little bit of money every month toward these items, so you can pay them without worry when that bill shows up.

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7. Include Spending Money

If you don't have spending money, you will feel like your budget is a cage you need to break out of, rather than a structure supporting you and your goals. Even if all you can afford is $5, give yourself something. This can go against the grain, especially if you have a lot of debt or very little income. However, you are important. And you will be happier keeping your budget if you know you have a little money you can spend however you want.

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8. Make a System That Works for You

It's easy to get sucked into a system that doesn't work for you. For instance, you may not be able to track your spending every day. If that's you, then don't buy into a budgeting system that requires this. There are plenty of systems where you can record once a week, or so. If the system doesn't work for you, you won't do it, and there won't be any value to budgeting. Keep trying things until you find something you like.

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9. Live With Discipline

This is a huge skill and one that won't happen overnight. Living a disciplined life, though, will go far toward helping you make and keep your budget. Pay attention to your budget. Update it. And when you don't have any money left for something, stop spending! It can help to breathe through your desires, to remind yourself of your bigger goals, and to give yourself a waiting period before you buy things.

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10. Know When to Splurge

This is a tricky skill, especially in light of the one above. However, there are times in every life when it's right to splurge. This doesn't have to be a huge spending binge — it can be something as small as a coffee with a friend. A lot of times, this comes into play when you choose to buy something of a higher quality even though it costs more. It's up to you to decide when to splurge, but make sure there's some room for it in your financial life.

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11. Ask Yourself Hard Questions

When you're budgeting alone or you are the one in charge of the budget, it can be easy to let things slide. Get into the habit of asking yourself hard questions, like, "Why do I always spend too much on entertainment?" and "Am I realistically able to take that vacation this year?" You may not like the answers you find, but being honest with yourself will ultimately help you become more aware of who you are and how things work inside of you — which will help you meet your goals, financial and otherwise.

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