Fun & 21 Thrifty Ways to Have It: Budgeting 101

This is my last post in my Budgeting 101 series (previous posts are linked at the bottom), and today we are going to focus on budgeting in some fun! If you have money left over when you are making out your budget, then budget in a date night or a family night out. My husband, being the more carefree one (and me the tightwad of course), has taught me a very important lesson since we’ve been married. You have to allow yourself to enjoy the money you make, which means don’t sit in a dark room with no cable eating a bowl of Ramen noodles in a shirt with holes and stains, because you’re too cheap to replace it. That would completely be me if  I was not gifted with my wonderful husband. Nothing burns you out faster than being all work (savings and bills) and no play. Go to the movies, go out to eat every now and again, treat yourself to a new pair of shoes, get that orange cream slush from Sonic you’ve been craving, just make sure to go during Happy Hour. I said have fun, not be stupid.

My husband and I both have budgeted amounts that we can spend on whatever we want every month, and then a separate budget for fun, whatever it may be. The whole spending money part might need to be tweaked if you have children, but just change it to fit your needs and situation.  I feel like this is the area of spending that most people struggle with. They buy or do whatever they want at the beginning of the month with no set amount in mind, or without keeping track of what they’re spending, and then they end up struggling and barely scraping by less than halfway into the month. Who needs that kind of stress in their lives? No fun at all! Set an amount, and track your spending, and for goodness sake, don’t put it on a credit card.

If you are on a super tight budget, and really just don’t have any extra funds in your budget, then there are still plenty of things you can do without spending a ton. Everyone  needs a little fun in their lives broke or not, so I’ve included 21 thrifty ways to do just that!


1. Go to a drive-in movie. It’s usually a double feature, so you get two movies for the price of one, and it’s a lot cheaper than a regular theater (at least around these parts). Plus you can bring your own snacks and drinks from home.

2. Grab a pizza from Little Caesars (or make your own!), and have a game night with your family. Board games, video games, card games, charades, you name it. My friend recently introduced me to a game called Fishbowl. Real real fun.

3. Invite friends or family over for a potluck meal. You’ve gotta eat anyways, so it’s not like it will cost you that much more money. Unless you were planning on eating tuna out of a can… If you’re a jerk you can just serve them the tuna.

4. Play a game of basketball, throw around the football, toss a baseball back and forth, or maybe play a hardcore game of badminton. You can find plenty of sports balls or sets at thrift stores and garage sales easily.

5. Put together a puzzle. You can find other friends or family who like puzzles, and borrow each other’s, so you don’t have to go out and buy a new one every time. Unless all your friends are lame and don’t like puzzles.

6. Have themed movie marathons via Netflix. It could be a specific genre, decade, or a combination of the two. 80’s animation anyone? Or maybe 90’s vampire flicks?

7. Go hiking somewhere beautiful and have a picnic. Fill your basket with yummy fruits and a tasty sandwich. If you’re really cheap I guess you could hunt down your food and cook it over a fire, but, um, I’m not recommending that.

8. Look up free events nearby. It could be speakers, movies in the park, free concerts, or festivals. You can look up colleges to see if they are having any speakers or free events (I scored a speech from Ralph Nader one time!), you could check your local paper for community events, or just use good old trusty google.

9. Instead of going out to eat, go out for dessert somewhere affordable like Sonic at Happy Hour as mentioned above. Or just buy a cheap tub of ice cream and wallow in how broke you are (not recommended).

10. Explore garage sales, estate sales, thrift stores, and flea markets for something quirky and cool. I’ve found a vintage Coach satchel for $5, a shiny pleated silver skirt, and an awesome mermaid bookend, among countless other items! It’s like hunting for treasure.

11. Learn how to bake something new with someone, or if you have a kiddo, teach them how to cook something. Play music, and definitely lick the spoon afterwards.

12. Make a time capsule of current photos, news articles, letters, to do lists, etc. that are representative of your life or current events going on. Maybe write yourself a letter to open in 20 years!

13. Sit around a fire roasting marshmallows and hotdogs, and tell funny stories. Firewood is cheapest in cool weather seasons, or you can just chop your own if you’re willing to do a little hard work, and have trees to cut.

14. Have a water gun or balloon fight. The Dollar Tree is an excellent source of ammo. You could do a surprise ambush.  Just make sure you leave weapons for your victim to retaliate with, or it’s kind of lame and just plain rude.

15. Camp out in your backyard. Stargaze, cuddle, drink hot chocolate, forget your phones, and interact with your humans.

16. Create a romantic dinner at home with candles, dim lighting, and lots of pasta. Bribe one of your children to act as your waiter or waitress by letting them out of their chores for a week. I don’t have kids, so I don’t really know if this is appropriate or realistic. I haven’t been able to get my cats to do it.

17. Watch a meteor shower or an eclipse. Natural events are free and incredible! Make sure you take advantage people!

18. Grab some coffee, and take a morning walk around your town observing all the life occurring around you, the conversations, the smells, the little critters. Or just throw on a pair of headphones, and don’t make eye contact with anyone, so they don’t talk to you.

19. Do a crafty project. You can find plenty of inspiration through Pinterest or Martha Stewart. I’m not really a crafty person, but I’ve found a lot of supplies from estate sales that are now sitting in a bin in the back of my closet unused.

20. Check out FREE books or DVDs from the library. Half the fun is exploring the shelves, and picking something out. They say nothing in life is free, well libraries are! Unless you aren’t very good at returning your books on time…

21. If all else fails just play Hide & Seek!

Do you have any thrifty ideas for having fun? Share below.


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A Guide to Creating & Sticking to a Budget

Money, Ways to Make More & Ways to Save More

Overcoming Debt & Creating a Savings

Photo by: Morgan Sessions

7 thoughts on “Fun & 21 Thrifty Ways to Have It: Budgeting 101

  1. I really love this list – my favorite is the picnic. I forget how simple and easy it can be to organize one, and how much fun it can actually be!!

  2. Visiting thrift shops/Goodwill stores are the best shopping my Mister and I have done. Most of the time we are looking for something specific, but sometimes not. It’s amazing what you can find, but it’s also, well, crazy at what you can find! We normally find at least one thing to have a good laugh at in each store! And also, a great place to buy clothing. While it may not always be the most stylish of things, there’s at least a larger variety of styles than in a regular store!

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