Yen & You: Fun budgets (yes, they actually do exist!)

By Austin Morgan

Some individuals like learning about money-related topics, but a majority of people in society would rather sit in a dark room for 48 hours and pick at their fingernails. I get it, money doesn’t make everyone tick.

The bad news for the people who choose the dark room option is that you can’t avoid money. It’s here to stay and the more you know about it, the easier your life becomes.

So how do you promote savings in your life, without dying of boredom? By saving for travel, entertainment, going out, and other fun things in your life.

Personal finance is too often about what you can’t do with your money. Stop buying concert tickets, stop traveling, spend less — which really means live less.

The reason a lot of people avoid learning about the money in their lives is that they don’t want to come to grips with that reality — the reality that they’ll have to sacrifice some of the things they love. But the reality is, you don’t have to sacrifice all the fun things.

If your spending is out of control, a fun budget is the perfect way to put a damper on your spending problems, without disrupting your whole lifestyle.

Do you love to travel, but find yourself in debt from doing it a little too often? Here’s an example of how you could create a fun budget to get your expenses under control.

1.) Estimate your current monthly travel expenses. Add up how much you spent on trains, planes, buses, food, hostels, hotels and capsules in one month. Every last cent matters, so be honest with yourself about your expenses. If you consider yourself an avid traveler, this number might be pretty startling. Write down this number.

2.) Figure out an amount you consider reasonable for travel every month. If you’re in debt, this number should probably be 25 percent of your current travel expenses. If you’re pretty good with your money, maybe 50 to 75 percent of your current monthly travel expenses would be more reasonable.

Take into account your personal money goals and obligations. How much do you want to have when you leave Japan? Will you need to get a car, apartment, furniture, etc., when you get back?

Once you’ve done some money soul searching, write down the number that will become your travel budget.

3.) Every month when you get your paycheck, go to the ATM and take out the amount that’s in your travel budget. A lot of people use a budgeting tool called the envelope system. It’s good for creating distinct spending categories — like travel. Put that money in an envelope marked “travel”.

4.) Use this money to your heart’s content. But when it’s gone, you cannot dip into your checking account. Repeat: avoid the ATM and credit cards when your travel envelope is empty on the 12th. You’ve used up the travel budget for the month and you’ll have to wait until next month to travel again (this is the sacrifice part of personal finance that most of us despise).

Some people also create a fun budget for a “Going Out” category. Maybe you’re a cheap person who saves too much and worry yourself to death over a $15 drink tab at the bar. Or maybe it’s the opposite and you’re spending on nights out is out of hand, and you don’t know how to stop it.

Once again, figure out your current spending on going out for one month.

Determine a reasonable amount for yourself every month and take that out every month and put it in your “Going Out” envelope.

Spend that money! Don’t let it go to waste. Go out with friends, travel, visit a restaurant you’ve never been to, treat yourself to some new clothes. This is your money, so use it and enjoy it! But once that money is gone, it’s gone. Don’t go dipping into your savings. You should shoot for $50 or less left over at the end of the month.

The travel and going out budgets are there to remind us that money doesn’t have to be all about debt, credit cards, loans, and bills.

If you can’t enjoy your money, then why are we working so hard to get it?

Photo by alancleaver_2000, published under Flickr Creative Commons License CC BY 2.0.

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