Entertainment, leisure activities, and lifestyle are often the first things to get cut when tightening the financial belt. It’s unfortunate, but at the same time, this can save you quite a bit of money. Hobbies can be expensive, so it makes sense that this might be an effective way to reduce spending.
However, even though cutting yourself off entirely from your hobby (whether it be movies, books, comics, golf, or anything else) might be a good way to reduce spending, it may not be entirely necessary. In fact, leaving some money in the budget for relaxing activities is actually healthy and much-needed!
There are ways you can reduce this expense without depriving yourself of the things you love. If you keep your wits about you, you can savor the joy of indulging yourself without the guilt of thinking about how it’ll ruin your budget. There are quite a few ways to go about this.
PREFERRED CUSTOMER PROGRAMS
Similar to the grocery cards previously mentioned, these loyalty cards don’t so much give you access to sale items (though they can often add an additional discount on sale items), rather they reward you with gift certificates or cards for spending a certain amount of money. The standard rate is usually around $5 for every $100 spent, though it’ll vary from store to store.
Many times, the store will have some sort of event where you can earn double or triple points. Even if they don’t, the points don’t usually expire, so you can work at your own rate to get to your desired number of points and your money-saving reward.
For example, some bookstores offer a rewards program as well as a blanket discount for their preferred customers. This works in your favor on two fronts and if you can find a bookstore that has such a setup, it’s a great way to save money on things that you were going to buy anyway.
Some loyalty programs will offer a discount of perhaps 10% off the price. Depending on what state you live in, this won’t do much more than negate the sales tax, but money is money and it can add up to significant savings.
So look for preferred customer programs in stores where you spend your “fun” money. These programs can help you continue to enjoy your hobby while spending less.
A great way to save money on your hobby is to buy used items. Stores such as Wal-Mart or GameStop have sections reserved for used games or movies. Movie rental stores also sell used copies of movies and games. When compared to the price of a new item, there is usually a fairly drastic difference.
For the comic collector, many back issues can be found at a much lower price compared to the ticket price. There is also the option of trade paperbacks. Many comic readers have actually converted to that as it’s often cheaper.
Book fanatics will also find that used bookstores are a boon when it comes to saving money on their literary addiction. Paperback books are fairly inexpensive in their own right, but a used one is even less. Spending two or three dollars as opposed to six or seven may not seem like much, but every little bit counts.
Another way to save money is to buy things online. With popular websites like Amazon or eBay, you can often find the item you’re looking for at a price much lower than the one you’ll see in any store.
This also has the benefit of convenience as you don’t have to go out to the store, saving you both time and gas money.
In addition to the low prices, Amazon will frequently offer items on sale. Most of the time, it’s usually a couple of dollars (though discounts like that add up over time) but occasionally you can find expensive items for a drastically reduced price.
For example, recently Amazon marked down a bookshelf from $150 to $50. A trade paperback that was normally priced at $60 sold for a mere $10. Impulse shopping on the web can be a dangerous habit, but with markdowns like these and a healthy dose of willpower to stop while you’re ahead, you can save a bundle.
RATION PURCHASES OVER TIME
There’s nothing wrong with buying the things you want or indulging in a hobby. You work hard for your money, so of course you’ll want to treat yourself right. It only becomes a budget issue when it causes you to spend more than you have coming in.
If you’re a collector and you feel the urge to go out and expand your library of whatever your pleasure may be, a way to meet your wallet halfway is to buy these items at a reduced rate.
So, if you’re a movie fanatic, rather than going out and buying five or six new movies a week, reduce it to two or three every couple weeks, or rent the movies instead.
If you enjoy going out on the town for entertainment, rather than going out every weekend, cut it down to perhaps once per month, and enjoy the company of family and friends at home on the other weekends. It could be your house or theirs. Vary it for a change of pace!
Maybe you have a gigantic Amazon wish list and you want to start putting a dent in that bad boy. Rather than whipping out your credit card and clicking compulsively until the card is maxed out, come up with a system where you pick items one by one.
Your system could be to allow one or two items each month, or you could decide to budget a specific amount, like $25 a month, for this one wish list. This technique has the added bonus of turning a variable expense into a constant one.
Even if you’re a gadget junkie, you can still implement a similar system. Promise yourself that you won’t go out and buy a high ticket gizmo until the one you just bought is paid off. This will keep you from getting buried in debt. It may take you longer to acquire the desired items, but you’ll do it in a fiscally responsible way.
Implementing this kind of purchasing program is also beneficial in the long term. For instance, when you get a promotion or raise, training yourself to ration out the indulgences will allow you to keep more of your money and give you financial breathing room later on down the line.