Trying to balance a good life now while still saving for later has been my motto for several years now. I feel like this is what people truly mean when they ask how they can budget better, make more money, or have money leftover after bills are paid each month.
We all want to enjoy the present because we don’t know what tomorrow holds, but at the same time, we also need to prepare our finances for the future and save for things like retirement, emergencies, and big purchases.
So how can you still make the most of your life now and indulge a little while still being able to plan your finances for later on in life? I decided to share a few practical tips that have helped me over the years along with tons of other people.
If you can focus on doing even half of these things, you’ll have a much better chance of balancing the two.
Budget For the Fun Stuff
When you write out your budget, don’t forget to include categories for fun and entertainment, dining out, and other hobbies you enjoy. It’s important to be realistic and plan out your spending for these areas of your life. If you’re going to be spending on them anyway, you might as well add them to the budget.
Instead of depriving yourself and saying you can’t spend money on dining out or your hobbies at all, it helps to have a dedicated spending amount for these areas – even if it’s low.
Find Free Stuff to Do
You really don’t have to sacrifice saving if set a goal to get out and find free entertainment opportunities. We have a low monthly entertainment and dining out budget for our family but we still have a lot of fun together.
I often find free events and festivals, we attend local sports games or ride bikes in the area if we want to get out of the house. My husband and I also check out a free comedy show nearby sometimes and there are $1 classic movies at one of our local theatres.
Our town also has an event called First Fridays where many of the shops and businesses in the downtown area offer free services. On these days, we can visit all of the museums for free and check out other businesses to see what they offer.
Use Rewards For Big Purchases Like Travel
If you like to travel, you can still vacation and visit new places without foregoing savings. I have a friend who helped his wife pay off her medical school students loans all while still traveling.
They did live in a smaller apartment and drive an older car to save money but they also utilized rewards points from credit cards and other sites and apps.
You can also use sites like Rakuten (formerly known as Ebates), and Ibotta to earn cash back rewards on your regular purchases. Another thing I like to do to save money on travel is book my flights with the Hopper app which is free and helps you find the best prices.
Pay Yourself First
Get into the habit of paying yourself first if you don’t want to worry about having enough money left over to save at the end of each month. Odds are, if you let money sit in your account and don’t assign a purpose for it, you’ll find something to blow it on.
Instead, set a firm savings goal and transfer your savings as soon as you get paid so you don’t have to worry about it. You’ll find a way to budget and make ends meet with what you have leftover.
Automate Your Personal and Retirement Savings
As you pay yourself first, make it even easier and automate your personal and retirement savings. We have tons of savings goals and I simply set up automatic monthly transfers to ensure we reach them.
For example, I estimated we will need about $800 or so to spend on Christmas and related holiday expenses this year. I set up an automatic transfer of $70 to go from our checking account to our savings account each month. That way, I don’t have to think about saving or worry about having enough.
When it comes to your retirement savings, you definitely want to automate contributions if you haven’t already. If you have a 401(k) through your employer, the money is already coming out automatically.
If you have an individual retirement account or IRA, set up automatic transfers ASAP so you can grow your fund and get closer to reaching financial independence. Start low if you have to until you are able to find more money to invest. I started out by contributing $100 per month which is better than nothing.
Find a Side Hustle/Career That You Love
As the popular saying goes, find a job you love and you’ll never work a day in your life. We will spend so many hours working over the course of our lives.
You might as well settle in a career that you love so you can actually enjoy working every day. If you’re interested in earning extra money through a side hustle, make sure you choose something that you’re good at or a hobby that you can monetize.
That way, work won’t seem so stressful or boring.
Tell Your Kids ‘No’ or ‘Not Right Now’ Sometimes
It’s okay to tell your kids not right now or even no when they are asking for things. Sometimes, as parents, we believe that we have to give our kids everything they ask for in order to provide them with a good life. This just isn’t true.
Realize that some sacrifice is necessary if you want to find a better balance between living for now and saving for the future.
You will have to say no to different people included your kids sometimes even though you love them. Focus on getting priorities straight in your household. Find out what everyone values and prioritize it. Let go of some of the extra impulses and save your money instead.
At the end of the day, it’s definitely possible to enjoy life to the fullest now while still stacking up money for future opportunities. You may have to cut some expenses here and there or increase your income over time, but it will all pay off.