In Defense of the Fun Budget

There’s this thing that happens when people find out I blog about money.

It goes something like this.

“Oh my god, I’m so bad at money – I spend so much on _______.”

That blank can be a lot of things, from craft beer to restaurants to clothes to a dog (ahem, hi. Me and my bonkers-expensive dog will just stay quiet on this one.) No matter what that blank is, there’s one constant: it is always, invariably, something that person really likes having in their life.

Maybe even loves.

So they spend money on it, and then they hear personal finance blog and the Guilt Monster pops up with a reminder that

“Oh my god, you spent money on a thing you like. That’s bad, and you should feel bad about it.”

And all I want to do is punch that Guilt Monster right in the face. Because, shocking personal finance truth:

You can be great with money and still spend money on things that make you happy.

In fact, if you’re not spending anything at all on things that make you happy, I’d argue that you aren’t doing money right in the first place.

Here’s exactly how you can keep spending money on things you love, and be a money rockstar at the same time: set a fun budget. Put aside a specific amount of money in your monthly plan, every month, that you get to spend on whatever you want, guilt-free.

Man, that was easy, eh?

If you want a quick guideline on how much you should be putting into your fun budget every month, check out the One-Minute Budget – all you need to do is put in the number on your paycheque, and it’ll give you a rough idea of how much fun money you can spend every month. (Seriously, it’s that easy.)

It’s that easy, and it’s also that worth it, because here’s just some of the benefits I’ve experienced now that I have a fun budget baked into my monthly spending.

You Know How Much You Can Spend On _______ Every Month

Whatever your blank is, you’ve now got a clear guideline on how much you can spend on it.

Maybe it’s computers, and your budget will allow for a new game every month, but not necessarily a new computer. Maybe it’s shoes, and you can buy a nice new pair of shoes once a month, but not a new pair of Louboutins (because omg that’s not a pair of shoes, it’s a mortgage payment.)

It doesn’t matter what it is, because in every single category of things that people like, there are really bonkers expensive options, and then there are options that you can enjoy every month. Your fun budget helps you figure out which ones are which.

You Can Find Ways To Enjoy Things Strategically

I love books. Like, l-o-v-e them. Do I still read them? All the time. Do I still budget $50 a month to buy new books from Amazon? Nope.

I realized that my enjoyment of books is exactly the same whether I own them or not, and that the library is a readily available source of free books. That one decision gives me an extra $50 every month to spend on date night or new clothes or patio beers with friends – all things that are much harder to get for free.

I might be cute, but I’m not get-drinks-for-free cute.

You Get a Clear Picture of Your Priorities

When you have a set amount of fun money, yes, you will have to make some choices during the month if you’re going to stay within that budget. You can have the restaurant meals, guilt-free, but maybe you can’t also have the subscription box or the stack of new books or the mini-vacation.

As you make those decisions, you’ll be more and more aware of how much you’re really enjoying the things you’re buying, if only because you know you could be buying something else with the money. You can’t help but notice which types of spending add the most happiness to your life when you’re aware of it, and you’ll start to prioritize those things.

In that way, literally, a fun budget will increase your overall happiness.

You Can Banish the Guilt Monster

If you’re on my email list, you’ve heard this already, but I bought An Expensive Thing last week: a day planner that retails for $75. Before tax.

That’s crazy, right? I’m a personal finance blogger and I spent $75 + tax on something I 100% do not need. But – and this is the beauty of the fun budget – I wanted it.

I had been using that day planner’s free printables to keep myself organized, and they had a huge impact on how I thought about my day and how productive I’ve been. So I wanted to buy the full version when it came out – and I did.

Guilt-free, because I scaled a little bit back on other fun spending this month.

That’s the real key to balancing “being awesome at money” and “spending on the things you love.”

When you set a fun budget as part of your monthly spending, you’re giving yourself permission to do whatever you want with that money – but only that money. You’re balancing your wants with your needs and your long term goals, because you’re taking care of those in other parts of your budget.

This strategy is also the only way to consistently hit your goals month after month, by the way, because trying to cut everything fun out of your life is a recipe for budget disaster.

It’d be like telling yourself you can never eat carbs again. You might do really well for two months, but month three? Let’s just say you might find yourself staring down the biggest bowl of pasta anyone’s ever seen.

I speak from personal experience here.

So seriously, friends: please give yourself a fun budget, and enjoy the hell out of every dollar in it. Stop feeling so guilty for spending that makes your life great. If it’s not compromising your money goals and your ability to take care of your needs, it’s actually one of the best things you can do with your money.

Do you set aside a specific amount of guilt-free spending money every month? Have you experienced any of the same benefits I have because of it – or additional ones I forgot to include? Let me know in the comments!