__By Lauren Bringle, AFC® __
When you’re on a budget and looking for ways to save money, it can feel like you have to say “no” a lot...
No to that dinner out with friends because you need that money for your savings account.
No to the latest clothing trends because you only shop secondhand.
No to that much-needed vacation because you need cash to buy a car.
Or whatever that no looks like for you.
With so many “nos” and only so much staying in you can handle, it can be hard to keep the savings lifestyle going for long, especially if you like going out. Just like a bad diet, you might find yourself giving up on your savings goal quickly because you’re so sick of depriving yourself of fun expenses.
Even though you feel guilty spending all your take-home pay to do it.
It doesn’t help that so many personal finance blogs advocate cutting back as the only way to start saving and keep money in the bank. But how can you save money while going out and adding joy to your life?
Here are 7 easy ways to save money and stick to a budget without being a hermit and without racking up credit card debt. You could even become the cool, trendy friend that always knows the fun stuff going on around town.
Even better news? You don’t have to get a second part-time job or start a side hustle to do it. These are all things you can do on your current income.
Many cities, communities and even some Homeowners Associations (HOAs) host free festivals, movie nights, fitness or yoga classes, etc. The trick is to get connected and seek these opportunities out.
Here are just a few of the events I’ve gone to that haven’t cost me a dime…
One time I even got to hear R.L. Stine tell ghost stories in an actual graveyard...for free. It was part of the Texas Book Festival that takes place near me each fall.
My point is, there are tons of options, especially if you live near a larger city. You just have to look for them. There are fun ways to save all around you.
The coolest thing about events like this is they get you out of your everyday routine and get you to try new things you probably never thought of before. It can lead to cool stories, fun times with friends and family, and even meeting new people.
In other words, it can lead to you being even more social through saving than you might be otherwise.
The public library's another great place to find free events for all ages. Many libraries offer craft or movie nights, storytelling or other events for kids, meetups for seniors, and all sorts of other fun stuff.
So get out of your house, connect with your local community, and support your local library. Technically your taxes already pay for it, so you might as well enjoy the benefits.
You could also enjoy the books, audiobooks, music and movies available for check-out while you’re at it.
How about hosting movie nights (or game nights, or potlucks, or insert-activity-of-choice-here) at home? Have your friends and family over for a meal, have everyone bring a dish or drink to share, and just enjoy each other’s company instead of eating out. You and your friends could trade off who hosts, so you can have “nights out” too.
If you’re close, you could even wear your PJs, or clear the furniture out of the living room and make it a dance party. Get creative, give it your own special flare, and save money at the same time.
Okay, so some museums only offer a few hours here and there that are free entry, but some museums offer full days’ worth of free fun. Depending on where you live, these free days could be weekly, monthly, or on some other schedule, but many museums have them.
These museums could include children’s museums, art museums, natural history museums, locally-focused museums and more. Look up the museums in your area and see when you can get in for free. They also make great educational experiences for kids and adults, without having to spend your hard-earned money.
Take a walk, a jog, a frisbee, a football, whatever works for you and go to the park. Get some friends together and play a sport, have a picnic, or cookout on the park's grill. If you have kids, they can run around on the playground and get all that energy out.
If you don’t have kids, take your dog to the dog park and let them make new friends.
One of my favorite money-saving tips? Get outside and be active, without spending money. Some ways to get outside could include hitting up hiking or biking trails, or even, if you already have the gear or can borrow some from friends, a camping trip.
Camping within a few hours of your home can be a great way to take a mini-vacation without costing much money. You can pack your own food to keep costs low and some states even have public lands you don’t have to pay to camp on. In other areas, the cost of a campsite can range from $10 and up per night.
This one’s for the people who already have a gym membership, subscription to a fitness channel online, or maybe even a video streaming account. The point is to take a look at your budget and maybe make a choice – to either use your subscription more, or to cut it out of your spending so you can move that money towards other things.
If you decide to use your gym membership more, for example, can you find a workout buddy or take classes through your gym to socialize while you exercise?
Whatever you choose, try to get the maximum value from the things you’re already paying for.
All that extra money you’re saving that you would otherwise spend on going out? Put that in your bank account or emergency fund instead. You’d be surprised how opting into cheaper activities can add up to a lot of money over time.
You don’t have to give up everything that brings you joy to save money. Sometimes, a commitment to saving money doesn’t limit your fun, it just expands your opportunities for doing new things in a different way. You just have to get a little more creative.
Remember, “expensive” and “fun” aren’t synonyms – they’re two completely separate things.
Lauren Bringle is an Accredited Financial Counselor® and Content Marketing Manager with Self Financial – a financial technology company with a mission to help people build credit and savings.