Perhaps the most common advice we hear these days is that happiness involves striking a balance between work and play. It’s often easier said than done. That is unless money is no object and you can hire a staff to take care of all your responsibilities.
While many people find budgeting a chore, it’s also one of the best ways to save. When you sit down and create a budget, you’re investing in your financial future. You may think budgeting automatically means limiting yourself. In fact, it simply means spending money in smarter ways. You’ll start to think about what expenses are really important to you, and what could better be allocated elsewhere.
Ultimately, living on a budget doesn’t mean sacrificing happiness. You can enjoy a work-life balance on a budget. Here are five ideas for putting money back in your wallet while still living a fun, balanced life.
1. Exercise: App vs. Gym
There’s no question that investing in your health and wellness is important any way you look at it. Many fitness centers advertise tempting promotional rates for memberships, and you may think that you won’t miss $10 to $30 a month. Although they may not appear expensive at first, they quickly add up to an unnecessary expense, especially if you never go. You might be stuck late at work or too tired to make the trek at the end of a workday.
Instead, consider one of the many fitness apps that cost a fraction of the gym membership, and give you a range of exercises to work out in your home or office. Many fitness apps offer a stepwise program to get started on running with regimens as short as 15 to 20 minutes per session. If you’re looking to cut this expense out completely, consider one of the many available free YouTube workouts.
2. Vacation: Rental vs. Hotel
Vacations are a fabulous way to unwind and recharge. Even if you take advantage of amazing travel deals, your vacation may still break the bank. When you add the cost of food, transportation, and entertainment, a once-reasonable vacation may seem like an impossible expense.
Instead of a hotel, consider an Airbnb, VRBO or HomeAway. These sites can offer much less expensive accommodations, also provide resources for you to cook food. If you’re still researching ways to travel, look into an RV rental through a company like RVShare.com for a more local road trip getaway. This is an ideal solution for families. It helps you save more by avoiding hotels and plane flights, while reducing food and entertainment costs.
3. Socializing: Game Night vs. Night Out
Life balance is all about going out once in a while. But it can start to break the bank. You may have thought you were just going to a movie or a happy hour, but did that ever turn into a full dinner, movie, and more? Rather than skip the opportunity to relax and connect with your friends, consider hosting a game night at your house.
Grab some interactive board games like Monopoly, Scrabble, or anything else that may be gathering dust in the closet. You can also find some newer, fun games for less than $20. Instead of ordering food or cooking up a feast, encourage everyone to bring something to contribute to a potluck.
4. Household Chores: Teens vs. Services
After you get home from work, the last thing on your mind is keeping up with your chores. On the weekends, you probably want to enjoy yourself and not clean your house or tend to your yard. However, paying for a house cleaner or professional landscaping service is expensive.
Maybe you’ve noticed in local Facebook groups or neighborhood online communities that there are teens out there searching for jobs. Have you ever done a double-take wondering what that kid is doing pushing the mower down the street? Motivated young people can do these chores at a fraction of a cost. Tapping the teen market helps these kids of course, and it improves your work-life balance too.
5. Meals: Meal Prep vs. Eat Out
No one can deny that eating out is easy and fast. Pizza, Chinese food and fast food are delicious, but they aren’t healthy options. Meal prepping is an ideal way to build a more balanced life with your budget. You can save money and enjoy ready-to-heat healthier entrees when you get home from a long day of work.
There are websites and YouTube channels devoted to meal prepping. Instead of cooking every night after work, you can buy and prepare all your weekly meals in a few hours, once a week. Also, consider doing meal prep with friends so that you can get some variety in your meals.
John Boitnott has been writing for TV, print, radio and internet companies for 25 years. He’s written for BusinessInsider, Fortune, NBC, Fast Company, Inc., Entrepreneur and Venturebeat, among others.
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