I spend way too much money on fast food and unnecessary items that I don't need to buy. When I look at my bank statement, I'm broke before my next paycheck. How can I have fun and go out without spending money?
"Everyone needs weekly spending money," said FPA member Delia Fernandez, MBA, CFP®, of Fernandez Financial Advisory. "The trick is to find the right amount." FPA member Lloyd Yamada, CFP®, of LSY Financial Group, said, "It is okay to spend a little money on yourself. The important thing is to not overspend."
For the average middle-class consumer, that might be $50 to $100 per week. "I'm a big fan of the envelope system, where you put aside that special spending amount in an envelope at the start of the week, and when the money runs out, you're done spending," Fernandez said. "That means no more reaching for the debit or credit card when you want to buy something and no more extra trips to the ATM."
As for your spending on unnecessary items, Fernandez said, "Let's be honest. Most everyone gets pleasure from shopping, even if just for a few minutes or hours. But I'm wondering if you could be a compulsive shopper. Ask yourself: Do you need to spend every day? Do you need to spend more than you have? Or do you need to spend more than your friends spend?"
Other planners agreed. "If you are broke all the time from spending too much money on fast food and shopping, you need to rethink your lifestyle and your approach to money," said FPA member Eva Levine, J.D., CFP®, a principal with Plenaris Advisory. "If you have total control over your own money, you have nobody to blame but yourself. There are ways to save money and make more money, while having fun. You just have to apply your ingenuity to think it through."
According to Fernandez, research shows that genuine happiness that's long-lived comes from activities, and not from things. Find free attractions in your area, including parks, museums, art walks and other recreational areas. There are plenty of free things to do across the country; pick some and enjoy yourself!
Also, check out this FPA blog for more ideas about things to do that don't break the bank.