What is fun money?
I think recess is one of the most brilliant concepts ever invented. Teachers know that giving kids a small, limited amount of time to run around, scream and play, greatly increases their capacity to learn throughout the school day.
In budgeting, we need a little dose of recess too. It’s called fun money. And it is one of my all time favorite budgeting tips.
Fun Money is a small, limited amount of money you allow yourself to spend on, you guessed it, fun. It’s a budgeting game changer. Why? Because like kids without recess, if you don’t allow yourself to spend money on fun, you will start to dread budgeting. It will become boring, tedious and tiresome. Like middle school.
Do you really think pre-teens are moody, and quick-tempered because of puberty? A bunch of 90 pound kids carrying 50 pound backpacks just had 40 minutes of daily joy ripped from their lives forever. Tell me you wouldn’t be bummed out for awhile, too.
Give yourself a budgeting recess, and allow yourself some fun money.
For more on fun money, read our related post: The 10 Steps Of Budgeting.
Why is fun money important?
When my wife and I were engaged and saving for a wedding, we were not on a written budget. We were on a theoretical budget that had one rule: “Don’t spend money on anything fun. Ever.” It was obviously a well thought-out plan. And it worked for about 2 months. Until, one day when I went to Home Depot and spent $90 on a couple small tools.
The shame I felt walking through the parking lot was almost unbearable. I sat in my car for 30 minutes, wondering how I could possibly explain this to Katie. “Sweetheart, I know you wanted centerpieces at the wedding, but this set of router bits was more important to me.” Or maybe, “Katie, I know you have always pictured yourself carrying a bouquet down the aisle, but I went ahead and spent that money on a palm sander.” She would probably cry, call off the wedding and eventually marry a guy that didn’t spend so frivolously. In the words of Chris Stapleton, I’d have “nobody to blame but me.”
You know what she actually said when I told her about my shameful, frivolous act? “Zach, we have been saving like crazy, and you haven’t spent money on anything fun in a long time. It’s really ok.” She is an unbelievable woman. And she was right.
When you are on a budget, if you restrict yourself like we did, you are bound to fail. Not because you are a failure, but because you didn’t allow yourself a 20 minute recess. Remember, the purpose of budgeting is to control your money and pre-determine how it will be spent. So, if you budget a specific amount of money for fun, and you stay within that amount, it isn’t frivolous, it is responsible — and guilt free.
The freedom of fun money.
Since Katie is more of a ‘Nordstrom Shoe Department Girl,’ and I’m clearly a ‘Home Depot Tool Section Guy,’ we each get our own fun money. It’s the one part of our marriage where, what’s hers is hers, and what’s mine is mine.
But this is where the freedom of fun money really shines. As long as we stay within our fun money budget, we are free to spend it as frivolously as we want — shame and guilt free.
Now, when Katie buys a pair of shoes every month, I am happy for her. I actually think it’s cute. And now she enjoys when I buy tools from Home Depot.
Our fun money freed us from any marital tension that is brought about by frivolous spending.
It’s important to note that we are very strict about our fun money limits. We are in agreement that spending even a penny more than our budgeted amount is unacceptable. Meaning, if we each have $150 budgeted for fun money, and one of us wants to spend $150.01, it is not allowed.
So, this begs the question, “What if I want to buy something that costs more than my budgeted amount fun money?”
Well, that brings me to my final point.
You keep what you don’t spend.
I want to buy a $1,400 bandsaw. That is clearly a fun money purchase. But how am I supposed to buy that when I only get $150 of fun money each month.
Easy. I get to keep all the fun money I don’t spend. So really, I can buy whatever I want, provided I have the patience and discipline to save my fun money long enough. You might be thinking, “well that’s underwhelming.” But let me attempt to shift your thinking on the matter.
Over the last few years, I haven’t purchased a tool with a price tag anywhere near $1,400. Remember how much guilt I felt after the $90 Home Depot excursion? Well, multiply that by 16, and you get this bandsaw. The guilt is unfathomable. I’d have to take up residence in the home depot parking lot.
However, now that I have fun money, I can buy a $1,400 guilt-free piece of woodworking machinery every 10 months. All it takes is patience. Can you imagine how awesome my wood shop will be in 5 years? And to think, it’s all because of a measly $150 per month.
Budgeting Tip Summary:
- Fun money is like recess. This small, structured amount of money will greatly increase your chance of budgeting, and financial success.
- Fun money eliminates the shame and guilt caused by frivolous purchases.
- Fun money has the power to remove the financial tension within your marriage.
- Be strict about your fun money limits, and spend freely within them.
- You get to keep the fun money you don’t spend.
- If you want to make a big, guilt free purchase, all you have to do is save your fun money for a little while.
How much fun money will you include in your budget this month? And how will you spend it?
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In the meantime, happy budgeting!