A budget doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom. Factor in some mad money and keep the rewards coming.
Sticking to a budget doesn’t mean you have to deprive yourself of life’s little luxuries, you just have to plan for them and keep impulse buying under control. Hopefully you’ll be inspired to stick to your savings plan if you get to reward yourself every so often.
That’s where ‘mad money’ comes into play. It’s money you allocate into your budget for luxuries like dining out, impulse shopping, extra weekends away – whatever makes you feel like you’re living a good life. Mad money can often be the difference between sticking to your budget, and giving it up altogether because your strict budget doesn’t allow for any fun.
When drawing up your budget, work out how much you can afford and treat mad money like another category or expense. That way, you can remove the guilt out of having a bit of a spending spree every now and then. You’ve budgeted for it, so you’re allowed to spend your mad money any way you choose.
Look for ways to make your luxuries budget go further and save where you can. Here are some ideas to get the most fun out of your mad money.
Make the most of cheap Tuesday
Switch your date night from Saturday to Tuesday and pay less for restaurants, cinemas, even bowling. You can save almost half on your movie ticket at cinemas on Super Tuesdays. Bars and restaurants also offer happy hours and dining discounts not seen on the weekend.
Also take the opportunity to pamper yourself for less. Everything from beauticians to car washes offer discounts on a particular day of the week. Always be sure to ask.
You should also check with your favourite restaurants and takeaways to see if they have specials on certain days.
Buy second hand
You don’t have to miss out on upgrading your appliances, cars or devices, but spend your mad money well.
Buy big-ticket items second hand and save a fortune. Search online marketplaces like Gumtree or eBay for bargains on everything from strollers to televisions to bikes that are still in mint condition.
Another alternative is to buy from a seconds website like 2nds World. Same product to splurge on, just with minor dings or scratches. Often those dings and scratches are on the box only, leaving the product in perfect condition inside.
Computers, mobile phones, tablets and other devices are also much cheaper if you buy a refurbished model. These are second hand units that have been cleaned and tested to ensure functionality. They are often as good as new, but are heavily discounted.
You will also get much more for your money if you buy a used car instead of a current model. New cars lose value as soon as they leave the dealership, dropping up to 50 per cent in the first five years. Check out used car trading websites like CarSales and Drive for deals.
Don’t be embarrassed to cut coupons from the back of your grocery docket and use them. They’ll save money on luxuries like dinners out and dry cleaning. Keep them in your wallet so you don’t forget to redeem them. Books like the Entertainment Book have thousands of coupons and you can now get the ‘book’ in app form, making it easier to remember to use the vouchers.
Also look for online coupons. Before you make an internet purchase, do a quick search for a relevant coupon code to get a discount. Type in the product name and the word ‘coupons’ or ‘promo code’ and find out what deals are out there. Enter the coupon or promotion code during the purchasing process to get your discount.
You can also sign up for sites like Groupon to get big savings on entertainment and holidays. Their ‘deal of the day’ is often incredible value. Who said a spontaneous weekend away wasn’t in the budget?
Take simple holidays
Aside from taking advantage of discount coupons, another cheap way to take the family on holidays is to swap homes with another family for a week or two. If you live in the city think about swapping with someone who lives in the country or has a place on the coast, and vice versa. You can search for houses online at sites like aussiehouseswap.com.au. All you pay is a small administration fee.
Another benefit of swapping homes is you get a kitchen. My wife Libby and I always found the best way to save on holidays with our four kids was to stay somewhere self-contained. That way you can prepare all your own meals. The cost of taking the whole family out for lunch and dinner everyday blows most family holiday budgets, mad money or none.
The main thing to remember is that any mad money you budget for is yours to spend how you wish. The ideas above will help you ensure it buys you as much rewarding fun as possible.