Budget, but Have Fun!
Readers write about ways to save
June 24, 2009
In the spring issue, we asked readers how they were making the best of a troubled economy. We received great advice that ranged from trading DVDs with friends to visiting the local library to buying a soccer ball and having game night with the kids. Many readers also clip coupons and run all their errands in one day.
Here are a few specifics:
Date Night with Dinner In
My husband and I are fortunate to not be adversely affected by the economy because we have lived within our means all of the 47 years of our marriage. However, I thought that maybe something we did during the earlier years, when we were struggling to pay for a house and raise three children on one income, might be of interest to couples today.
One thing most couples enjoy, especially those with younger children, is that “special, quiet, date night/dinner out.” This can be quite expensive, not only with the price of dinner out, but with baby-sitting fees.
So, when our children were young and our budget was tight, my husband and I planned for at least one “date night” a month, but in a little different way.
Date night consisted of a special dinner just for the two of us, in the dining room with dim lights, the good china and soft music in the background. We told our children of the plan and fixed them a dinner of their choice earlier in the evening. Then around 8 or 8:30 p.m., they went to their rooms either for an early bedtime or for quiet time for themselves, perhaps to read. There were no cell phones or TVs in their rooms. As ridiculous as it may seem now, the children actually looked forward to these ‘date nights’ as much as my husband and I did. They would help plan our meal while also planning something special for themselves.
We were able to have some special time for ourselves, save money and teach our children that parents need special time, and so do children.
—Anna Marie Rodkey
Change the Schedule, Do Some Research
After reading an article that the average American spends a large percentage of his/her disposable income on eating out, I decided to curb our dining out expenses. My husband and I both work and leave for work at 5:15 a.m. to beat the traffic. Neither of us feels like getting up earlier to pack a lunch for work, or making a meal after getting off work in the evening. But, now every night before we go to bed, my husband and I pack our lunches, set up the coffee pot and set up a meal in our crock pot. Not only do we save money every day, but we also enjoy the fact that we're eating healthier (i.e., there are fewer calories, fat grams and chemicals in the foods we prepare). And as an added bonus, the house smells delicious when we arrive home in the evening.
I’ve also signed up for free weekly email savings tips from the www.feedthepig.org Web site. This is a pro bono Web site offered by the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) Profession. It’s free from all advertisements, and you can't buy anything from that site. Every week I receive a tip that helps me save more and spend less. I find these simple tips very helpful and timely.
In these troubling economic times, it's satisfying to know that there are simple steps that can really make a difference.
—Patricia Reese Farina
Make Memories at Home
My friends and I take turns having game night at our houses. We play board games like Taboo and make homemade pizzas for dinner. Sometimes, if the weather permits, we’ll party on the patio and roast hotdogs and marshmallows. We have so much fun, much more than when we used to go out, spending an average of $50 on a meal. Now, we’ll post funny messages on our Facebook or MySpace pages about what we did, and that keeps us laughing all week long. We’re making memories on a budget.
Be a Magical Mom
As a mom of three children, I’ve found lots of ways to balance our budget and still have fun, from free events like shows and festivals to story/craft time through our library. I also belong to a local MOMS Club. For only $20 a year, I have an unlimited number of support, free events, meetings and playgroups.
On our own, we pack a lunch and visit as many local parks as we can. I also make our own homemade pizza every Friday night. By not eating out, the whole family is eating better, losing and maintaining a healthy weight, and saving money.
I also cut my family’s hair. It’s fun to see what style will turn out. I purchased a good set of hair clippers and scissors that paid for themselves in just five haircuts.
It’s not always easy to say “no” to my family. But I have been doing that a great deal lately. So, I am making the best of a bad economy by losing weight, learning how to be creative, spending more quality time with my family and teaching my kids the value of a dollar.
Fill Your Day with Kindness
Budgeting to enjoy life has turned more into budgeting my time than balancing my checkbook. I've devoted my time and energy to launching a local Random Acts of Kindness Club. Sharing kindness with others has brought out the best in me and been a lot of fun. Being kind has proven health benefits, fosters happiness, inspires gratitude, and makes us resilient, which are all important in this challenging economy. In fact, people have been drawn to our group, craving this kind of positive message amidst the doom and gloom of the media headlines. And now the media is coming to us! A film team is making a short documentary about our group and a video artist is making a public service announcement for us. Check out our Kindness Activities and join in the fun at www.meetup.com/randomactsofkindnessAH.
“Be the change you wish to see in the world” is the Gandhi quote that is one of our mottos. Together, we are on a mission to make our world a better place—one person, one kind deed at a time.
Arlington Heights, Ill.
Plan a trip with extended family or with friends. This way you can share the costs of gasoline and lodging, and perhaps even get discounts for having a larger group. Or, try camping. Even if it isn’t the “roughing” type, it’s a great family activity. This way you can spend less on lodging, still have entertainment at your campsite, and have more money for other activities. Just imagine the money you save bringing your own meals, instead of dining out for every meal.
North East, Pa.
Stay with ERIE
One of the best ways we found to balance our budget was to switch our automobile insurance to ERIE. When our son heard how much we were paying for insurance, he was shocked and told us about ERIE. Not only are our rates lower than before, but ERIE spreads our payments out over 12 months, whereas with the previous company, we had to pay in one lump sum. Thank you, ERIE, for your sensible way of doing business and for making us feel we are a part of a caring family, not merely a consumer who helps balance your budget.
Buy a Bike
We live in the Baltimore suburbs and recently purchased two inexpensive bikes. We ride them around Ft. McHenry, then on the wharfs around to Baltimore’s Inner Harbor and through Fells Point, and then continue on to the water wharfs along the shoreline and then Canton before circling back. It not only costs us nothing, but we get to exercise and sightsee all at once. It’s really been very fun!
—J. N. Hanna
These statements are excerpted from letters submitted to Eriesense by ERIE Policyholders. In appreciation for the submission, each Policyholder received a $25 retail gift card.