Bored On A Budget

I am a product of parents who didn’t always have much money and I am almost always living paycheck to paycheck (I get paid commission – so I have to manage my money). We were never at a loss for things to do. I am not certain if it is because of where we live or just how my parents are. We live in Colorado so there is always a hike to take which is free or we could go fishing – which could take all day but cost nothing more than the pole and bait or just go on a four-wheel drive costing only the gas.

So it sort of irritates me when I’m hanging out with friends and someone implies that he is bored because he is on a budget. Don’t get me wrong there are plenty of things to do in Denver that cost money. And don’t think that snowboarding is cheap. (although I have figured out how to make it less expensive – I’ll tell you in another post). I’ve created a little list of things that you could do that don’t cost [much].

  1. Go on a hike. There are tons of great trails all around our city and state.
  2. Go to a free outdoor concert. Almost every corner of Denver has a free concert with great local bands through the summer.
  3. Go to a free outdoor movie. The same thing as with the concerts – there are great movies that are free around town.
  4. Go to the Denver Bronco’s Training Camp (it’s like watching a free pro football game).
  5. Go to a Factory Tour. We’ve got Celestial Seasonings, Hammond’s and Coors right here!
  6. Go to one of the Many Free Museums. Check out SCFD.org to get some ideas. Here are some of our favorites: U.S. Mint, University of Colorado Museum, Aurora History Museum, School of Mines Geology Museum and now the Denver Art Museum let’s kids under 18 go free everyday (adults are free on the 1st Saturday of every month).
  7. Attend a Free Cooking Class. Whole Foods often has free classes. My kids and I went to the Cheese-making class and made our own mozzarella. It was delicious, fun and Free!
  8. Go to the Library. Yes, libraries are still relevant (in fact I love love love mine). There are lectures, classes, movies, story-time and more. Plus the plethora of books, movies, cd’s and more on loan.

So don’t say you’re bored because you are on a budget. All that means is you need to find something to do!

My Relationship With Money

Have you ever thought about why you do the things you do with money? Do you value it different than your friends? Where do your money attitudes come from anyway?

I grew up in a middle American household. There were weeks when the money was tight and there were weeks when the money flowed a little more freely. I wonder how many times my mom would take me to the mall to shop for clothes and we would bee-line it to the sale rack. “You can fall in love with something on sale” was a typical statement. Or “wait a few weeks and if you still want it and it’s still here…” (meaning it will likely go on sale and if I still like it then it would be a good (not impulsive) purchase.

I divorced several years ago now. My ex was horrible with money. We had gotten ourselves in so much debt we were living in his parent’s basement. We didn’t have the money to pay our bills. We were in DEEP. After divorcing and being completely in charge of my own money – my attitude started to change. I got excited to see my savings account add up. I got excited about paying OFF my bills completely (I was following the Dave Ramsey plan – if you don’t know it. You should!) But I sort of became obsessed with it. I was working 4 jobs at one point (just so I get throw extra money at my debts), I had a precarious balance in my life between my kids and jobs. There really wasn’t time for anything else. I think that is the point. If I had not gotten myself in so much trouble with money in the first place – I would not have to spend this time now trying so hard to get out of it.

Having a bit more money (and no debt except house) has not made me a happier person (I was pretty happy all along). But I will say the less stress has made me a more fun person to be around. I have learned there is a lot you can do without a bunch of money.

On this journey I’ve learned that money is important but is not everything. Your relationship doesn’t have to make it be everything. If you are vigilant and pay attention to your money (hello budget) – you will have the time to pay attention to what really matters – family and friends. If you learned how to act with your money (from your parents, spouse or something else) you can unlearn that thought process too.

Seven Money Tips

I started blogging as the Deals Editor at MileHighMamas. I still love and contribute weekly to that blog. I was a newly single mom looking for ways to get back on track financially and still trying to entertain my kids on little money. I would take them to every free event in town – just because it was free. We went to our fair share of Grand Openings and Summer Concerts. In that time though, we had FUN. (We still have fun but they are less happy about going to all the free places I drag them to – they are teens after all).

It really is a lifestyle to be conscious of your money, to not get caught up in the wants of today.  I am sort of constantly surprised at how some people find these tips – as a completely new concept. But here are a few of the tips that I use regularly. I am by NO means a money expert. I am not a millionaire (or even close) but I think I’m working my way toward financial independence.

1. Live below your means. Seriously? Are we still talking about this? Spend less than you make. Keep some in savings.

2. Plan ahead. Plan your purchases. Put the credit cards away. What seems like a great deal now – will tack on all kinds of interest and that item you bought because you thought you needed it will actually cost MORE if you don’t pay it off right away, so just pay cash now. I plan to take my kids on a trip this summer. I know that several places only take credit cards (making a reservation at a hotel). Get a pre-paid re-loadable card that you can continue to add your savings to. By the time you head out for your trip, you will know exactly how much you can spend on souveniers etc.

3. Do It Yourself. I live in an apartment so I’m not talking so much about DIY Home projects – I am talking about little things. Make your own sandwich and bring it for lunch. Clean your own house (don’t pay someone else to do it). Shovel your own sidewalks. Mow your own lawn. Cook dinners (don’t go out).

4. Find Friends On The Same Path. Yes, I have friends of all different financial situations. But I find that if I have this one friend that will indulge me when I say I need to do something that costs NOTHING they won’t put me down for it – but happily spread out a blanket at the free concert with me or go on that hike. It also helps if they know your goals. Why are you doing this?

5. Challenge Yourself. I like to challenge myself (and my kids) just to see if we can do it. I pick a week where we will spend NOTHING. We plan our meals ahead. We plan our entertainment ahead. (So we set ourselves up for success). We go to the store and get everything we will need. Then for one week – we spend nothing. Not a penny. We have to live on what we have only. For my kids, I usually do this just one week a month. We did try it for a full month once (we may do that again some time and I will blog about it when we do).

6. Look For The Sale. Try to shop the sales. Almost every item will go on sale at one point or another. Use coupons. Coupons can be found in a multitude of places from your mailbox to online. Sign up for frequent shopper or loyalty programs. (Safeway has a great one that tracks your purchases and pushes coupons for those items to your website – you can upload  them to your loyalty card). I am not however advocating that you purchase things that are out of date. (I am a stickler for the date on my milk jug – if it is that date it is a NO GO in my world).

7. Write Down Everything and Keep A Budget. I wasn’t really sure where all my money was going. For one month we wrote down literally every penny that was spent (I know it sounds ridiculous because we would even write down – threw a penny in the fountain). Then we made a budget the next month based on the month we tracked. Then we stuck to the budget. You also get a chance to see what you are really spending your money on. There are great apps for this too – Mint.com is one of my favorites as you can tie it to your debit card and track where and what category your money is going.

Do you have something you do that is money wise? Something that seems so natural to you – that you don’t really understand that other people don’t do it too?