How to Prevent the Weekend From Derailing Your Budget

how to stick to a budget

On Friday, it’s drinks with coworkers and a celebration dinner with your partner. Saturday is all about shopping the outlet malls and heading out to party with your best friend. Sunday’s downtime means a manicure and a movie.

It all sounds like an amazing way to spend a weekend off, but what happens on Monday when you check your bank balance? Moreover, what happens when you stack up your pricey weekend outings with your spending budget for the month?

Sticking to a budget on the weekends may seem impossible given all the temptations out there. However, you can learn how to stick to a budget with simple strategies that will help you keep more of your money.

How to stick to a budget on the weekend

1. Schedule no-spend weekends.

Wait — isn’t the point of a budget to be able to spend (within limits)? Of course it is, but by putting no-spend weekends in your calendar you can proactively make up for overspending in the future.

Say, for example, that your budget allows you to spend $50 per weekend but you have plans for an overnight trip later in the month. Participating in two or three no-spend weekends, where you only purchase the essentials (food, gas, and other everyday items), can net you enough money to enjoy your weekend trip without the guilt.

2. Map out transportation in advance.

One of the priciest parts of weekends, especially if you live in a major city, is getting around. Parking can be nonexistent and garages can rack up a huge bill. Alternatives such as cabs and rideshares can jack up prices during peak weekend periods. Twenty extra dollars (plus tip) just doesn’t fit in most people’s modest weekend budgets.

Stick to your budget by becoming a local transit expert. Map out your routes in advance or use your phone’s GPS to help you decide how best to get around. Research public transit ticket options that are the most economical, too. If you love getting around town, forking over money for a monthly unlimited pass may be your best options to save the rest of the weekend.

3. Leave cards at home.

You’ve probably heard the phrase “Cash is king,” and it’s never been truer than when it comes to learning how to stick to a budget. While you may love the convenience of carrying cards, credit cards and even debit cards can actually make you spend more.

By carrying only cash on the weekends, you’re limited to what you have in your pocket. You don’t get to borrow more or promise yourself that you’ll pay it all off later. Your budget is right there in your wallet, keeping you on target.

Even better, if you’re going the all cash route, split it up based on your activities in different parts of your wallet or in envelopes (such as $10 for parking, $30 for dinner, $10 for matinee movie).

4. Play the appetizer game.

If you’re like me, eating out is probably your favorite weekend activity. You get to enjoy the company of friends and avoid making a mess in your kitchen. However, it’s easy to fall for restaurant traps such as ordering expensive “designer” cocktails or two-for-one meals.

Before you go, research the menu. Planning how much you want to spend ahead of time will keep you focused. If that’s not possible, order an appetizer as an entree instead. It’ll save you big bucks and most places now offer large enough appetizers to make it into a meal if eaten solo.

Lastly, skip the drinks. Avoiding a $4 glass of soda twice a weekend can save you $416 per year. Cutting out $10 drinks twice a weekend means a savings of $1,040 annually. That may well be a month’s worth of rent!

5. Clip coupons and scan for deals.

For some financial advisors, deal sites such as Groupon or LivingSocial can be another excuse for spending money you don’t have in your budget. But when done right, these sites can make your weekend much more money-friendly.

Scan the coupon sites well in advance instead of Thursday or Friday nights. Research the deal to make sure it actually saves you money. (Some shifty businesses use these sites to jack up the price on an experience or meal.)

If possible, purchase the offer while you’re planning a monthly budget so you know which deals will fit in your financial constraints. Buy them with your friends or partner and mark on the calendar when you’ll use them so they don’t go to waste.

6. Research local offerings.

Of course, not every activity is going to cost money. Especially in warmer months, there are likely local events where you can try new things or explore a new neighborhood. A good community calendar or local newspaper can point you the way.

As Kate Dore of Cashville Skyline says, “Many cities offer a wide assortment of free entertainment on the weekends. Activities like art crawls, biking in local parks, or outdoor concerts are worth exploring. Skipping the cost of tickets can free up your budget for enjoying some cheap eats, like food trucks, in the evening.”

7. Limit yourself to a specific time.

It’s easy to feel like your weekends should be make-up time for stressful weekdays, but that feeling can get out of control fast when you devote every minute to the pursuit. Instead, give yourself a break. Make home your base and spend some quiet, wallet-friendly time enjoying moments off.

When it comes to going out, picking a single day to go out with friends can limit your damage to the budget. Sunday, in particular, is a good choice, as you’re limited by having to go to work the next day (and are less likely to want to do more tiring activities).

Friday night happy hours can save you money by getting your drinks, food, or tickets at a lower price while still allowing you two days of peace, quiet, and money savings.

8. Work with what you have.

Sometimes you have the answers right in your wallet. That loyalty card for the free sandwich can save you money on a lunch bite with your parents. The gym membership may offer you a free sauna visit or a discount on a massage. Your apartment complex might have a pool or a free room to plan board game nights with your friends and neighbors.

The point of the weekend isn’t just to explore, but to also appreciate what you have. Maximizing what you have already paid for can keep you from overspending while giving you an even bigger bang for your buck on those purchases.

9. Be honest with your friends.

Don’t be afraid to tell your friends “No thanks” when their plans are just not jiving with your spending limit. They’ll appreciate you being upfront about the reason and will work to make sure you can participate in their plans.

Your friends might even be going through the same thing as you, and could be more money-minded than you think. Opening up to them about your weekend budget and your overall goals may lead to making a financially savvy buddy who can keep you accountable.

Sticking to a budget, even on weekends

Knowing how to stick to a budget Friday through Sunday can benefit your money in big ways.

By overcoming weekend temptations and learning to manage your cash, you can save for the times you really want to go out — without having to worry about what’s left in your bank account. You might be surprised at just how much you save when you budget well!

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