Amy Clark

Day 12: Social Obligations on a Budget

Welcome to day 12 in our saving money series. I don’t think the series would be complete if I didn’t touch upon our social obligations and how we keep the budget under control. This is something that I really struggle with because I love being a social butterfly and I enjoy being a part of things. It can sometimes be difficult though, in social contexts, to not go over my budget.

It seems that many of my social obligations seem to center around something that costs money. We are usually planning to meet up for coffee or having lunch with friends. It is certainly convenient (because I don’t have to clean my house), but it is not the most frugal choice.

One of the ways that I have kept this category in check for myself is that we utilize an envelope system in our house. One envelope contains our grocery money, one is for the family, and the last two are divided between my husband and myself.

Working with a cash system seems to be more effective for me. When the cash is gone, the social obligations end and we either don’t attend things that cost money or we make alternate arrangements to meet at their house or ours.

I think it is reasonable to want to go out and spend time with friends and that is why we have chosen to give ourselves the allowance. I don’t ask what my husband does with his ten bucks each week and I don’t tell him what I did with mine.

And yes, we do only have ten dollars every week and we are still able to do fun things. I will admit that sometimes I go over budget and end up eating through the “family” money because I have to pay for the two children to eat or their admission into places, but I still feel like we are staying under the budget since we aren’t running to the ATM to withdraw money.

Here are some of the things that I have tried to do to help keep us in our budget:

- I invite my friends over for coffee and I have tried to come up with fun coffee choices and syrups so it feels like we are still getting a treat, but we don’t have to spend any money. This option does require me to keep up with my house a bit, but sometimes I need a good kick in the behind to do what I need to do around here.

- If we can actually bring our lunch to social functions, we will do this. I still remember one time where we met up at the mall and ate in the food court. All of the other children had Happy Meals and I was worried that my son would ask for one. I had taken his peanut butter and jelly sandwich and cut trains out for him and he was having so much fun driving them along the table that he didn’t even care about the other meals. When he wanted more, I told him they were boxcars (just plain squares) and he lined them up with the rest of the train. Just making the meal more fun seemed to help take away from the fact that we didn’t buy food from McDonald’s that evening.

This has happened in other situations too and I try to keep a secret stash of fun foods that I don’t normally offer for these occasions. It could be as simple as a pudding cup or buying the juice box, but it makes a difference in what he chooses. I usually give him the option and say that he can have the kid’s meal or he can have a sandwich, carrots and a chocolate pudding. He usually opts for the second choice. This probably will not last forever, but I will enjoy it while I can! The idea here is just that I make it fun for him so that he doesn’t feel like he is missing out on anything.

- We try to find free things that we can do in the area where we could meet up with other people and not spend money. Our local library, for example, offers museum passes to all of the museums in the area. You can check them out for a day and we can meet friends at one of these places instead of a restaurant. Parks are also a great free location and you can pack a picnic lunch for the family to enjoy.

- When entertaining others, try to do potlucks instead of supplying all of the food. If someone can bring the drinks, someone can bring a side, another person bring dessert- all you would have to do is do the main dish. When preparing your dish, choose budget-friendly foods that everyone can enjoy, but will also stay within your budget.

- Save for social obligations that you know are going to cost more than your cash allowance. Keep these occasions in mind when doing your planning and save to prepare for this occasion. It is better if you can plan for these things instead of using your credit card.

We do splurge here and there for special events, but we try to make the necessary plans and financial arrangements that we need to do before that time arrives.

These are just a few of the ways that we have been able to manage this spending category.

Potential Monthly Savings- $40 or more

Sound Off: Do you struggle with social obligations on a budget? Any tricks that you have used to get around these types of engagements?

Published August 14, 2007 by:

Amy Clark

Amy Allen Clark is the founder of MomAdvice.com. You can read all about her here.

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