Friday, January 1, 2016

The New Year's $100 Entertainment Challenge

Yesterday was New Year's Eve.  Our plans to host a poker night fell flat when our couple friends cancelled due to family illness, and our single friend called to say he was getting over a cold, would come, but needed to leave early.  New Year's... unfortunately smack in the middle of cold and flu season.

We didn't make it until midnight, we didn't play poker, but we had fun regardless.  I made "adult popcorn," Dave brought a fantastic beer over, Ben made sliders, and I broke out some bubbly and made sparkling Bee's Knees cocktails.  Yum.

I like New Year's, and I don't need a big todo for it to feel meaningful to me.  I like to spend some time reflecting on the past year, and setting some intentions for the coming one.  And a conversation we had last night has sparked this New Year's blog for me.

Dave mentioned how he and some friends were discussing how much they spend on a weekend - their weekend "fun time" budget.  One friend said he regularly spends $200-$400 on a weekend.  Dave's budget is more like $40-$50.  Each saw the other's weekend entertainment budget as totally unfathomable.

A bit on me and money.
I'm more like Dave than his friend.  I lived as a freelance dancer in the Bay Area for about 8 years, and only about a year and a half ago have started working "full time," but my full-time gig is: a self-employed Pilates instructor and studio owner.  My income varies month by month, and I don't have any benefits like an employer-provided healthcare plan or employer contributions to a retirement account.  I'm all on my own.  I am happily debt-free, but also not so happily low on savings.

However, I am not looking to change my employment situation, or regretting the time I spent dancing, performing, touring, and saving zero money.  Living as a dancer was a one-of-a-kind experience, and being my own boss has a LOT of perks, especially for someone who is self-directed, independent, and likes a good challenge.  Besides the fact that I love Pilates and the work I get to do, I also love being 100% in charge of my own professional destiny.  So, I'm not looking to change that, just acknowledging that I'm trading the security of benefits and a steady paycheck for freedom and for loving my day-to-day work life.

In the past year, Ben and I have discussed the possibility of buying a house.  We both would love to make that a reality, but are not sure how that would work in the Bay Area real estate scene.  Regardless of whether or not we eventually are able to make the leap to homeowners, we've both agreed: saving money now is a good idea.  While we've done a lot to start saving by cutting unnecessary expenses, buying in bulk, packing lunches, and opting for movie nights at home instead of going out, I want to take on the New Year as a chance to up my savings game.

The New Year's $100 Entertainment Challenge.
Ben's Dad likes to give cash at Christmas - a nice, clean, $100 bill to each kid and each kid's significant other.

So, I have $100.

From our NYE conversation, that could either be about two weekends of entertainment for Dave, or barely scraping a day of weekend fun for his friend.

How far can I stretch $100?

Starting today, January 1, 2016, I will tally up all money I spend on non-consumables, eating out, grabbing coffee, bars, movies, events, and entertainment.  How long can I last with only a $100 budget for my own amusement?

Things that I won't include in my "entertainment" budget: groceries, gas (unless we go on a long drive, such as going on a camping trip), and recurring expenses like rent, insurance payments, my cell phone bill.  I've already reduced those as much as I can.

Things that I will include: anything I buy that isn't on the list above. Going out, shopping (including clothes and household items... we really don't need any more of either, so buying them would just be for "fun"), and alcohol (while it is cheaper to drink at home, you can still rack up a bill).

And a caveat:  I do have a couple of gift certificates from Christmas.  I won't count spending the gift certificates on my entertainment budget, but  I will count anything I spend over the gift certificate amount.

Here we go.  How far can $100 take me, and what will it look like to have fun on the cheap?

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