Almost Debt Free: Leisure and Entertainment Without Incurring Debt
Last month I pondered the question if I sacrificed too much on my path to becoming debt free. Context then and context now is important. I wrote the article in response to a performance review from my employer stating that my 60+ hour workweeks were not sufficient. Naturally I was a bit annoyed, and I questioned the purpose of working even longer unappreciated hours.
Job-hunting doesn’t take nearly as much time as my old job, but it’s practically a full-time commitment. The sudden cash drought and boost in personal time actually opened my eyes to an interesting way to discuss spending habits on leisure and entertainment. If for whatever reason you have been procrastinating about changing your spending habits, the following information may convince you that taking control of your finances won’t actually suck the fun out of your life.
Almost nothing has changed about my spending habits for leisure and entertainment since becoming unemployed. The reason: I wasn’t spending much money on leisure and entertainment when I had a job, and not because I didn’t have time to spend the money. In my free-spending days, I always found time to spend money!
Ten months ago when I introduced organized finances, budgeting and expense tracking to my life, I slowly became accountable for each dollar I would spend. My monthly goal was to stay within the limits of my discretionary income and avoid turning to credit (with one exception being to cover moving costs). What ended up happening was that I learned to live without luxuries such as constant updates to my wardrobe and music collection so that I could reach this monthly goal. I started to break the habit of making shopping a leisure and entertainment activity. Other money drains started to fall to the wayside too, like going out often to nice restaurants, clubs and bars.
When I got my performance review saying that I “refused to contribute more time to the job,” I thought about how much I missed my old life with shopping and socializing, or just simple time to myself. So, I tried to reintroduce certain elements of the old me by shopping around for new clothes and music. But as I dealt with crowds and rude people, I seriously asked myself, “What did I ever find leisurely about shopping in the first place?” Attempts at getting back into the nightlife scene also made me wonder what could I have possibly missed about waiting in a long line to pay $8 for a cocktail.
I worked long hours and sacrificed vast amounts of personal time because I wanted to reduce my debt. I did that successfully, and looking back I don’t have regrets. Having little personal time taught me that most of my spending habits that got me into debt in the first place may have been fun for a period of my life in the past, but perhaps I kept the habit around longer than I should have. I learned that making time for important people in my life was the most rewarding form of leisure and entertainment, and often sharing time with them like making a dinner at home doesn’t require lots of money.
The biggest change to my leisure and entertainment during unemployment is that I won’t get to go on a vacation this summer nor venture on weekend getaways. Travel was my one big indulgence while I was employed. However, my partner Zac has been keeping me busy with local hikes and bike trails, and some friends recently dragged me out on an adventurous fishing trip. I’ve been having so much fun this summer that I don’t give much thought to the fact that there won’t be money in my budget for travel.
I mentioned that job-hunting is like a full-time job because it still leaves me scrambling to make time for the important people in my life. However, it’s just as rewarding as always when I do get to spend time with Zac and my friends. And even though the only cash that will be coming in will be from unemployment checks, I won’t feel much impact on my social life. That’s pretty amazing to me, and that’s why I encourage readers to look into ways you can change money spent on leisure and entertainment. You’ve probably suspected that life could be just as fun without as much shopping, dining out or nightlife. I was spending little money on leisure when I was employed, and I’m spending little money now. I can confirm life is just as fun, if not better.