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Five Ways To Treat Yourself On A Budget

by Tara Kuczykowski on September 21, 2009 · 14 comments

Excited Shopping Woman
I’ve teamed up with Propel® and DivineCaroline to write a series of inspiring and motivational posts to encourage women to enhance and streamline their lives. Propel’s mission is to enhance your life, give you the ability to move through obstacles and live a more streamlined, energetic life.

I married my husband knowing that he had some debt to pay off, but we thought it would be simple to pay it off quickly between the salaries we were earning. After creating numerous budgets and spending plans and eventually failing at each one, it became readily apparent that the approach we were taking was never going to get us very far.

After analyzing where our money was going, a pattern emerged. We would cut back our spending dramatically, but after a period of sticking to our plan, we would start to feel deprived and end up splurging and spending more than ever. As much as we wanted to pay off our debt, we started to feel resentful that we were working so hard all week and weren’t able to treat ourselves to small luxuries every now and then.

Don’t get me wrong – I greatly admire those people that have the willpower and determination to cut their spending to the very barebones necessities in order to pay off their debts. But it was only when we were completely honest with ourselves and admitted that it wasn’t an approach that was going to work for us that we began making real headway on our finances.

The key to finally figuring out what worked for us was learning how to treat ourselves without breaking the bank. How did we do this? Coupons, of course – and here are my five favorite ways to treat ourselves right now.

Using coupons like these we were able to balance our wants of eating out and treating ourselves to non-necessities while still cutting back and ultimately reaching our goal of being debt free.

Are you one of those people that are able to cut back dramatically and stick to it, or do you treat yourself now and then? What are your best tips and tricks for sticking to a budget?

How did you enhance your life today? Chime in every day at You.Propelled on DivineCaroline for another chance to win $5,000 to pursue your dream. The more friends you bring, the better your chances of winning.

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Amanda @ High Impact Mom September 21, 2009 at 5:06 pm

I keep trying to be one of those people who can cut WAY back and still survive. But the fact is we aren't. I budget a little each month to go out to dinner (with a coupon of course) and try to snap up all the samples I might use but can't afford to purchase for myself.

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2 Melody September 21, 2009 at 6:18 pm

Tara, I will be COMPLETELY honest, we've tried everything from NO budget to Dave Ramsey's "beans & rice, rice & beans" and we just couldn't hack it. BUT...since I started coupon-ing (in June), we've saved $997.23, which is in our emergency fund, and paid of an additional $764.16 on our debt. We finally have a plan and a budget I can stick to!!! Our anniversary is Thursday, and since my daughter has a soccer game, we'll be going to Culver's (with my b-day certificate from 2 weeks ago and my daughter's soccer freebie dessert) and getting the kiddos home, in bed, and a snuggle on the couch with a movie that we have but haven't watched in a while. I was an Aldi only shopper until one day I stumbled - literally- on Deal Seeking Mom!!! Now, we get to try new things and it FEELS like we're splurging!!!

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3 Tara Kuczykowski September 21, 2009 at 6:30 pm

What a great story -- thanks so much for sharing, Melody!

You sound just like me, Amanda. I'm so thrilled to have found a compromise that's satisfies my urge to splurge.

I really love hearing all of your success stories. You all motivate me and help make this a better site for everyone!

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4 Savings and Stewardship September 21, 2009 at 6:46 pm

For awhile when we were first starting out couponing, my husband would take the money that we saved on each store trip and put it in a jar in the kitchen for me. This way, I was motivated to clip the coupons, search for the deals, etc because:
1) I could literally see the money totaling up in my jar
2) I then got to use that money on anything I wanted

We have long since stopped the jar, but each month it is like a game for me to see how much I can I save off of our total monthly budget. I get so excited at the end of the month to see how I've done.

Plus, my husband is great about "rewarding" me himself (so I don't have to) - for example, he signed me up for the InStyle subscription on Amazon.com for just $5 - he said it was a reward since I've done so well this past week with all of our savings!! It really helps when there are two of you in on the effort!!

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5 Emily September 21, 2009 at 6:58 pm

I can *almost* do the bare bones budgeting. :) When we really have to cut back, we out all "extras" except I get to keep a $30/month Starbucks budget. That is my favorite treat, and keeping that money available makes me much less likely to mind not being able to go out to eat, or get movies or magazines or new clothes. It took some time to figure that out (initially we cut that first because hey, it wasn't necessary!) but now we know what works! :)

I should mention that my husband also gets to keep a comparable $30/mo book budget - that's what keeps him from feeling deprived!

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6 Meagan September 21, 2009 at 7:42 pm

We do barebones. Like really barebones. My husband is in his last year of undergraduate school and is entering medical school next year. When our daughter was born a year ago, we both knew that we wanted me to be able to stay home with her, so we took the leap. At the time, we were hardly living within our means with both of us working. However, since I'm home, I've made it my "job" to cut back every possible expense, from diapers (we now use cloth) to entertainment. Right now we buy nothing unless we absolutely need it. I even made cloth napkins out of some of my husband's old shirts so we didn't have to pay for paper towels. We will be living off of student loans for the next 4 years and every time I buy something I ask myself if it is worth paying 6% interest on it for years to come. Right now we are living on $700/month very comfortably. It's sort of freeing to know that you are doing everything possible.

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7 Kimberly September 21, 2009 at 9:53 pm

My husband and I stick to a budget and I'm so grateful we do! We have a monthly food budget and since I do most of the grocery shopping, I am very conscious of it. I know that if I want to grab lunch out occasionally, I certainly can - but I make up for it by buying the cheapest bread. I cut coupons and go to several stores a week to get the best deals so that on the weekends, we can go to dinner if we'd like to. We will choose to stay at home most nights rather than go out so we will have flexibility in our "fun" budget for special occasions. I love to watch my friends' kids for them, especially when my husband is out of town, and they watch my daughter in return so we can save money on a babysitter. Recently, we went on a trip to New York City and my husband and I had perfect seats to see Wicked on Broadway. My jaw hit the floor when I saw how expensive the tickets were, but I'd rather see an amazing show once a year than go to the movie theater every month. It's all about tradeoffs.

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8 Buffie September 22, 2009 at 9:57 am

Hubby and I each get weekly spending money that we can spend on whatever we want. Plus we have a $10/week entertainment budget. That isn't much for a week, but we can save it up and do something nice once a month. Of course we're always looking for coupons and specials to save even more money. It works for us and helps keep us from feeling deprived.

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9 Becky September 22, 2009 at 11:27 am

Changing habits helps. When you realize most stuff is just stuff and you really don't need it because it will either 1) get broken soon after you buy it (e.g.: toys...), or 2) not get used as you thought you would, than you start passing by things you thought you needed and buy the "stuff" you really need.

We also have not had cable in 10 yrs. This comes as a shock to most people. And we also only have basic phone, no long distance, no call waiting, etc. We pay the bare minimum. That cuts out hundreds of dollars. On the other side, we do have internet. But we use it for ALL kinds of things (and right now it helps us save money with printing off coupons and finding those wonderful deals).

We also buy at the thrift store or super cheap sale items at stores for clothes and shoes. And we have a lot of things we were either given or were able to find for very inexpensive. OR, we have gotten a few quality peices that will last for years, again saving us money.

Our family has been to Peru on a missions trip where we have seen what it really means to be deprived and I think it gave the kids a new perspective. They now understand why we don't buy them video games and all the extras. They know how to barter for them from friends or earn some money to buy it themselves.

Overall, couponing has been a wonderful way to get some great things at low prices or free. Thanks to all the ladies who help the rest of us be a little wiser and budget-savvy. You gals are awesome!

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10 Mary September 22, 2009 at 11:36 am

I love couponing and I've been doing it for about 7mths now. But I feel like I put more in saving before. I know I am saving money but I feel like I just spend it on more sales! My hubby and I hardly ever go out, we only rent movies from the library or redbox (free codes). I feel like I have to find a way to put more $$$ away instead of buying more.

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11 Tara Kuczykowski September 22, 2009 at 11:39 am

Mary, maybe you could try something similar to what Savings and Stewardship is doing. When you get back from the store, transfer the amount you saved to your savings account. We automatically transfer money to our savings whenever we get paid. It's easier to pass some deals by when the money isn't readily available.

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12 April P. September 22, 2009 at 12:24 pm

Last month we had to drastically cut our expenses. We went from living very well to a living within a very tight budget due to my husband quitting his job to go back to school. It was a HUGE shocker. I was very miserable at first. I felt like I couldn't spend a dime on anything without feeling guilty. When we first moved to San Diego (to attend school) I found that groceries were so much more expensive. There wasn't a super Walmart, a WinCo or any grocery warehouse store. I went to Albertson's and spent $78 on 4 bags of groceries! I was shocked! I knew we had to do something fast. So I went online to find out how to use coupons. I have been reading blogs such as yours religiously ever since and have been able to cut our food and grocery budget from $800 a month to $350! That is amazing! We do not feel deprived at all. My husband feels like we actually have more food in our house then we did when we didn't coupon because I stock up on rock bottom prices. Thank you for saving our family money and making us feel like we can manage this huge change. We have 2 years of a student budget, but I am sure that once my husband goes back to work I will still use coupons.
Before when we had more money we would treat ourselves to a night out with a semi-fancy restaurant and maybe a movie. With babysitting, food, and entertainment we'd probably spend over 100 a night! That sounds crazy now! Lately we've asked family and friends to babysit, got cheap take-out and ate it on the beach. Total spent: $12. I find you've just got to improvise :)

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13 Mary September 22, 2009 at 12:42 pm

Tara, Thank you so much I think that's what I'll start doing, you're right if its not there I won't spend it. And I HATE taking money out of savings once its there. This should be easy I DO work at the bank! I do appreciate all the time you put into this site, without I would be lost.

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14 Terry September 26, 2009 at 10:33 pm

i would love to win an entertainment book We live on coupons and have a very limited income and very rarely get to go out to eat usuallly with a coupon or gift certificate if lucky enough. we are a family of six and i cant work , my husband works but mostly only part time because his restaurant isnt busy . Three of our four children a physcallly chalandged and one my son is handicapped , so ou money goes to take care of them, although they enjoy going out to eat and just going out

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