I am not one of those financial bloggers who tells you that you have to give up every single thing you love in order to get your money right. I don’t think it’s sustainable to deprive yourself of anything that brings you joy just because it costs money. Yes, you probably have to make some sacrifices, but you don’t have to give up everything. There are ways to cut spending, pay down debt, build up savings, AND still have fun. So let’s do it!

There are ways to cut spending, pay down debt, build up savings, AND still have fun.

First, remind yourself of what you value most

I’ve written about aligning your money with your values before. But it’s really worth saying again. You’ll feel so much better about your money if you’re putting it towards the things you really care about and that make you happy. So sit down with yourself and think: what are the things that matter to you most? What brings you the most joy? It could be indulging in your hobbies, it could be trying new restaurants with your partner, it could be going to concerts with friends, it could be anything! But all that matters is that it brings joy to you.

Second, review your recent expenses

Go through the last three months or so of your spending. You can do this by looking through your bank account or credit card statements manually, or you can sign up for a program like Mint, Learnvest, or ClarityMoney. Look at how you’ve been spending your money. Does it reflect your values and the things that make you happiest? If not, that’s okay! We all get off track. But recognizing that our money isn’t going where we want it to go is the first step to making a change.

Next, prioritize your spending

Now that you know what you want to have money for, you can build it into your budget. Life is all about balance. If you need to make space for the things you enjoy most, you probably have to cut spending in another area. So, if you know you want to get a manicure twice a month, maybe you need to go out to eat a few times less each month. It might be hard at first, but in order to really be able to budget for the things you love, you have to remove the things you don’t care about as much. After a while, you’ll wonder why you were spending so much money on things you didn’t value!

Then, automate!

I’ve said this before, and I will say it for the rest of my life: you have to automate to reach your money goals! Whether it’s paying down debt or building up savings, automation takes the thought and human error out of the equation. So if you want to make sure you have enough money to buy gifts during the holidays, to go on vacation once a year, to get a massage every month… whatever it is! Make sure you’re setting that money aside without even thinking about it. I think the best move is to open up a savings account for that specific thing, and have money deposited into it directly from your paycheck. For example, I always want to have enough money on hand to go get a massage or buy a new outfit. To make that possible without busting my budget, I automate $100 a month into a special “fun” savings account. I only touch that money for things that are what I would consider a “splurge”. To make it even better, it’s grown so much over the months that I could do something really exciting with it!

What fun things do you want to budget for? Share in the comments!