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Why “fun” money can and should be a part of any budget

I’m fairly certain that one of the perks of marrying me was that Troy never had to again balance a checkbook, pay bills, or deal with budgets.  From the start of our marriage, I’ve dealt with all of that crap.  For anyone about to get married, or newly married, I highly recommend having one person be the “head of finance”, but make sure the other spouse is a voting member of the oversight committee.  Our committee was disbanded in a hostile takeover from day one, and it’s all been on my shoulder.  That’s a lot of weight to carry around!

Something that took incredible growing pains for us to learn was the essential nature of “fun” money.  Troy would want to go to the store and get something unhealthy and junky, and would never remember to give me the receipt, and I would get annoyed that our balance was off because of a month’s worth of Snickers bars.

We finally settled on having a monthly allotment of cash for each of us.  The other person doesn’t get to say a word about what you spend your money on. For me, that money is spent on pedicures, my once a week latte, and the rest is saved for my annual trip with Jack to see my bestie Anne.  Troy spends his on fast food and soda from what I can tell.  Barf.

Things that one does not need to spend their fun money on includes: haircuts (since I cut the boys hair, I’m the only one who gets a haircut, but since it’s a fairly essential activity, it comes from the general fund), clothes, shoes, or things that involve all of us or the kid (but I choose to save my cash for our yearly trip so that we can go crazy and do a ton of fun things.  And eat donuts).

Throughout our 11 years of marriage (next Friday!), spending money has had many looks and iterations.  At first, when I was the only one working and Troy was a struggling “artist” working on movies for bagels and granola bars, spending money was about $15 a month.  It wasn’t a lot, but it was ours.  When we lived in Los Angeles and I was making a lot more money and when Troy was working (film work can be both fickle and lucrative my friends), the spending money seemed to flow freely.  Since Troy worked at least one job a month, spending money did not come out of my paycheck, but rather was a percentage of what he brought home.  Some months we felt insanely rich, and other months it was slim pickings.

When we moved back to Washington, and the economy bit us in the ass, we still kept up the concept of spending money, but it was cut down to $5 or $10 a month for most months.  When paying rent and eating takes priority, the fun times slowed down considerably.  But it was important to both of us to still have that small amount of freedom to do something stupid or save it up for something we really cared about.

So, I always encourage any couple or individual to go the route of spending or fun money, no matter what your budget looks like. It’s not always about the amount, but the act of having something that is “yours”.

How about you?  Do you include fun money in your monthly budget?


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8 comments on “Why “fun” money can and should be a part of any budget”

  1. I’m head of finance and have real difficulty with the concept of fun money now we have a bit more cash. I have to remember that lunches for me with friends is the same as husband buying some stupid gadget so there’s no reason he shouldn’t buy stupid gadget but my head goes “How much for that?!”. I’m fine with spending the cash on vacation, I run most non-essential spending by husband just so I know he’s on board and he doesn’t accuse me of spending all our money. He’s very much of the opinion to just spend money and make the problem go away whereas I’m more tight fisted 🙂

  2. Congrats…eleven years! And trust me, the best is yet to be 🙂

    We do fun money as well. Much like yourself, the amount is determined by the “feast or famine” factor.

  3. It’s funny, when we started dating, my husband was super strict about balancing his checkbook, not spending anything extra, etc. but now it falls on me. The last few times I let him run some of the bills, he forgot to pay them! I definitely live under the principle of having a little walking around money built into our budget! Without it, we would be fighting all the time and would most likely grow to resent it instead of love how it has allowed us to pay off massive amounts of debt in a hurry! Congrats on your upcoming anniversary!

  4. We love our fun money! That is one of the best things we do in budgeting and getting out of debt. It is such a boost to have some money that is “yours” when you’re working on paying off debt. It makes all the saving and sacrificing much easier to handle. 🙂

  5. Hmm, no we don’t have “fun money” like you describe set aside in our budget. We also have no other debt than our mortgage so while we do have a budget (planned out for 1 to 2 years out, thank you very much), we’re not 100% obsessing over it. More like 98% 🙂

    Greg gets some cash out once in a great while ($60, usually) and spends it on… I don’t know what, specifically, but we don’t budget for it. We do budget for his Gamefly membership and he also buys videogames when they’re on sale through Steam. Oh and he goes to the range once in a while. That’s pretty much all the “fun” he has.

    As for me, I control almost all of the spending and 100% of our finances. So it feels like anything I spend money on, whether it be for just me (very rare!) or the household is “fun” money since I love hunting down bargains and sales, stacking coupons and rebates with sales to squeeze as much money as I can from my grocery budget, etc, and since Greg never sees (or wants to look at ) the bills, I can pretty much spend the money as I please. It’s nice but I also make sure to keep him apprised or get his approval if there is an uncommon purchase that needs to be made so he knows he can trust me.

    We’re homebodies and I hate getting my haircut, pedicures, etc. I don’t like going to the movies but we have Netflix. I did just spend an obscene amount of money this past month on a trip to France to visit my family with 2 of my teens. We rented a car, spent a couple of nights in a hotel, bought a lot of bottled water during the heat wave (no water fountains over there), bought expensive museum passes, treated all of our hosts to a free restaurant meal, and generally had a good time. I helped fund some of the expenses by cutting down my grocery budget over the past year and rolling over whatever money wasn’t spent on utilities (compared to budgeted amount) so I basically applied it to our plane tickets purchase, but I didn’t have a set figure to save in mind.

    Generally my fun “expenses” end up being freebies that I earn from taking a survey on a receipt (free donuts, free cookies, free coffees) or free movie rentals from Redbox, free book downloads from Amazon, free magazines from the library’s donation pile, etc. I get to have the “fun” but I don’t pay for it. For me, not paying for it (legally!) is the fun of it all.

  6. We do or else we would go mad. In winter we usually don’t spend much fun money, because it is freezing in WI and no one goes anywhere. We spend it on treats at the grocery store. Luckily, this means since we budget for it every month, we can use the extra come summer when the kids have off school. We take it all out in cash, and then cash in our change jar for my husband and I to have date nights.

  7. We each have an allowance for discretionary spending. I get it one paycheck, he gets it the next. I also pay most of the bills. That decision was made when we first combined our bank accounts and he spent a nice chunk on football tickets for my birthday. I explained to him that we had a lot of expenses that still needed to come out and he couldn’t just do that. We talk about the big stuff but he leaves a lot of the day-to-day spending to me.