Have you ever gone on a diet and not given yourself a "cheat day"?

What happens after the first few days of clean eating? Well, for some of us, that box of Oreos we forgot to take out of the pantry before starting the diet can be our Kryptonite. We give in, and (in my case) eat the entire box. Needless to say this ends up being a significant roadblock on your path to a healthier lifestyle.

That is why the cheat day is so important—a day that you can eat whatever it is you’ve been craving while subsisting on tuna and crackers and spinach for six days. I even keep a list on my refrigerator that I add to whenever I think of a food I would like to eat on my cheat day.

What does this all have to do with finance, you ask? A lot!

When I first started doing my hardcore budgeting, where every penny was accounted for (quite literally) I made the mistake of not allocating funds for entertainment. I forgot the fun fund! After the first couple of months of wondering why it wasn’t working out the way it should have been (according to my calculations on paper), I started tracking the ‘impulse’ buys.

"Everyone should have a fun fund, a set amount each month that you have set aside for entertainment."

Pizza on a Friday night after a long week, movie tickets, gas for a day trip. I had been so caught up sticking to my financial diet that I overlooked our family’s need for a fun time together and the expenses that might entail. I averaged what we spent over a couple of months and did my best to budget what we could afford to spend in one month for entertainment. Now our fun fund allows us to go on semi-spontaneous trips ( "spontaneous" trips I secretly plan ahead of time, but still...) without derailing our budget.

Everyone should have a fun fund, a set amount each month that you have set aside for entertainment. Ours includes eating out, movie tickets, entrance fees to attractions, babysitting fees, and more. I am a big advocate of free entertainment so we don’t always spend all of our fun-fund money for one month. But I do plan our outings for any given month ahead of time (within reason, I’m not clairvoyant).

I look at the movies coming out that month, and the ones that already have been showing and are at the second-run theaters (a lot less expensive) and plan one weekend to go see one as a family. I also include our babysitting expenses for date nights in that fund so Carlos and I can get a night out. This is all done so we don’t go overboard with our financial Oreos and ruin the good work we’ve done throughout the month.

All work and no play won’t necessarily make us dull, but it probably will blow up our budget.

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