Friday, April 29, 2016

Budgeting: The Gaps

If you're anything like me, you've got a budget to stick to each month so that you can have enough left over at the end to invest with. That some times can feel so straining that you feel like you have almost no air to breathe. It can feel utterly suffocating.

In times like that, I like to remind my wife (and myself when I have these moments!) that we simply need to find a way to have both a good savings rate and a good time. There are numerous ways to make this happen but I'll go over the most notable way we've conquered this in our lives.

Prior to taking on a budget, the wife and I would have a good time almost non-stop when we weren't working. We had a good amount of money coming in and we saw no reason that we couldn't use a ton of it. One of our favorite things to do was to go to a restaurant in the city called Old Chicago for their beer tour. The beer tour is a beer drinking challenge where those who wish to take it on have to drink 110 different beers in the restaurant. This can be achieved through up to four beers a night and has no expiration date. In fact, it took me a good three years to complete my first tour through it.

It's a little addicting. As you move your way through it, you earn various prizes. This can be a t-shirt, glasses, decks of cards, etc. When the budget arrived however, we realized that this was one of the biggest holes in our bank account that was draining cash. Old Chicago was effectively taking a good $70-100 each time we went through the food and drinks that we both would order and we were going at least once a week.

We knew we had to cut it down but it had become such a regular habit and we both very much enjoyed the atmosphere. We knew the people there, we always had such great conversations with each other, and the food was fantastic! We then got to thinking. How could we keep the "OC" in our lives but not let it take such a toll on the finances?

The first idea was to simply not order as much. We tried it but we kept finding ourselves breaking our set limit. The food and drinks were a bad combination. If we ordered too much to drink, it left us wanting more food. If we ordered too little food, we found ourselves drinking more to make up for it... and then ordering more food after the drinks!

The second idea was to simply not go to Old Chicago as often. This unfortunately left us filling that time with sitting at home more. When we sat at home more we didn't get as much unwinding time. The weeks felt longer and we felt more and more drained without our weekly social area.

That's when we discovered late night. It turns out, after 10pm, Old Chicago has a late night menu that has their food for $2 each and pints for $3 each. We would have to get ourselves used to waiting a bit to head to the restaurant but we could effectively eat like kings and drink like sailors and still go home with a check under $30! Yes, we had to compromise and not go during their busy time but we had effectively found a way to get what we wanted but for a third of the price. Sometimes we even have bills under $10 (rewards card gives $5 off swipes every three visits)!

What I'm trying to get at is that even on a budget, if you attack the problem enough times and keep going at it with the idea that you need to cut out some cash, you'll eventually find a way to have both a sound budget and what you want (it just may be late night!).

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