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4 Ways to Squeeze More 'Fun Money' Out of Your Budget

Scott Nordlund
4 Ways to Squeeze More 'Fun Money' Out of Your Budget

One of the first things we learn as adults is that it's hard to find any money for fun. If too much of your income goes toward pleasure, then there's not enough left for food, rent, electricity, water, your cellphone and your credit card bill.

That realization can be pretty depressing.

It's time to get past the notion that there's no money for fun. The key to having enough money to have a good time is to be smart with it in the first place.

With a bit of planning, you can pay your bills and still have enough left over for nights out with your friends -- or for traveling the world. Here are four ways to build more fun money into your finances.

1. Make a budget and set goals

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Make fun a priority in your spending plan.

Budgeting for your monthly expenses is the first step toward making sure you'll have a little extra to play with at the end of every month.

You need to understand where your money's going so you can set spending priorities and goals, including for the things you enjoy most, whether it's concerts, restaurants, travel — whatever.

To do this right, start a "fun money" checking account and put some of your money into it after every paycheck. Use this account to save up for travel or fun outings.

When you spend money on that stuff, use money from the account instead of using your credit card. Once you drain the account, then you simply can't afford to go out again until you refill it.

Get rid of all unnecessary spending that doesn't go toward making you happy (like maybe that gym membership you're not using). Prioritize your spending, to match your goals.

2. Don't overspend, underspend

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Hit thrift stores and find other ways to spend less.

Overspending — spending more money than you make — is one of the easiest ways to get into money trouble. It's very tempting to splurge and splurge until you're in a deep debt hole.

But instead of overspending, try underspending. Look at how much money is coming in every month from paychecks and how much is going out to pay for credit bills and basics like your housing and food.

If you find that your credit bills seem to only be going up every month, it's time to adjust your spending habits.

This means cutting back where you can, hitting the thrift stores, using coupons, and doing anything else so that you're keeping more of your money.

The idea is that you'll be left with more at the end of the month to divert to your fun money account. Of course, there are two ways to underspend: spend less — or earn more.

3. Organize your paperwork

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Getting more organized can help you generate some fun money.

How does paperwork equal more fun money?

Consider this: Keeping track of your papers means you can have all of your documents ready at tax time, which can help you cut your tax bill and potentially get a larger refund.

If you don't have a good filing system for your important financial records, you're risking a whole lot of chicken-headed running around looking for those docs when you need them most.

Be sure to have a safe and organized place for storing employment records, old tax returns, investment account statements, legal documents and anything else you need to hold on to.

Make digital backups and at least two physical copies of anything you consider important. Keeping your papers in order will help you make the most of your money.

4. Start an emergency fund

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Starting an emergency fund can help ensure you always room in your budget for fun.

Accidents happen, and financial emergencies are an unpleasant reality of life.

Whether it's a new bumper for your car or a filling for a cavity, there are times when you need emergency savings you can dip into.

If you don't set up an emergency fund, you can be forced to use your fun money (NOT THAT!!!) when something comes up. Even worse, you might resort to using credit, which is how people get into ugly debt cycles.

Having an emergency fund is the best way to protect yourself against accidents and keep your fun money account dedicated to good times, all the time.

As an adult, having enough money for fun does take some sober planning, it's true. But the more you plan, the more fun you can have. Isn't that worth the effort?