Life is filled with reasons to celebrate: birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, newborn babies, promotions… it doesn’t matter the time of year, there’s always a reason to spend money. But what happens when you’re living paycheck to paycheck and you’re broke when your anniversary rolls around? How do you celebrate your anniversary on a budget?
This time of year is especially difficult when it comes to celebrations. It’s graduation AND wedding season! My calendar is full of invitations to these special events.
And this month bought an additional challenge since it’s also our wedding anniversary. I was frantically searching the internet and digging deep inside my brain for the best, most creative ways to celebrate our anniversary on a budget.
For our anniversary, Andrew and I always have dinner at the restaurant that catered our wedding reception. But it’s pretty expensive. Last year’s bill was $84. For just the two of us!
It was always the one thing we splurged on. Or, rather, we told ourselves it was the “one thing” we splurged on when, really, we were overspending in every area of our lives. It’s a slippery slope, folks. A little here and a little there adds up and, before you know it, your paycheck is gone!
It’s so easy to celebrate with expensive entertainment, dining, and fancy gifts. But not living within our means is what got us into this mess in the first place – so those options aren’t really options at all.
This year, we decided to celebrate differently. We decided to celebrate without spending any money.
Is that even possible? How can we go from overspending to no spending?
It isn’t always easy. When we’re used to a certain standard of living, it’s tough to adjust. But we bought a house last month and our bank account has been hemorrhaging money – inspection and appraisal fees, closing costs, and a lot of seemingly inexpensive household items (like silverware trays, a trash can, dishwasher soap) really add up!
And we couldn’t justify the extra expense of our anniversary dinner on top of all that.
But I really missed our fancy night out on the town. It made me feel special and loved and like we were investing in our marriage by going out and spending all that money on dinner for the two of us.
In reality, spending all that money wasn’t investing in our future – it was taking away from it!
So we have to adjust our expectations and our standard of living. And the trouble with adjusting our expectations is the feeling that we were cheated out of something we deserved. And feeling cheated can lead to binging – just like cutting calories on a diet can lead to overeating, we can feel deprived when we cut spending and binge on shopping, too.
And, if we’re not careful, we can overcompensate and blow our whole budget.
So how does someone find fun and frugal ways to celebrate on a wedding anniversary on a budget?
Put on your party hats
Think about this: You plan for an upcoming celebration – a birthday, anniversary, holiday, etc – and stress over buying this or that and extra decorations and gifts and party favors. And when it’s over and the bill comes (or you realize just how much damage it did to your checking account!), there’s even more stress.
So where’s the fun in that?
Celebrating should be fun – it shouldn’t cause you added stress. And I’m here to tell you it is possible to celebrate without breaking the bank – and to have fun while you’re doing it!
At this point, finding ways to not spend money is a game to me. I love a good challenge and there’s never a dull moment when finding new and creative ways to celebrate while spending less than I did last year.
And here’s how you can, too.
Fun and frugal anniversaries
The big challenge for this month was celebrating our anniversary on a budget and without going into debt. Since we had spent pretty much all of our money on buying a house and a new washer and dryer for said house, we didn’t have much left for celebrating.
And after paying off over $30,000 in debt, we sure didn’t want to splurge on an expensive dinner by putting it on credit!
This year, our anniversary happened to fall on a very busy weeknight. There wasn’t much time to prepare a five-course meal or to head out for a picnic and enjoy the nearby beach.
Plus, we’ve been so tired from all the unpacking and organizing we’ve had to do since moving into our new home.
Instead, we celebrated at home with a delicious family meal. It was relaxing and right on budget. And, in case you’re wondering we had the most delicious pork chops <— click for recipe and mashed potatoes. Can you say yum?
More Ways to Celebrate
But there’s a whole slew of other ways to celebrate that don’t include cooking a meal at home. Here are my favorites:
- Write a love letter to your spouse – relive your dating days or share how your love has grown over the years
- Dream together! This is one of my favorite things to do (I’m a planner and I love to dream about planning things!) Set short term and long term goals together and work together to make them come true
- Go out and enjoy a game of bowling or mini golf
- Pack a picnic lunch and watch the sunset
- Bake a cake or dessert together
- Make heart-shaped home-made pizzas
- Plan an at-home movie marathon – it can be themed (Star Wars anyone?) or just an old favorite (like Deadpool, which is my favorite love story – yes, it really is a love story)
- Light a fire and listen to the crackling sounds it makes as you relax and enjoy each other’s company far into the night
- Do something thoughtful without being asked (clean the house, do the dishes, organize the garage, clean out his car)
- Walk along the beach or take a stroll under the stars
Whether money is tight or you’re just looking to save a little on this year’s celebration, try spending more time than money. After all, it isn’t the money we spend, but the memories we make along the way that really matters.