how to have fun on a budgetThere’s a saying that good meat isn’t cheap and cheap meat isn’t good—in other words, you get what you pay for. So when you’re on a budget, how can you enjoy the finer things in life without breaking the bank?

Fortunately, you can treat yourself and the ones you love to some VIP-style fun every once in a while, even if you don’t make a million dollars a year. Here are a few ways you can eat out, travel, and have fun on a budget:

Dining out

Going out to eat is definitely a treat, and costs can quickly add up. Save money by not ordering drinks and instead only ordering water. Non-alcoholic beverages and wine are where restaurants make most of their profits.

Another way to save a little money while still being able to eat great food is to go out for lunch instead of dinner. The portions will most likely be smaller, but that means your bill will be smaller, too. You can also try a different day of the week. Many restaurants offer deals on slower-traffic days in order to drive more business.

Traveling

Try vacationing in the off-season. You can find some great vacation packages by booking during off-peak months, and resorts and beaches may not be very busy during those times.

If you are flying, try scheduling your flight to leave and return during the middle of the week or booking flights with connections instead of non-stop or direct flights. It won’t be as quick, but it will be cheaper (and you’ll have some time to stretch your legs). You may also want to consider alternate means of transportation, such as bus or train, if time is not a factor and if your travel destination is only a few hundred miles away.

(Click here for more information about how to travel on a budget)

The finer things

If you love to be pampered, consider checking out the local beauty colleges or spa training schools in your area instead of pricier salons or spas. You’ll save money, and the person taking care of you will appreciate the opportunity to further perfect his or her craft. You can also try daily deals sites, such as LivingSocial and Groupon, which often have discounted prices for spa and salon services. But buyer beware: You can definitely wreck your budget if you don’t know when to say no to a deal.

If you prefer a good shopping spree to unwind, gently used could be the way to go.
Consider shopping at clothing consignment stores and online stores. You can find new and nearly new items for a fraction of the price.

Can you travel, eat out, and enjoy the finer things without breaking the bank? I think you can as long as you have some self-control, are able to budget, and remember that you aren’t a multi-millionaire. What are your tips for enjoying yourself on a budget?

Steve Repak is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional, CFP® Board Ambassador, and financial literacy speaker. He is also an Army veteran and the author of Dollars & Uncommon Sense: Basic Training For Your Money. Follow him on Twitter: @SteveRepak