Maybe you’ve been budgeting for years, or maybe this entire budgeting concept is completely new to you. In any case, if you’ve been working hard at crushing those goals, it’s time to reward yourself. You know what they say: “All work and no reward makes for one burnt-out budgeter,” or something like that.
You might think rewards sound expensive. The truth is, rewarding yourself can be expensive, but it doesn’t have to be.
Don’t skip treating yourself just because you think your new budgeting lifestyle can’t handle it. There are plenty of ways to reward yourself that won’t bust your budget. Here’s a solid list of thrifty or free ways to do just that!
Ways to Reward Yourself for $5 or Less
1. Have a stay-at-home movie night.
Going to the movies can add up quickly: tickets, sweets, popcorn, drinks. If you have kids, you’re adding in babysitting fees. Also, you might be avoiding theaters right now anyway. So, here’s your cheaper option—one you can experience on your own couch in your pajamas.
Enjoy a movie night at home for just $5. Yes, really. We can prove it:
- One-night DVD rental ($1.50)
- One box of movie candy ($1)
- One bag of microwave popcorn ($0.50)
- Two-liter bottle of soda ($1.50)
That leaves $0.50 to cover tax. Added bonus: You can pause the movie for as many bathroom breaks as you need without missing any of the action!
2. Host a potluck game night.
Quick tip before we jump in here: you can game virtually—if you’d prefer. A digital dinner conversation is still a great way to enjoy community.
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If you feel like having people over, invite your friends to a classic game night. You probably have some good games stored away in that catchall hall closet, and you can rely on the resources of others for this too. Ask your friends to bring their favorites with them.
Plus, if you go potluck-style with the snacks, you’ll save even more. Real friends don’t mind bringing chips and salsa or their famous chocolate chip cookies to share in exchange for a night of friendly competition. Spend that $5 on your share of the refreshments, and it’s game on.
3. Buy a fancy coffee.
We’ve mentioned before that one way to save big is to become your own barista. Did you kick your fancy coffee habit to meet some of your money goals? Bravo!
Now, go back to your favorite coffee shop and reward yourself. As you sip the half-sweet, double shot cappuccino with almond milk, think of how much better it tastes as a treat for your hard work rather than a taken-for-granted daily routine.
4. Go on a dollar store shopping spree.
(Disclaimer: This one cheats just a little, so to cover the tax, raid that compartment in your car where you throw loose change.)
When was the last time you checked out your local dollar store? We’re talking about the everything-for-$1 kind. These places carry a lot of junk—but they can also be a treasure trove for smart shoppers.
Go in with your $5 (plus those hunted-down coins) and pick out five treats. A mug with a funny saying, candy, new sunglasses, a picture frame, a donut-themed candle—these places are never short on thrifty rewards!
5. Take a hike.
Some days, the weather is so perfect you can nearly hear nature begging you to go out and enjoy it. We get busy and forget how much good some simple fresh air and outdoor exercise can do for us.
Search online for nearby hiking opportunities. The internet is a perfect place to figure out the hike’s location, difficulty and length. And a hike can cost you nothing, unless you want to buy some snacks or need a leakproof water bottle (which is a great investment anyway!).
6. Get outside.
In fact, there are tons of fun things you can do outside for free. Go on a snack picnic with popcorn, apples and cheese. Read on a blanket at the park or by a creek. Pile blankets in the back of your truck and count the stars. Nature’s ready to wow you. Go get wowed.
Ways to Reward Yourself for $10
7. Buy yourself something nice (and cheap).
We often get stuck in the rut of thinking nice things are always expensive things, but that just isn’t true. Think about things you love, and then consider what you can purchase that would add to or upgrade this passion.
- Writers: Buy a new journal or those perfect-ink-flow pens.
- Runners: Purchase an audiobook to listen to as you put in the miles.
- Cooks: Buy that $10 kitchen gadget you’ve been eyeing—the one you don’t need every day but you really want anyway.
- Spa Enthusiasts: Invest in bath salts, bubble bath, a candle and a mud mask. Turn on some relaxing melodies and soak up the satisfaction of meeting your financial goals.
- Readers: Hardcovers aren’t cheap, but consider getting the electronic version of that book you’ve been dying to read. We have several e-books for just $9.99 (or less!).
- Everyone: You get the idea! Be creative when you’re hunting down that little something extra to enjoy.
8. Go camping—in your backyard.
Has your entire family been working on these financial goals with you? You all should celebrate. If you have a tent and plenty of blankets, you could have a backyard camp-out. Hotdogs, buns and chips aren’t too expensive, and if you hit the sales right, s’mores won’t bust your budget either.
If you don’t have a tent or don’t feel like sleeping outdoors, you can always pile up in the living room. Remember to tell the kids how proud you are of everyone’s efforts to be smart with money.
9. Take up yoga.
Here’s a way to reward yourself that can bring you calm and get you stronger. Buy yourself a $10 mat, find some free yoga videos online, and enjoy pausing from the often-hectic nature of life while breathing deeply and stretching out.
10. Make your favorite dessert.
Buy all the ingredients, crank up the tunes, and whip up your fave dessert. This is a double treat—it’s fun to make, and you get to eat it after! But if the making part seems more stressful than rewarding, go buy the finished product from some place a little fancy.
Hey—making and sticking to a budget isn’t always easy. If your motivation to keep on keeping on falls by the wayside, it’s time to reward your awesome efforts. Introverts and extroverts, the competitive and the calm—anyone can enjoy a reward without wrecking all that good budgeting work.
Here's a quick, free way to reward yourself: Check out Ramsey+ in a free trial! You’ll get to test out the premium version of EveryDollar and watch our best money courses, like Budgeting That Actually Works. You know what? Learning how to budget even better while eating takeout sounds like another cheap, fun night in. So, get started!