‘Living on a tight budget doesn’t mean you can’t have fun’

Jun 05, 2021
Even on a tight budget, you can still get out and enjoy a boogie and some free music at the local pub or tavern. Source: Getty Images

My husband and I retired, but then work was offered to us again. We took the opportunity and both worked until we were in our 70s, when the work ceased.
We’re in our 80s now and we have time, but we are also bound by a tight budget.

When you’re living on a ‘pauper’s income’ it can be tricky to have fun. What do I mean by ‘fun’? For us, it’s something that can make you forget about the sludge and drudgery of life — if only for an hour or two.

I paint and write. I was doing those things long before retirement. They provide me with much joy.

However, retirement can mean the same old routine day after day. It’s easy to get stuck into the rut of ‘doing the washing, making the bed, shopping for groceries’ and repeat. Occasionally, one might have decluttered the pantry (and in doing so removed many out of date items), but none of that is really any fun.

We’ve developed a way of changing things up on a regular basis. When I should be cooking or sorting through the washing, we’ll often drop everything and go for a drive. We’re lucky we still can! We’ll take off towards the ocean just to dip our toes in the water, we’ll pick up some chips and eat them in a park, or we’ll go wandering in and out of op shops looking for fashionable bargains.

Life when you’re 80-plus can feel a bit like the end of a toilet roll — everything goes by really quickly. We take advantage of this time we have so much of and we make the most of it!

There are so many days where we are confined to staying local. It seems that once you get to a certain point in life you’re calendar reads like a never ending list of doctors appointments, eye tests, X-rays, visits to the foot clinic etc., which all take up so much precious time.

Because of our budget, these spontaneous changes to the ‘hard and fast’ plans make life interesting and … fun!

What we’ve learned is that having fun doesn’t have to cost the earth. When we receive unexpected invitations to cafes or music sessions, we discuss briefly how we might be able to afford such a luxury before deciding that life is too short.

My husband and I both love music. We love getting along to our local pub to see the live bands. You’ll be forgiven for trying to pigeon-hole me with the perceived appearance of someone in their 80s. Live music has proven to change our mood; it makes us happier. I love hearing everything from classic rock to classical.

I love dancing too! I will get up and bop a little when we have a live music session. I look like a trapped giraffe, I reckon, but still do it until I get breathless and have to give in.

One of the more recent ways I’ve been able to have fun is through joining an online community. I love to op shop, and I found one such community group where I belong. I share photographs of myself in the outfits that I find.

My local op shop had a ‘pick a bag for $5’ deal recently. I happily went shopping. I’ve always been amazed by some of my finds. On this occasion, I discovered a perfect designer evening gown, bone lined and in black. I looked up the designer, a New York label, and discovered that similar dresses were being sold for nearly $2,000.

Jacqui loves a bargain and enjoys browsing through her local op shops in search of one. Source: Jacqui Lee

It was so rewarding to be able to share this purchase with my fellow op shop lovers. I received more than 1,000 likes and comments online. I am also getting feedback face-to-face when I go into the op shops around town, with other shoppers saying they have seen me in the community group. What fun!

Every Friday we meet up with friends, mostly those we’ve met through the U3A though it’s a great mish-mash of people in our town. I enjoy the coffee and the company. We solve all the problems of the world for $5 (that’s what the coffee costs). There are plenty of laughs and it’s lots of fun!

Another grey matter work out (and a lot of fun to participate in) is Mahjong, which I play once a week. I enjoy this frustrating game, the challenge of it sort of sucks me in! We play for two hours and the cost is zero. I meet at the same club for our U3A, and will have lunch there sometimes.

All these things make for a better, more fun, life. We are lucky to live in a small town where people are generally kind and caring, every shopping trip is a ‘meet and greet’ as we know so many. The experts tell us we keep healthier if we have social interaction.

Due to our past involvement with art and writing, Lions and other groups we have friends from all walks of life. We are broke and not in perfect health, but we are generally happy. Forget the routine, go out and find the fun, it’s waiting for you somewhere.

Affordable ways to have fun when you’re on a tight budget

  1. Find local events, like the bands playing at your local tavern or pub. Check out your local council and the community noticeboards for upcoming events for the public. It could be a movie night or arts festival or a community celebration. Often the cost to attend is low, if not free, and the fun can last for hours!
  2. Search for deals, especially when eating out. Some restaurants will offer special meal deals and other promotions for things like birthdays, seniors and other celebrations. Finding these deals are great for having a night out without killing your budget for the rest of the month.
  3. Look for the spots that don’t charge admission. Stargazing in your local park, dipping your toes in the water of a nearby beach, finding a secluded walking trail in a national park, or even having a picnic on your front lawn are inexpensive (read: no-cost) ways of getting out and about and enjoying the natural environment around you.
  4. Get a bit of culture. Places like your state library, art gallery and museum will often host exhibitions that are free to enjoy for the community. This is especially great if you’re looking for something to do with a group of like-minded friends and/or your grandchildren.
  5. Join an online community. When you join an online community centre on your hobby or interest, it becomes a place for you to go to practise and discuss your ideas with others. ‘I Love To Op Shop’ is a great example of the sort of thriving, healthy communities that are waiting online.

If you're on a tight budget, what do you do to have fun?

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