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How to Enjoy the Weekend While Battling Debt

battling debt

This post has been written by our amazing staff writer, Laura Harris!

In 2011, my newly wed husband and I decided to get out of debt. It felt counter-intuitive because it was, after all, our first year of marriage. Weren’t we supposed to be having fun and seeing the world, not battling debt in a tiny apartment and a rice and beans diet?

We didn’t understand it fully at the time, but spending our first year of marriage battling debt as a team was one of the best decisions we’ve ever made. Not only did it help us learn better financial habits, but it helped us change our behavior about money – and that having lots of it doesn’t directly correlate with “having fun.”

Fast forward to November 2012. At this point, my husband and I were living 100% off of his income and putting each of my paychecks toward our student loan and credit card debt. We sent our last check that month, bringing our beginning balance of $22,000 in 2011 to $0. Ah, sweet relief!

Six weeks later, we became parents.

Was getting out of debt worth it? Yes.

(Here’s one other guy who thinks so, too. Read his story.)

Did we enjoy battling debt?

In the moment, not terribly. But we knew it was money that we owed, so there was nothing to do but pay it and free up our income as quickly as possible. So, when we thought about the long-term gains? Yes, we enjoyed that.

There are two primary ways that you can still enjoy your weekends while battling debt, whether you’re single, married, have kids, or don’t have kids. I’ve divided them into two categories: Behavior and Finances.

Choosing to enjoy your life and make the most of it is a behavioral choice. Creating and implementing a step-by-step plan to accomplish your debt-free goal is a financial choice.

Here are several examples to help you understand how this can apply to your situation:

battling debt - opportunity cost

How to Enjoy the Weekend While Battling Debt

Behavior – What mental and emotional decisions can you make that will help you enjoy your life while battling debt?

  • Rank the importance of debt freedom – How badly do you want to get out of debt? Do you want it as badly as you want to replace your 10-year-old car with something brand new off the lot? Do you want it so badly that you’re willing to sit down each month and create a spending plan to make it happen?
  • Weigh the opportunity cost – If you decide to cut back on the weekends by not eating out as often or by not shopping for new clothes or gadgets, you can enjoy your time more by weighing the opportunity cost. Because you didn’t spend $50 at restaurants or $100 on a shopping spree, you can attack debt with an extra $150 THEREBY having the opportunity to spend money on clothes and restaurants down the road when you’re debt-free.
  • Be unified in your decisions with your spouse or accountability partner – There is power in unity. When my husband and I both believed in the debt payoff plan we established, it made it much easier to decide what we’d do on the weekends. Going for walks at the outdoor mall or riding our bicycles or baking a frozen pizza and doing movie night at home became some of our favorite pastimes, knowing how much money we were saving on more extravagant weekend plans.

battling debtFinances – What financial decisions can you make that will empower you while battling debt?

  • Reduce the cost of a favorite weekend activity – Do you love eating at a new restaurant every Friday night? Try recreating your favorite restaurant meal at home for a fraction of the cost. Do you love going out for drinks with friends? Host a gathering at your house, instead. Sometimes, it’s just those little tweaks in the budget that help gain the most moment on your debt-free journey.
  • Try a staycation – If you really need a vacation but can’t afford to take one because of your debt load, consider a staycation. My brother and his wife found a lodge located two hours from home right on the water. They asked their family to watch their kids and, for a very inexpensive cost, they were able to get away and enjoy some time together. BONUS: Because they booked accommodations during the off season, they only needed to pay half price. They went ahead and booked another weekend lodging for our parents to have their own getaway next weekend. How cool is that?
  • Try using cash for things like restaurants and entertainment – I don’t know about you, but I find it extra difficult to control my spending during the weekend. The biggest change happened when my husband and I decided to use a set amount of cash each weekend for things like food, entertainment, and miscellaneous. I know without a shadow of a doubt that it worked, because whenever I veer off that path and use my debit card, our account starts to look like roadkill. (I don’t even know what that means, exactly, but it’s bad. Let’s just go with. It’s bad.)

As you’re battling debt, remember that life is still full of fun opportunities. What you’re doing is extremely important and will impact you (and your family) for the rest of your lives. So what if you have to forgo the $37 movie theater popcorn for a while? What’s that compared with taking your whole family to Hawaii in 10 years – and paying cash to do it?

How do you find a balance between paying off debt and enjoying your life? Share in the comments below!

Battle of the Mind Budget Get Out of Debt


My name is Derek, and I have my Bachelors Degree in Finance from Grand Valley State University. After graduation, I was not able to find a job that fully utilized my degree, but I still had a passion for Finance! So, I decided to focus my passion in the stock market. I studied Cash Flows, Balance Sheets, and Income Statements, put some money into the market and saw a good return on my investment. As satisfying as this was, I still felt that something was missing. I have a passion for Finance, but I also have a passion for people. If you have a willingness to learn, I will continue to teach.


  1. I couldn’t agree more about *really* wanting to get out of debt in order to make it happen. I spent too many years “wishing” I was debt free, but it wasn’t until I fully committed that things started to change for me.

    • Hi Richard,

      That really was the biggest game changer for me, too. Shifting my mentality and get “fully committed,” as you said, really did make the difference. It wasn’t an increase in our income or someone give us a chunk of money. It just boiled down to whether or not we WANTED to get out of debt. Thanks for reading!

  2. <3 staycations!

    Great little post. The only thing I disagree w/ is paying cash. Setting and following a weekend budget is awesome, but missing out on credit card rewards stinks!

    (that is, if one can handle credit card management, pay in full monthly, etc)

    Happy Friday! 😉

    • Yay for staycations! I appreciate your honesty about credit card points, Pete. I’ve discovered that I personally just spend more when I use a credit card, lol. Not proud of that, but, eh, it’s true. My debit card rounds up every purchase to the nearest dollar and automatically deposits that extra change into our savings, so I think of that as my “points system.” Then there’s the “clunk” of spare change dropping into our piggy bank, haha. Different strokes for different folks?
      Have a wonderful weekend!

  3. You can also try and do things that you normally would do on the weekend during the week. Our movie theater sells tickets for $5.50 on Tuesdays but it’s $11 during the Saturday nighttime shows. Board games are also super fun.

    • Fantastic suggestion, Millennial Moola! Yeah, the savings at a movie theater would be huge! ::adds to mental list of things to do soon::

  4. I tend to look at extra debt payments made in lieu of fun activities as “fun deferred.” I remind myself that I will still be doing the fun things with my family down the road, which eases the pain quite a bit.

    • That was an “aha” moment for me, too, Dave. It happened when I realized the cutbacks made today wouldn’t last forever. In fact, they’d make room for those bigger activities later. Still kind of waiting for that “later” part, haha. Thanks for that great reminder about how life will be with your family down the road.

  5. Love this! I’m planning a no-spend weekend, so this was just what I wanted to read!

    • Oh man, I really need to implement a no-spend weekend sometime. Ironically, I’d probably have more success doing a no-spend work week, haha. I really like not having to cook on Sundays! (I know, I just need to fire up my slow cooker…) I really hope your plans go great this weekend, Michelle!

  6. If a couple each work two or three jobs then debt goes away like magic.

    • Hey SteveO,

      I SO commend anyone who can get a second (or third!) job to apply toward debt. It was very humbling and exhausting emotionally to work a full 40 hours each week, then hand over the entire check over to our student loans. But what a payoff.

  7. Working as a team makes such a difference. I’m grateful that my girlfriend is an amazing cook. A few random ingredients results in delicious savings.

    • I agree, ZJ. Food has its own magical frugality, too.

  8. “Rank the importance of debt freedom.” I especially like this one. For me, the biggest incentive by far to focus on saving and debt retirement was envisioning what debt freedom would feel like. And turns out the feeling and real life consequences of debt freedom are even better than I anticipated!

    • Yes, it’s a truly powerful incentive! So glad to know it wasn’t just that way with me!

  9. Love it. Hit the nail on the head with prioritizing your values—and making debt freedom the first choice. Great advice in here, thanks for sharing!

    • I’m honored by your high praise, Mortimer. So glad you stopped by!

  10. Living a more down to earth lifestyle was a big change when we decided to pursue Financial Independence. It’s not that we were living a lavish lifestyle or anything like that, but if we wanted to do something, and could afford it… we did it. We still spend more money than I would like on outings, but Hey, marriage is compromise. We are doing a lot better, and we are both on the same page. I think she is as excited as I am about the concept of not having debt and being able to afford any trip we want to eventually. It’s just gonna take some time..

    • Hey Kevin,

      That’s so awesome that you found a way to compromise since you realized that you both value different things in marriage (and that it’s OK). I don’t think you’ll ever regret dialing back your lifestyle on your debt-free journey, because if you’re like us, it will continue on as a permanent lifestyle of more contentment after you’ve completed your mission. We celebrated debt freedom by splurging on some gadgets we’d said no to for a couple years. But then we got our tax refund check and applied it to our emergency fund rather than buying MORE gadgets/clothes/etc like we used to. Fun is still highly recommended, and you’re installing some awesome habits that will keep your finances healthy while you have that fun.

  11. I love this, Laura! Focusing on the fun part of getting out of debt will make it easier to keep going! And as you pointed out, the weekends are always the hardest for us, too. It’s important to have several free or low-cost ideas for fun up your sleeve. We really enjoy hiking or taking the kids to the park now that the weather is nice. When it’s gloomy out, we’ll hang out at the library (they have a really fun kids section, and the kids love it!) or play games at home.

    • Monica, you’ve been an inspiration to me in this department, so I’m sure a bit of your own wisdom is in this article. For that, I thank you. 🙂

  12. I just play a lot of board games. They don’t cost anything besides the initial set up and you can hang out with friends and feel wealthy while earning money from rent in Monopoly

    • Haha, yup! That’s one way to do it! 🙂

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