Even though weekends are only a small portion of the week, it seems like I spend a lot more money on those two days than I do on the other five days. Why? I think having unstructured time and wanting to do things with my family makes it easy to go off the rails of my budget. (See also: 40+ Cheap or Free Ways to Make the Most of the Weekend)
Here are some of the worst weekend money traps — and how to avoid them.
1. The Movie Theater
Even if there is nothing great to watch, people like going to the movies to have something to do for a few hours. This can be especially tempting if you have lots of time on your hands and your family is bored. But the cost of movie tickets plus popcorn and other expensive snacks will quickly deplete the funds you work so hard during the week to earn.
How to avoid: Watch a movie at home via streaming or rent from Redbox instead of going to the movie theater.
2. The Car Lot
A weekend activity that seems like free entertainment is going to the car lot just to look. The problem is, looking is how the car buying cycle starts. You see newer, nicer cars than the car you have with cool new features and this gets you to start thinking about upgrading. You could even get talked into taking a test drive with a skilled salesperson and end up buying a car that you weren't planning to buy, resulting in thousands of dollars of unplanned spending.
How to avoid: Wait until you are ready to buy a car and set a budget to go car shopping. And instead of looking at cars, spend some time working on the car you already have. Wash it, vacuum it, check the air pressure in the tires, check the fluid levels, and even change the oil and oil filter if you are mechanically inclined.
Read More: 7 Surprising Ways Summer Will Cost You
3. The Mall
I fell into this weekend money trap last weekend. I wanted to take the family for a walk in the mall since it was hot and humid outside. By the time we headed home, I was carrying a bag filled with video games that erased most of the money I earned working on Friday.
How to avoid: Go grocery shopping instead of shopping at a mall or sporting goods store. You can have a shopping experience, but you will be buying things you need. Plus, having a fresh supply of groceries to kick off the weekend can help you avoid another money trap — dining out.
With all of the free time that people have on weekends, there are many opportunities to go out to eat. It's easy to spend $10 per person for breakfast or lunch, or $15 per person for dinner. You could easily buy enough groceries to last all weekend and then some for the cost of going out to eat just once.
How to avoid: Have a plan for what meals you will make at home Saturday and Sunday, and try not to be out and about at mealtime, or on an empty stomach.
5. Open Houses
Another example of a weekend activity that seems like free entertainment is to go look at houses for sale. Chances are, you won't be inspired to run out and buy a house. But you might get ideas for upgrades and expensive projects for your current house that you didn't even know you needed until you checked out new house.
How to avoid: Don't go house shopping unless you need to move.
Read More: 4 Brilliant Tips From "Smart Mom, Rich Mom"
6. The Furniture Store
Furniture stores make it so easy to buy furniture. If you don't have money or credit, this is not a problem — you can get store credit on the spot. If the furniture won't fit in your vehicle, you can get free delivery. If you don't like the color of the floor model, you can order whatever color you like. Also, it seems like the furniture store is always having some sort of major sale to make you feel like you should buy now to get the best price. But do you really want to spend a month's salary on a new couch?
How to avoid: If you need furniture, check out used furniture at a consignment shop, thrift shop, and Craigslist instead of looking at new furniture. Used furniture can cost 90% less than new furniture.
7. Big Ticket Events
Every few years, my wife gets me tickets to go to a college football game. It's incredible how expensive it is to go to a big event like this! The tickets are expensive. The food and refreshments are expensive. Even getting to the stadium is expensive — you can pay to park near the stadium, or you can park for free and pay for transportation from the parking area to the stadium. And there are lots of opportunities to buy jerseys, posters, footballs, and other souvenirs. In addition to college or professional sports, other expensive weekend events include rock concerts and theater productions.
How to avoid: I try to go to big events only a few times a year, at the most. It's a lot cheaper to catch the big game or other events on TV at home, and you get a better view of the action as well.
8. The Weekend Roadtrip
Taking a road trip can be an expensive way to spend the weekend. It costs about $5 per hour to cruise down the highway in a car, just for gas. The cost of gas and wear and tear on your vehicle is often just the beginning. You'll likely eat most or all of your meals at gas station convenience stores or fast food places while you are on the road, taking a toll on both your bank account and your waistline. If you are on an overnight trip, a hotel stay can easily cost $75 or more.
How to avoid: Take a fuel efficient vehicle, bring food from home with you, and stay with friends or family instead of staying at a hotel to reduce the cost of taking a road trip.