The other day I was talking to a friend of mine. Between exchanging news about the children and work, she mentioned that they don’t ‘have much life at the moment’.

Yep; you probably guessed right. My friend and her husband recently found out that their debt is out of control. They did what most people in their situation do: accepted that their life is not going to be drudgery for the next four-five years.

They just won’t have life.

I have been there and you can trust me when I say that not having life means that you are not going to pay off your debt either. Why?

Because having fun and budgeting for it is a neglected rule of personal finance but a very important one nevertheless. Refusing all pleasure and feeling deprived only means that you are more likely to ‘fall off the wagon’.

Being on a budget – even a fairly strict one – doesn’t mean that you should forgo all fun; it means that you will have to find different ways to have fun.

When we were in the throes of debt we stopped going to restaurants. Instead, we managed to convince our friendship group to take turns to cook dinner. It worked fine for a bit.

Anyway, during the three years of our aggressive debt repayment we entertained at home a lot. Even this can be made to be fun.

Once we had a bet with our friends that we can serve three course French dinner for £1.50 ($2.40) per person. We won. Winning took ingenuity, smart shopping and cooking everything from scratch.

Here is the menu (yep, we had a fancy menu card as well):


Let me tell you, £1.50 ($2.40) has never tasted that good!

Now the recipes.

The onion soup recipe came from the Penguin Cordon Bleu Cookery by Rosemary Hume and Muriel Downes. All you need is: 1 lb. onion, 2 oz. butter, 1 table spoon of flour, 3 pints of stock, 1 small French loaf; grates Parmesan and Gruyere cheese.

Cook the onion in the melted butter until brown, add the flour and the stock. Simmer for 20-30 minutes.

Place the sliced bread in an earthenware casserole, pour the soup and sprinkle with cheese. Place in hot oven till brown and serve very hot.

Chicken with sage and rosemary served with mashed potato and salad. This is absolutely delicious: chicken breast and legs fried in olive oil with rosemary and sage. Delicate and tasty. (The recipe came from my Nintendo cooking chip.)

Chocolate mousse and melon. This recipe came from The Guardian and is called ‘Perfect chocolate mousse’ – it is perfection and easy to make.

For two servings you need 60g of dark chocolate (at least 70%), 2 eggs and 2 tsp caster sugar. Melt the chocolate over steam; separate the eggs and whisk the whites until they form soft peaks, then add the sugar (with a hand mixer this takes couple of minutes). Mix the yolks into the melted chocolate and whisk in third of the egg white. Fold the rest of the egg white into the mixture.

Spoon in serving bowls and put in the fridge for at least four hours.

This is it! Three course French dinner for £1.50 ($2.40) per person. And we do all this as a family so I could catch up with my son’s news – you know boys, they share better when they are doing something next to you. Like beating egg whites.

Who said that people have to stop entertaining when on a budget; one can always eat for less.

I would love to hear your experience with entertaining at home.