Love going out with your friends or family but come away with a spending bill of $30+ every time at bars, clubs, restaurants or activities? If you’re doing this three times a week, that’s $360 a month you may or may not have financially. Maybe it’s all going on your credit card or cutting into retirement contributions and investments. However, being social is a very human need. We’re pack animals and staying home to save money when we want to be with others isn’t something most people can do other than short-term and even then they’ll usually feel miserable. Here are 7 ways to meet the social need but not at the cost of your financial health.
#1 – Cheaper Venues
One of the best ways to save your money but still spend time with friends, colleagues, your boyfriend or girlfriend, and family, is to swap locales to where you either won’t spend money or will at least spend less. Sometimes we do things by default rather than for a real love of the activity. For instance, happy hours, bars and restaurants are easy defaults that can deflate your wallet, especially if done regularly. Between drinks and food prices, you’ll be lucky to escape a night spending less than $30 and that’s if you don’t take a taxi or Uber home.
One way to combat the outflow of cash is to switch to cheaper versions of regular hangouts. My friends and I used to do happy hour at the less glitzy local bar around the corner from our offices that offered food and drink specials for $3 while trendier bars had happy hour prices at $8-$13. We were there for the camaraderie, not the quality of the food or drink so those $2-$3 Michelobs and greasy chicken wings were fine. Going there saved us tons over several years compared to other venues.
If you’re just meeting up to enjoy hanging out with friends after work, go where the best happy hour deals are. Other cheap hangouts include cafes. You can usually order a tea or cola for less than a beer or cocktail. These are smart ways of saving on usual outings but with some thinking you can probably come up with places and activities that are cheaper or even free where you can gather and socialize.
#2 – Pack or Pre-party
If you go out with others, chances are that if you’re out during usual meal times, people will naturally want to grab food or drink. One of the best ways to spare your wallet is to prepare ahead. This can mean bringing a snack and drink if you’re going to be running around town or out on excursions. Going to happy hour or out late and tired of invariably ordering food despite your best intentions? Eat or snack at the office or home before you leave so you’re not hungry and fighting your stomach when you’re out with your friends, family or colleagues. Then there is the pre-party option to save on drink costs which will always be cheaper to buy and consume at home than at a bar, restaurant or elsewhere.
#3 – Fake, Downsize or Split
When out with others, you can use a few options to save some cash.
Fake it. I used to order Sprite without ice at happy hours because it was the cheapest thing on the menu and it looked like a gin and tonic so colleagues or acquaintances didn’t hassle me about not drinking. Sometimes I ordered cranberry juice which people always mistook as a cocktail. Money saved but face time maintained.
Downsize. Nothing says you have to order a full meal when you’re out. If you eat beforehand, you’ll be less hungry but you can generally order something light rather than a full course meal – like an appetizer or side. When roped into going to an unplanned restaurant, I usually just order a small soup or appetizer. Sometimes I grab only a coffee or tea since they’re usually the cheapest or the least unhealthy.
Share it. Rather than ordering a full meal for yourself, share your appetizer or meal and split the cost. Many times the serving sizes are too large anyway.
#4 – Blank Night
Need your social time but don’t want to waste a paycheck going out? Stay in and invite your friends over for a themed night together. This can be movie night, game night, dinner night, favorite TV show night, whatever. You can come up with a thousand different themes to bring people together that will usually be less expensive than going out. This can also help gather your friends in one place to replace meeting everyone individually or in smaller groups later on, saving you time, energy and money while getting in needed face time.
#5 – Get Some Air Together
If you’re sedentary, you could probably use some activity in your life. Why not combine your social time with exercise? Go for a walk, hike, bike or run with your friends or family. Nothing says you have to go to a bar or restaurant. Want to get in shape but hate working out alone? Do like my aunt and meet up with friends to work out to fitness videos at your place or theirs. Not only are you not spending money, you’re improving your health.
If you aren’t interested in exercise, the outdoors offer a beautiful venue for socializing – even if it’s just someone’s backyard. BBQs, lawn games or play dates with kids are great excuses to stay local and not spend a lot of money. Parks, lakes, rivers, and beaches are also fantastic places to unwind, get some sun and Vitamin D. Studies show that people who get more sunshine are happier people. Why not take advantage of the outdoors even if it’s just to sit on your porch and chat?
#6 – Volunteer Together
Combine your social time with a good cause. Volunteer with a soup kitchen, food pantry, or whatever else you might enjoy. The environment, health, education, food pantries and other causes exist everywhere and can always use an extra hand. Help out your community with your friends or family.
You can also volunteer for activities that have nothing to do with a cause. Plenty of film festivals, concerts and theaters, just to name a few, need volunteers. I used to volunteer with film festivals and at my college theatre for free admissions to movies and plays. Festivals of all sorts need helping hands – food festivals, concerts, conventions. You name it and probably they need volunteers.
#7 – Discounts
Never pay full price for tickets to anything. For those who enjoy a night on the town, check out apps and services that offer discounts. I used Goldstar to save 50% on plays and events, Groupon for restaurants. So many exist to save you money on fitness and dance classes, restaurants, and everything else.
In terms of movies, movie tickets for adults are clocking in around $14 these days, more if you go IMAX or 3D which start at $17. Matinees are way cheaper. So is going to the theaters that show movies that have been out a while. Some theaters and even AAA offer discounted movie passes so if you’re a movie buff, you may want to also look into those. Skip the crowds, gimmicks, and outrages prices. You can save some serious cash, especially when you have to pay for yourself and others – whether that’s a date or your family.
Time Well Spent
Social time doesn’t have to revolve around eating out, going out or dining out – all of which can get pricey fast. Even if you go this route, there are cheaper ways of doing it which means more money in your pocket for next time. Mostly though we want to be with those we love or are interested in. If you’re wanting to save money but still have social time, check out these 7 ways to change things up and make your money stretch while building memories that last a lifetime.
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