Going out is fun. But it’s expensive. Food, drinks, movies, concerts. They add up quickly. Sometimes we’re asked to make the unfortunate choice between what we want to do and what we can afford to do. Where’s the fun in that?
While some things you can’t change – for example, concert ticket prices are out of your hands – there are ways you can cut back on the expense of going out so that you can get more for your money. In other words, you absolutely can have your cake and eat it too.
Here are some tips for saving money without having to become a hermit:
Eat before you go
Food is a part of nearly every social interaction. It makes sense – who doesn’t love to eat? But unfortunately, eating out is not cheap, and it’s also not that healthy. Sure, you can order salads and save a little cash, but $15 for a handful of lettuce and some vegetables isn’t exactly the best way to spend your money.
Plan ahead and consider eating before you leave the house. Cooking is cheaper and it’s better for you. This way, when you meet up with friends, you can simply say, “No, I ate at home.” Nurse a beer, a glass of wine or even a soft drink and you’re all set.
If you’re worried people might look at you weird for not ordering food when you go out, you shouldn’t be. First, what do you really care? It’s your life. Live it the way you want to. Second, all you need to do is say you’re trying to pay closer attention to your diet. It’s true, and for some reason taking care of yourself seems to be a better excuse for anomalous behavior than trying to save money. (There’s a whole discussion to be had about this, but we’ll leave it for another time.)
Take charge of reservations
Eating before you go doesn’t always work. Sometimes the meal is the event. Maybe you’re meeting up with old school friends, or you’ve planned a night out with your cousins. Grabbing dinner is a logical way to bring people together. And even though everyone likes to save money, those you go out with might not have it as a top priority.
The response to this: take charge of the group. Often times the hardest part about getting people together is deciding where to go. No one wants to be blamed if the place is bad, and it’s hard to find somewhere that aligns nicely with everyone’s tastes. Throw in some vegetarians, vegans and gluten-freers and things get really hard.
But just because it’s hard doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Google reviews and Yelp make it easy to have an idea of what you’re getting into before you go, and nearly every restaurant these days has their menu online. Take some initiative and find a place for everyone to go. Try to find a few that fit your budget and that match what others like, then suggest them to the group.
If you do your homework, people will actually be thankful that they don’t have to worry so much about where to go. And you won’t have to worry about how much money you’ll spend.
Often times we get too caught up in the act of going out. We place too much importance on what we’re doing or where we’re going. But what really matters is who we’re with. Of course, it’s nice to get out of the house, but don’t totally discredit this.
Having people over is a great way to keep social energy up and expenses down. You can host movie nights, game nights or just a plain old party full of wine and gossip. Ask people to pitch in and bring some food or drinks, and before you know it you’re having a rip-roaring good time.
Organize a regular event that changes hosts. This way, if you have roommates or neighbors, you don’t have to bear the burden of always hosting. But volunteer in the beginning to get things going, and don’t be afraid to invite some people outside your social circle. An injection of new people is a nice way to keep things interesting and take people’s attention away from the fact they’re not “out.”
Find areas where you can save
Saving money while maintaining your social life isn’t always a matter of finding ways to have fun for less. There are lots of things we do in our daily lives that we consider “necessary,” but that really aren’t.
A classic example of this is coffee. So many people around the world start their day at a coffee shop; their caffeine fix is a necessary part of the day. But it’s hard enough to get up early to shower, get dressed, do our hair and whatever else we need to do, so most of us delegate our coffee to the local Starbucks or Dunkin’.
That’s fine, every once in a while. But at two or three dollars a day, we’re talking about $10-15 a week and $60 a month. All for coffee. That money could easily be used on a nice dinner, a concert or some other thing you like to do with friends. This doesn’t mean you have to give up coffee, but consider finding ways to do it cheaper. Coffee subscription services, for example, bring premium freshly roasted coffee right to your door and they cost a fraction of what you would pay at a coffee shop.
There are other things like this that you can do to save money. For example, meal services help make grocery shopping cheaper and easier, and keeping better snacks around the house is good for both your wallet and your body.
When you make these changes, consider funneling the money you save into a separate account so that you can have it available for when you do go out. Knowing you can expand your budget by making a few small changes is liberating, and it will help you live a more active and affordable social life.
No one wants to sacrifice their social life because of money. It feels wrong and can hurt your sense of self-worth. So, if times are a little tough, don’t deny yourself. Instead, make a few changes so that you can still enjoy a vibrant social life without constantly checking your bank balance.