By: Anna Compagine Cohen
After a long week at work, there’s no better way to unwind than hanging out with friends. Friday night drinks with your pals, Saturday night date, and Sunday brunch with the fam. Socializing with our loved ones keeps us sane and happy. Unfortunately, it can also keep us from sticking to our budgets.
So what can you do if you love hanging out with your family/friends, but can’t quite keep up with their finances? Don’t blow your budget in order to socialize. There are plenty of less expensive options for having fun with your crew while still staying within your financial boundaries.
Find a Happy Hour
It might seem obvious, but Happy Hour - and its traditionally 2-for-1 drinks - is the easiest way to get more bang for your socializing buck. So if your crew just loves meeting up for drinks, suggest an after-work Happy Hour.
Pick Lunch Over Dinner
If you and your friends are dying to try the newest restaurant in town, try making reservations for lunch instead of dinner. Most restaurants offer lunch menus that are similar, if not identical, to their dinner menus. The only difference is the smaller portion - and smaller price. You can save between up to $12 while still dining out.
Suggest Someplace New
If your group has been frequenting the same few (expensive!) places for months, take it upon yourself to find someplace new. Browse through restaurant.com to not only find local gems, but also to get great deals. They regularly offer discounts such as $10 restaurant certificates for just 4$. Make sure you read the small print, though - some certificates require a minimum purchase.
Socializing doesn’t have to cost money. The only thing that matters is that you are with the right people. Next time you’re trying to come up with plans, suggest something free - a walk on the beach, a picnic, a bike ride. You won’t bust your budget, but you’ll still have fun with your family/friends.
When you do end up going out for dinner, you can save money by ordering an appetizer for your meal. If you’re not too hungry, it’s a great alternative to the oversized meals served at most restaurants.
Grab a Groupon
Looking for something unique to do with your friends? No matter how long you’ve lived in your city, there are surely some “tourist” sites that you haven’t seen before. Think museums, galleries, and live music venues. Scroll through the Groupon website for ideas and discounts.
Just Say No to Shopping Trips
You may have the best intentions in the world to “only” window shop. But suddenly you remember an upcoming birthday. Or you see something you think you need. Unless you are highly disciplined, shopping trips turn into buying trips way too often. Avoid temptation altogether by suggesting a different activity.
Opt for some group exercise! Take your laptop outdoors or clear out some space in your home and try an online fitness class together. FitOn has great options: everything from yoga to Boot Camp, for a variety of fitness levels, and they’re all free.
Sip Some Caffeine
A coffee meetup can be the perfect way to socialize on a budget. Instead of spending money on dinner or drinks, catch up over a latte at your favorite coffee spot. Bonus: you won’t have to strain your voice to be heard over the din at a crowded bar.
Make It a Night IN
Socializing doesn’t always have to be about a crazy night out. Switch things up by suggesting a night in. Make it a snack potluck (everyone brings their favorites to share), and binge watch your favorite shows on Netflix. Bonus: you can do this one in your loungewear!
Remember: the most important part of socializing is who you are with, not what you are doing. And if you are worried about your expenses, you’ll be too stressed out to relax and enjoy the company of your family or friends. So next time someone suggests getting together, try out one of our budget hacks for socializing on a budget. You’ll quickly find that you really can have fun without overspending!