Hanging out with friends almost always involves spending money–whether it’s grabbing dinner or drinks, seeing a movie, or a weekend shopping trip. When you’re on a tight budget, those activities can really add up. If you have a group of friends that regularly spends outside of your comfort zone, the pressure to keep up can be a little overwhelming.
Follow the tips below to save money next time you’re hanging out with friends.
Be the first to suggest the restaurant/bar/activity.
Planning a night out with friends often involves coordinating a date and time before anything else. If you’re the one with a strict budget, take the initiative on suggesting a restaurant or bar that is within your price range. Pick a place that is convenient for your friend so they’ll be more likely to agree to it. Look for a place that has a great happy hour or excellent food for a good price. I always aim to choose restaurants where I can eat well + have one drink for under $20. [See my list of Best Cheap Eats in NYC for my personal favorites.]
Plan a potluck or a picnic.
Always a crowd pleaser, planning a potluck or a picnic gives everyone the opportunity to set their own budget. The single friend who is strapped for time might choose to bring wine, while a stay-at-home mom strapped for cash can make her famous (and cheap) 7-layer dip. Gatherings like this can easily become a tradition. If the first one you plan is a hit, make it an ongoing “first Saturday of the month” event. That way you know you’ll always have a chance to see friends while keeping your budget intact.
Do something that doesn’t involve eating.
Going out to bars or restaurants gets old after a while, especially if you’re going to the same places over and over again. To save money and have a bit more fun, get creative in planning activities with friends. Take the lead on organizing a book club or a DIY holiday decoration party. If your friends are the outdoorsy type, plan a day of kayaking or hiking. Or, even better, do something seasonable like going apple picking or taking a trip to the beach together.
Quit the gym.
Rather than going out, why not work out with your friends? Gym memberships are expensive, and most people do not take full advantage of their membership. If you’re paying $80 a month but only going twice, that’s an expensive way to get your cario in. Instead, get a group of friends to quit the gym with you–and commit to weekend runs in your local park instead. Or, find a private yoga instructor and coordinate a group class with just your closest friends. The cost per person is likely to be less than going to a fancy studio, and it’s a lot more fun to struggle through balance poses with people you know.
If you’re someone who regularly spends money on pedicures, invite a friend to join you who is equally inclined to indulge in them. Or, if you know you are definitely going to see Breaking Dawn, Part 2, make it a double date. Bringing friends along on an activity you were already planning to spend money on is a great way to get in quality time without forking over extra cash.
Stay home and Skype with out of town friends.
With gas prices continuing to cripple many people’s wallets, sometimes just driving to a friend’s home can stretch your budget. Skype is an easy way to stay in touch with friends who have moved away, or reconnect with international friends you met while studying abroad or traveling. There’s something nice about having face-to-face time, rather than just talking on the phone.
Create a money club.
If money is a really important concern for you, chances are it is for your closest friends as well. Go above and beyond just saving money by creating a money club to discuss goals and support each other toward reaching them. You could start by reading a popular money book together, or find a local expert to join you at your first meeting. When it comes to reaching financial goals, few things are better than talking openly about them and seeking support from those closest to you.
Hanging out with friends and saving money really can go hand and hand. Following one or more of the tips above will definitely help ease any financial strain. And even better, you’ll have fun while doing it.
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