Living on a budget is all about restraint and careful planning, all of which can be easily achieved with the right tools. The thing about budgets, however, is that they can be too pragmatic, which doesn’t bode well when you just want to cut loose and have some fun with your spouse, friends, or family. Is it possible to have a social life while budgeting? The short answer is yes, of course! The longer answer is also yes, but you’ll have to take some extra steps.
The following tips are easy to apply to all sorts of night activities, from going out for a drink with your friends, to a lovely date night in the city. You’ll come to realize that going out on a budget does not mean sacrificing all the good stuff, but about thinking outside the box and depending more on your wits than on your money to have a good time.
Eat before going for a drink
It happens to everyone. Even if you only had a little craving before going out, a couple of drinks later you’re faced with a roaring hunger that only a double serving of fries will satisfy. Well, that’s OK, but remember you’re on a budget, so you should always have a bite at home before going out drinking. That way you won’t be tempted to spend money on overpriced foods at the bar or in late-night restaurants; if you must have something after drinking, leave something ready for you to just reheat back at home, so you don’t give in to temptation.
Pay with cash
Regardless of where you’re going, overspending is always a potential risk, so you should set a limit for yourself and grab only that amount of cash before leaving the house. Leave behind your cards to avoid drawing more money from an ATM, especially since some of them will charge you for it. It helps to plan out your night ahead and know exactly where you’re going; improvisation and budgeting are natural enemies, so it’s not all about learning how to save money when eating out. Finally, remember to always bring a separate amount for your transportation expenses to get back home.
Take advantage of free local events
Many college students lead their social lives by following the “if it’s free, I’m there” philosophy, and while those times might be well and thankfully in the past for you, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t benefit from it. We’re now at the beginning of the warmer seasons of the year, so more and more free festivals and events should be popping up around town each day. And while we don’t recommend outright crashing into stranger’s parties, lots of public events will fill your craving for a night out and might even teach you a thing or two about the locals.
Support the local or smaller acts
Going out on a budget usually means skipping all the hottest or biggest places, but that doesn’t mean you should completely abandon your cultural activities. All around America, always, there are plenty of smaller events being organized to showcase independent or local talent, such as musicians, theater groups, plastic artists, performers, and authors, just to name a few. By going to them not only are you enjoying a night out on the town without spending triple-A entertainment prices, but you’re also supporting the craft (and sometimes livelihood) of creative people who you might have not known otherwise. So try it out, your new favorite band or writer might be around the corner.
Sign up for newsletters
We all hate getting companies’ junk email, right? Not anymore if you want to go out on a budget. Many chain restaurants and other places offer coupons, vouchers, and all sorts of special discounts for people subscribed to their newsletters. The discounts are usually quite good just for letting them send you a couple of emails a month, but if you really don’t want them to have your personal email address, just set up a throwaway account for it. Be sure to use your real birthday, however, as the rewards get sweeter around that time for most places.
Going out on a budget is about more than just learning how to stop spending money on fast food. If you’re creative and willing to try new things, all your budgetary problems will be gone in a flash! An added bonus, is that you’ll have more money for truly important expenditures, like having a professional clean your home, for repairs, emergencies, etc.