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Enjoying an evening out with friends is a fun way to spend your time, but it’s also an easy way to spend your money. Sometimes more of it than you’d hoped. Drinks, dinner, taxi, event tickets, even late night snacks? Before you know it, you could have emptied your entire wallet. If you’re trying to be budget-conscious and have other financial goals, social spending can really blow you off course.
Ugh, but you don’t want to sit at home and sacrifice your social life for your savings account? Figuring out how to have a social life on a budget is totally doable. Whether you’re trying to get out of debt, struggling with a limited income or just striving to save more and spend less, follow these tips to learn how to save money and have a social life:
No one wants to decline invitations again and again because of financial stress. Instead of waiting for (affordable) invitations to come to you, be proactive and propose your own, budget-friendly plans. This is key to having a social life on a budget.
Phoenix-based Athena Lent, who blogs at Money Smart Latina, shares one of her pro tips for how to save money and have a social life: happy hour. Instead of going out during prime dinner time for standard prices, hitting happy hour allows you to take advantage of lower prices—often for the same food and drinks. Happy hour dining is a way to save money eating out at restaurants by driving down costs and the temptation to splurge on the most expensive menu items.
When friends do want to go out at night and you’re playing the role of event coordinator, Lent says you can suggest dive bars “because they are usually cheaper than the swanky new bar.” She also recommends having a social life on a budget by planning outings to discounted matinee movies and finding fun things to do without spending money through free concerts and events held at local parks or venues. If the must-attend event is something beyond your budget, explore apps that can help you save on dining through discounts.
When your social plans call for spending, consider using an account that rewards you for your purchases. With Discover Cashback Debit you can earn 1% cash back on up to $3,000 in qualifying debit card purchases each month.1
Spending quality time with friends does not require going out at all. Lent used to live at an apartment complex with a pool and regularly invited friends over to swim and hang out in the sunshine. Even if you don’t have a pool at your disposal, or that hot Phoenix weather, having a social life on a budget becomes easier when you can open up your home for other fun and engaging experiences with friends.
“At a restaurant, there’s pressure. If you want to hang out a long time, you feel like you have to order more. When you bring guests for a potluck at home, it is nearly free.”
Amy Rutherford—a Denver-based early retiree who started the frugality and travel blog GoWithLess—used to eat out regularly. For her, having a social life on a budget now means inviting friends over to her home.
“There is a whole other level that is personal and intimate,” Rutherford says of playing host and sharing her home with others.
It’s become a key way she’s learned how to save money and have a social life. Plus, she prefers the relaxed environment at home where you can spend hours dining for a fraction of what restaurants charge.
“At a restaurant, there’s pressure,” Rutherford says. “If you want to hang out a long time, you feel like you have to order more. When you bring guests for a potluck at home, it is nearly free.”
Martin Dasko, founder of personal finance and lifestyle site Studenomics, lives in Toronto, one of the most expensive cities in North America. He used to go out (and spend) with friends multiple nights per week, but found it was really just because he didn’t have anything else to do. If you’re struggling with how to have a social life on a budget and are in the habit of regularly spending on the same activities, explore new cost-effective hobbies. For Dasko, it made all the difference.
When figuring out how to have a social life on a budget, he took up wrestling. The activity has not only become one of his new social outlets, it’s also helped him make new friends from the gym. He also joined a salsa dancing club. Despite admittedly having two left feet, Dasko enjoyed dancing—“it was fun and different,” he says—and he made new friends as well.
If you want to learn how to have a social life on a budget, “join a gym, salsa club, archery club or some type of club where you can meet cool people and hang out with them,” Dasko suggests.
If you’re working on how to save money and have a social life and are interested in starting a low-cost hobby, look for local sports leagues that don’t require a lot of equipment, like kickball or beach volleyball. Hobbies focused on fitness, dancing and crafts are often easy on the budget. You can usually find local meetup groups and clubs to learn more and enjoy your new hobby with others.
If you’re planning to spend on your hobby, look for one with fixed costs that you only have to pay upfront, like membership fees and special equipment. You can also keep startup costs under control with used or entry-level gear.
The best strategies for having a social life on a budget may be easier than you think. You don’t always have to say no to fun activities, and you don’t have to feel like you can’t keep up with friends who always want to spend money. Spending money, after all, is no guarantee of a good time, especially when you consider the stress it may cause when your bills come due. Instead, with the right attitude, a bit of creativity and a willingness to try new things, you can learn how to have a social life on a budget.
1 ATM transactions, the purchase of money orders or other cash equivalents, cash over portions of point-of-sale transactions, Peer-to-Peer (P2P) payments, and loan payments or account funding made with your debit card are not eligible for cash back rewards. In addition, purchases made using third-party payment accounts (services such as Venmo® and PayPal™, who also provide P2P payments) may not be eligible for cash back rewards.
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