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You can have a social life and be strict about saving―here's how

Life is expensive—having friends shouldn’t make it cost more. Here’s how to have a thriving social life and save money all the while.


By Anne-Marie Vettorel, Espresso

Life is expensive—having friends shouldn’t make it cost more. Here’s how to have a thriving social life and save money all the while.


Make a monthly or weekly budget for social activities


You probably already have a monthly budget (if you don’t, this site, this site and this site offer some useful tips on how to make one that works for you). Your budget might have an “entertainment” or “restaurants” category, but you might want to consider adding a “friends” category to better capture your social spending. A gift for a friend’s wedding, for example, isn’t quite “entertainment,” but it’s important.


Learn to host


Whether it’s for coffee, cocktails or full meals, you’ll save a lot of money over the course of your life if you become comfortable hosting guests in your home rather than consistently meeting in restaurants.


Have friends over for a potluck


Personally, my favorite way to get together with friends is over a potluck brunch—avocado toast, fruit salad, fried eggs, hot coffee… who isn’t happy with that? And hosting it at someone’s house will mean that everyone spends less than $10 (please—if you’re mixing it with orange juice, the sparkling wine does not have to be expensive). If you’re organizing a dinner party, ask guests to bring food with a certain theme (childhood favorites, for example, or “stuffed dough.”)


Go for Happy Hour drinks instead of dinner


Going for drinks is one of the most socially acceptable ways to socialize (something that has its downsides, too, naturally). In any case, it’s usually pretty easy to steer plans in this direction. If your friends want to grab dinner, suggest a drink after work instead to cut down on costs.


Have a picnic in the park


Pack a basket with fruit and crackers, and hit the park or the beach. Bring a speaker and some sunscreen and make a day of it.


Groupon


Yes, this deal-finding site is still a thing, and signing up for the email list can help you plan ahead.


BYOB


Bringing your own wine can help you save on a dinner bill, but be sure to call the restaurant ahead of time to confirm that it’s possible, as some jurisdictions require restaurants to obtain separate bring-your-own alcohol licenses. Ask about the corkage fee when you’re making the reservation.


Board games


Someone in your group of friends probably has a bunch of games collecting dust in a basement—pull them out and have the board game challenge to rule them all.


Scout out free events and festivals


Check your local news site for event listings, and encourage your friends to come with you to whatever outdoor concerts or street festivals are happening in your town.


Commune with nature


Get outside! Camping is a dirt-cheap way to get away for a weekend with your best pals. If the weather is too cold to sleep outside, Maria Walley of Verily suggests packing a mug of hot cocoa for a walk in the woods.


Host a movie night at home


Forget the multiplex—a group viewing of a classic movie (“what do you mean you’ve never seen The Bodyguard?!”) can lend itself to a cozy, basically free night in, with unlimited popcorn and bathroom breaks.


Go thrift-shopping


If your local mall is the backdrop to your social life, it’s time to get creative. Explore vintage and antique stores in parts of your city you don’t visit often, or take a road trip to a nearby town. You’ll save money on purchases and experience something new with your friends.


Exercise


Go on a bike ride, hit the public pool, go to yoga or spinning or Osteofit at the community center—when you start looking, there are dozens of budget-friendly exercise options for people of all ages. Starting an exercise program with a friend can help keep you accountable to your fitness goals, so grab a buddy who won’t laugh during your first Zumba class, and get going.


Teach your friends something


Can you build a bookcase? Drive stick-shift? Dance salsa? Make a podcast? If you have special skills, share them! Working on projects or enjoying your hobbies with friends is a cost-effective way to get together, and you’ll probably learn something from them, too.


Offer to be the DD on nights out


Being the designated driver is a solid excuse if you don’t want to drink or spend money at the bar, and your friends will appreciate the safe rides home.


Walk or take transit


Get organized and leave for social events early, so that there’s enough time to take transit or walk instead of hustling to catch a ride-share or taxi.


Negotiate a group rate on big outings


If your friends are planning a trip to a tourist hotspot or cultural event like the theater or ballet, call the ticketing office ahead of time to see if it’s possible to get a group rate. You might need to invite a few more people, but you’ll all save some cash.


Make your own greeting cards


Let’s be real—a store-bought greeting card might be lovely, but it’s probably going to end up in the recycling bin. Instead of spending $5.99 on a card, making your own not only adds a personal touch, but saves you money in the long run.


Take the reins


Assuming responsibility for plans and restaurant reservations means you can steer your social plans toward cheaper alternatives without anybody even noticing. But, that said, stay open to input from others and don’t try to take the lead on every single outing.


Learn to say “no” the right way


If you’re going to decline social plans because you’re trying to save money, don’t bail last minute. And instead of whining about how you’re broke, try framing your decision in a direct, positive way: you’re saving for a trip, or sticking to a financial plan. If you still want to get together with people, you might use this opportunity to suggest one of the budget-friendly options from this gallery.

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Finance Magazine: You can have a social life and be strict about saving―here's how
You can have a social life and be strict about saving―here's how
Life is expensive—having friends shouldn’t make it cost more. Here’s how to have a thriving social life and save money all the while.
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