When you sit down to get a grip on your finances, one of the first things you are going to do is see where you can make simple cutbacks. For most people, a good place to start is by seeing how much you spend on dining out and entertainment. Looking at an overview of what we were spending was a big wake-up call for us. Before being cognizant of our expenses we were easily spending anywhere from $600-$1000 a month eating out and going out for drinks. When we finally decided to face reality and make a budget we knew that we could easily cut this number in half or more.
A lot of people who are intent on paying off debt will make no spend rules where they don’t go out to eat or for social drinks at all. Some will make exceptions for only very special occasions. While this can be smart, we knew we just couldn’t live without the occasional meal out to break up the monotony of eating at home. And I would probably go nuts if I didn’t get to go out and have a drink with the girls every once in a while.
Since our social connections are very important to us, we also knew that we didn’t want to just “disappear” until we had our debt paid off. So a compromise was made. Now we don’t go without, we just do things a little different then we would before we were more financially conscious.
Meet Up At Happy Hour
Drinks and apps can typically be had for up to half price during Happy Hour. Some places even serve free snacks and there isn’t a lot better than FREE! By meeting up for a few drinks after work you can still fit in social time, and spend a fraction of what you would if you had met up for dinner. For the best Happy Hour deals, I always use Happy Hour Finder which sorts them by day of the week. It is available as an app or you can use it on your desktop to find nearby specials.
Just Have One Drink
Ok, not sure if this is possible for a lot of folks, myself included. I do find that when I drink a higher quality craft beer that I am more likely to sip and enjoy it. I love light beer as much as much as the next person, but I do find myself drinking several if I am out because they go down so easily. By stopping to enjoy my beer while I sit and socialize I am more likely to drink less and therefore spend less. It is a win-win situation for my pocketbook and my waistline.
Use Gift Cards
I personally amass a lot of gift cards by using Swagbucks. Other gift cards come from friends and family who know where we like to frequent. When we receive a gift card that is valid at a place we love to go we always like to invite friends to meet us out for dinner and a few drinks. There is nothing better than turning Swagbucks or birthday gifts into free food and drinks!
Go To Brunch
Brunch is another great alternative to meeting friends out for dinner. Brunch is typically a much cheaper meal than dinner and who doesn’t want to meet up for brunch? A lot of brunch places sweeten the deal with Mimosa or Bloody Mary specials. These can range from a few dollars a piece to an all you can drink for one great price. Check out Yelp for places that serve weekend brunch in your area. Good search terms to use include the obvious “Brunch” as well as “Bottomless Mimosas”
Host Your Own
Hosting your own gathering at home or at a friend’s place is an excellent way to keep your entertainment budget in check. We have been known to throw different themed parties where each person brings their own booze and some sort of food that goes along with the theme. We have had Grilled Cheese Parties (everyone bring a different cheese or topping) and game nights where it is a party food free for all.
Hosting or going to a friends house is also a good way to save money on Sundays during football season. Pitchers of beer and stacks of wings can add up quickly. It is nothing for our party of two to rack up an $80 tab just hanging out for a few hours watching our favorite teams. Add that up over 17 weeks of football during the regular season and you are looking at around $1400 just spent on Sunday Fundays. Let’s not forget to factor in the Uber cost getting there and back. We find it much cheaper to fill up our soft cooler with a few beers and grab some snacks. This turns what was once an $80 Sunday Funday into $20 day, which is much better for our budget.
By finding ways to save while still having a fairly active social life, we feel like we are getting the best of both worlds. Social connections are important to everyone so while it is fine to cut back, it isn’t something that you want to cut out completely. Find a balance between your budget and your personal enjoyment and you will never feel like you are missing out on all the fun.
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