One of the first expenses that get cut in a frugal budget is entertainment. Whether it’s by cutting out dinners at restaurants or cutting down on movie theater trips, funds for going out usually are minimized.
At first, no or little money for going out seems like the right thing to do. Your friends like coming to your house for dinner parties or meeting you at a restaurant where you have a Groupon.
But over time, you will miss your Margarita Fridays. Your friends will tire of always doing the cheapest thing possible to spend time together. If you haven’t gotten frugality burnout, they probably will.
Here are some tips to work a social life back into your budget without overspending:
1. Decide what you like.
What parts of your social life do you really look forward to? The anticipation of going to the zoo or playing kickball with your friends should guide you toward where to spend your social funds. If you don’t like cheap friend dates at the coffee shop, stop spending your money buying $4 lattes and put it toward something you’d prefer to do.
2. Think smaller.
You can work in some of your favorite friend events on a smaller scale. For example, if you and your friends used to meet up for an all-night bacchanalia at the local bar but gave it up for the occasional dinner out, start a new tradition of meeting for happy hour on Fridays.
That way, you will retain the bar fun that all of you used to have while keeping your spending to a minimum. Institute a two-drink limit for yourself and stick to cheaper, less caloric drinks such as beer or a glass of wine.
Split an appetizer or order soup in lieu of dinner. If you go clubbing, pay your cover fee, buy one big drink, and then stick to water. Of course, you can always find payday loans near you online and get cash fast, but don’t do it too often.
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3. Budget for it.
Rather than planning to eat all three squares at home, plan on eating out by yourself or with friends once a week, and budget accordingly. If you put aside a certain amount of money a week, you won’t have to worry about how to afford a dinner out or a movie with friends.
If you don’t use that money that week, you can stash it into your savings account or let it accumulate to cover a bigger event, like a day at the ski lodge or spa.
4. Socialize on the fly.
If you and your friends are busy people, run your errands together. Doing the weekly food shopping with a friend in tow won’t stop you from couponing. You’ll get to chat while walking down the aisles and you might find some better products or deals on the way.
5. Reinvent your nights in.
A lot of frugally-minded people subscribe to Netflix instead of buying movies or stalk the $5 bins in search of a cheaper movie night at home. But if you’re not using those services regularly or you’ve collected a lot of movies you don’t like, it doesn’t make sense to spend that money.
It doesn’t make sense to invest in ways to spend your nights in if you want to spend your nights out with friends. Cancel your Netflix subscription and sell those $5 movies in favor of $1 a night rentals from Redbox.
Put the rest of your money toward your social life budget instead. You’ll be building memories instead of a dusty stack of DVDs.
6. Date smart.
Your social life probably extends beyond friends. If you’re dating and splitting the bill, let the other person know that you’re on a budget. Early dates revolve around talking, so spent your dating dollars on dinner.
Spend money on a ticket to the zoo instead of a movie where talking is taboo. If you’ve got a significant other, it’s OK to use Groupons to try out new places. But don’t forget to budget $6 for two cones of ice cream enjoyed on a bench together. The little treats matter when it comes to lifetime love.