All fun activities come with a cost and at times, this cost intimidates us from doing what we truly want to do. Learning ways to balance being financially responsible and fun allows us to go on adventures with our friends without causing stress. First, it is a good idea to set a budget for how much you will spend on activities each week. Two techniques that help me stick to my budget are using cash or only using one card. Using a set amount of cash each week is an easy way to track how much you are spending without constantly having to add it up. Once you run out of cash, you know you’ve reached your maximum amount for the week. If cash is not easily accessible for you, I recommend only using one card. Sometimes people will switch between debit cards and credit cards. Using multiple payment methods takes more time to add up what you’ve spent and can lead you to spending more than you planned. Second, I recommend having a spending strategy for the common places you and your friends go. Below I’ve shared some of my go-to strategies that allow me to have fun without overspending.
A very common thing I find myself doing with friends is going out to dinner. Eating out can add up quickly, especially at a sit down restaurant when meals are more expensive and you need to tip. Even though dinner can be expensive, you do not want to miss out on those memories and conversations with friends. When I go to restaurants I have a few techniques that help me save money.
- Drink water. Soda can add $2-3 to your bill and alcoholic drinks are even more expensive. Sticking with water is a really simple way to decrease your total bill.
- Try an appetizer as a meal. Appetizer’s are typically less expensive than an entree and can still be just as filling. If you’re worried you won’t be filled up, plan a back up snack at home in case you are still hungry.
- Split a meal. If your friend is eyeballing the same meal you are, offer the option to split. Most restaurant meals are large enough to serve two people and splitting the meal means splitting the price in half!
- Try out a kids meal. Most chain restaurants such as McDonald’s, Chipotle, or Noodles & Co. will let you order a kids meal regardless of your age. The portions will still be filling and are usually much cheaper than a full size meal.
GOING OUT FOR DRINKS
Maybe you decided to eat dinner at home but are planning to go out for drinks later at night. You may have saved by eating in, but just getting drinks can still be expensive. Again, the price tag should not stop you from spending time with your friends.
- Make a plan. Before you go out for drinks, decide how many drinks you will have and what you will drink. You can figure out what drinks are less expensive and stick with those. Also, the longer you’re out, the more you’ll probably want to keep spending. Having a plan in advance will help prevent you becoming extra generous as the night goes on.
- Pay with cash. As I mentioned before, bringing cash is a great way to help you budget. Drink places can sometimes have a card minimum too making you spend more than you need to. Using cash will prevent this and will be an easy way to track your spending.
- Avoid stopping for food. Depending how late you are out, you may start to get hungry. It may be tempting to stop for food on your way home, but your night of only spending $10 could have just doubled if you stop for food. Keep snacks on hand at home that you can eat after being out. Snacks at home will be a lot cheaper (and healthier)!
Outside of your typical activities, you and your friends may plan a special event. These outings are usually the most expensive, but make the best memories. Don’t let the price tag of different occasions be daunting.
- Adjust your budget. Most special events will be outside of your budget which will make you hesitant to participate. However, you can rearrange your budget and spend a little less the week before / after the event to make sure you have enough money. Before thinking you can’t afford it, sit down and try to make adjustments.
- Get a group together. Having more people means you can divide the shared tabs more. Gas, groceries, or other necessities that may go into your event can be divided among the whole group. If everyone pitches in, it will make the overall bill cheaper for everyone.
- Explore your options. When it comes to special events, there is usually more than one option available. For example, if you’re planning a Spring Break trip with friends you are likely considering a few options. You do not need to pick the first idea that comes to mind. Doing your research can save you a lot of money in the long run.
My final piece of advice applies to anything that costs money. Do not deprive yourself. Your best, most memorable night will probably cost you something. It is not likely that you will be able to afford everything you want to do in life, but you do not always need to say no. You can find a balance and be financially responsible while still having fun!