Entertainment on a Budget

by Elizabeth on January 20, 2012 · 3 comments

in How Tos, life, my awesome friends, savings

This is an edited version of a post I shared in early 2010.  Since many of us are trying to save a bit of money and rework our budgets this year, I thought it might helpful.

I’m young and single, so spending time with my friends is a huge priority for me. The problem is, spending time with friends often means spending money.  Despite having a well-paying job, and not an excessive amount of expenses, I continually find myself a bit short of money come the end of the month.  Why?  Because I’m spending lots of money going out to dinner, meeting friends for lunch, going to the movies, grabbing a drink after work, etc.  It adds up after a while, even when you make good money.  And if you are working part-time or unemployed…well, it adds up even faster.  Clearly, we all need better options so we can spend time with friends without spending a ton of money.

I’ve come up with a list of activities that are meant to take the place of regular entertainment activities (dinner, movies, nights out at bars).  I’m not good at sticking to this list, but I am trying, so that has to count for something. (Right?)

  • Rent a movie instead of going to see one.  Renting movies is much MUCH cheaper than seeing them at the theater.  Going to the local Redbox is a better option than on demand OnDemand.  If you or one of your friends has Netflix, that’s another great option as is taking advantage of your personal movie collection.  Who says you have to see a new movie?  Of course, the best (and cheapest) option is getting a movie from the library. J Have friends over, pop lots of popcorn, and watch the movie.  If you’re anything like me and my friends, you probably won’t actually watch the movie, but spend more time talking. (Which is always more fun!)
  • If going to see a movie is unavoidable, suggest a matinee.  Matinee prices usually last until 6:00, which means that people can come straight from work and still make the cheaper show.  One of my local theaters has a “super matinee” that’s even cheaper.  It’s $5.50 versus $7.25 for the regular matinee and $8.75 for the regular price.  My area also has a $1 movie theater that I like to go to.  If you skip the concessions, it’s a great deal! Speaking of…
  • Skip the concessions!  It’s such a waste of money!!  Bring snacks (and a large purse) if you like to eat while at the movies and don’t have a problem breaking the rules.  A theater near me has a special on Tuesdays where a small popcorn and a small drink are a $1 each.  Not a bad deal when nothing will satisfy that movie-theater popcorn craving.
  • Don’t do dinner and a movie.  If your friends insist on going out to dinner or to a movie, suggest one or the other, but not both.  And if they want to do both, politely decline to meet them for the movie or for dinner after; just pick one outing.
  • Meet friends for lunch rather than dinner. You’ll save way more money that way.  Bonus, meet for lunch at a sandwich shop or a typical lunch place.  Food tends to be cheaper there than at a regular restaurant.
  • If dinner is all that fits everyone’s schedule, aim for some place less expensive. Sandwich and burger places, chain restaurants, and local favorites tend to be more budget friendly.  Everyone’s trying to save money these days.  People, friends especially, will understand when you say you’re trying to watch your wallet.
  • Share an entrée with a friend.  Restaurant portions are huge anyway, so offer to split something.  Share an appetizer or dessert (but not both!) if you don’t think one entrée will be enough food.
  • No one wants to share?  Order an appetizer as your main meal.  Ask for a side salad to go along side, if you’d like.  But check your prices! This could end up being more expensive than just ordering an entrée!
  • Skip main meals all together and grab coffee, ice cream, even breakfast!  The point is to spend time with friends, not to eat.  Again, just say you are being more careful with your money and suggest an alternative.  Real friends will understand and be supportive.
  • Meet for happy hour instead of hitting the bars late at night.  Most bars have happy hour specials, so use these to your advantage.  Sometimes bars and restaurants have happy hour specials that include food.  If you pick the right place, you can get out there, complete with a drink and enough food for dinner, for under $15.
  • Can’t get out of going out?  Be the designated driver.  That way you’re confined to 1 drink AND you have an excuse to explain why you are not drinking.
  • Suggest a totally new idea!  Try hitting a local state park for a hike, browsing an arts-and-crafts fair (no buying!) or farmers market, or just hanging out at home. Who says you have to spend money to spend time with friends!

What are your favorite ways to spend time with friends without breaking the bank?


{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Christine January 20, 2012 at 10:29 am

a friend and i used to often run errands together if we needed to go to the same places. A: not spending unnecessary money, B: saving gas, C: girl time!!!


2 Megg January 20, 2012 at 11:51 am

I would add, invite people over! We have a new couple we’re getting to know, and she’s unemployed, and I’m working part time, so I know we don’t want to spend money going out all the time. This time I invited them over for pizza (which is super cheap to make)!


3 Jayla January 20, 2012 at 9:49 pm

The college I went to was in the center of a small town. It was within walking distance of EVERYTHING! Even the small $2 movie theater just down the street from campus and the local Applebee’s, coffee shop, and a few other bars. If we wanted a drink we could walk places and not really break the bank with gas, food, and movie prices. That is one of the things I miss about that town…

Now I have to ration out where I spend my money, but usually I have enough in my budget to splurge on a nice meal here and there while having a chat session with friends.

I would suggest cashing in on the 2 for 20 deals some restaurant chains like Chili’s and Applebee’s have. You get an appetizer AND entree for 10 bucks each.


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