It’s Friday. It’s been a long week, and you’re looking forward to a well-deserved night on the town. Unfortunately, your wallet has other ideas, and it looks like eating and drinking out just isn’t in the budget.
Luckily, you don’t have to be stuck home alone with your cat watching cheesy 80s reruns. With a bit of creative thinking, some pre-planning and some in-house fun, you can still enjoy a night out without breaking the bank.
Assess Your Cash Situation
Figure out how much you have to spend before you make your plans. Once you know your money situation, you can formulate your evening accordingly. Stop at an ATM on the way home and withdraw cash for the occasion. That’s your spending money for the night. Once it’s gone, you know you’re done — so plan wisely.
Arrange for Transportation
You’re going to need a designated driver so you don’t have to waste funds on transportation. Is one of your friends a teetotaler? If not, you’ll probably have to flip a coin or work out a schedule for future outings so everyone takes a turn. If this isn’t a viable option for you and your friends, there’s always Uber or Lyft – sure, it’s more costly, but at the end of the day it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Eat and Drink Creatively
Depending on your budget, there are several ways you can snag a meal without having to spend your whole stash of cash in one place:
- No Budget
Call your friends together to make a piece meal and eat before you leave. These can actually be a lot of fun. To make a piece meal, everyone brings one thing — a box of mac and cheese, eggs, hot dogs, waffles — whatever they can find, and then you figure out how to make a meal out of it. It’s always good if someone has a six pack or some wine to contribute so you can be sure you have a well-rounded spread.
- Low Budget
If you don’t mind starting early, a lot of bars and restaurants have a happy hour that may include half price or even free appetizers. If you pool your money and go tapas style, you can feast on a variety of foods and enjoy some house beverages for a fraction of what you’d pay for regular meals.
Many establishments also offer specials on specific days, like Margarita Mondays or Two for Tuesdays, to help bring in business during slow periods. If you don’t mind a night out during the week instead of on the weekend, you’ll be able to take advantage of even more savings.
- So-So Budget
If you really want to relax and enjoy a full dinner, check out sites like Living Social, Groupon or Restaurants.com where you can get deals up to 50 or 60 percent off. Pair that with happy hour and you can sit down to drinks and a pretty sweet meal and still have the cash left to blow off some steam.
Stick With the House
Now that you’ve got something in your stomach, it’s time to party. Unfortunately, with the average drink running about eight dollars, it’s not going to take long to put a serious dent in your budget.
Your best bet is to stick with house wine or whatever beers are on tap. If you absolutely must have a cocktail, ask if they have any discounted specialty drinks. At the very least, avoid top-shelf liquors which usually run a dollar or two extra per drink.
Take the Party Home
Taking the party home is a great way to prolong the fun without completely depleting your wallet. This is also where planning ahead comes in handy. If you didn’t think to stock up on adult beverages before you left for the evening, you and your friends will need to cut out before the cash is gone so you can pick something up on the way home.
Providing your own alcohol in the safety of your home extends your budget by slashing those extra expenses like tips, markups and costly cover charges. It also provides a secure environment in case someone happens to fall asleep — a practice most bars tend to frown on. Staying in one location gives your designated driver a chance to cut loose as well, though you may want to gather car keys ahead of time so no one tries to drive home after the big night.
Treating yourself doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. If you can be flexible in your plans and think outside the box, you can enjoy an occasional night on the town and not have to survive on ramen noodles until payday rolls around again.