Living on a tight budget is rough, especially when you feel like the only person in your group of friends with financial restrictions. For many budgeters, it’s difficult to tell friends you’re unable to do something because you’re uncomfortable with the costs.
You don’t want to disappoint your friends by making them change plans to accommodate you, and it feels bad to admit you’re not as financially secure as your friends.
Some budgeters are too afraid of their financial limitations to reach out to friends, which is not a positive solution. Socializing is important, and denying yourself friendships leads to stress. Living on a budget is difficult, but you add more stress to your life by letting your budget keep you from social interactions. There are options for those who want to spend time socializing with their friends without having to sacrifice their budget.
Set Aside an Entertainment Budget
A common mistake made by budgeters, especially if they’re new to budgeting, is neglecting an entertainment budget. Typically, when you make a budget, your main focus is paying off debt and setting aside money for important monthly expenses, such as:
- Car payments.
All of these are high priority items. It may seem selfish to budget for your entertainment, but without entertainment, you risk burning out. Set aside a small amount each month to spend on yourself. Once you know your entertainment budget, it’s easier to plan what you can do with your friends.
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Setting an entertainment budget also reduces the chance of you splurging and spending money you do not have with your friends because you believe you can afford it.
Avoid the Bars and Restaurants
A common place to socialize and meet with friends is at the bar. Bars are excellent locations to socialize, but they’re potential money sinks. Even if you only order a few drinks, bars drastically mark up drink prices.
If you enjoy socially drinking, speak to your friends about staying home. Even if you’re not hosting and have to add travel costs, you end up spending significantly less buying your own drinks and avoiding the bars.
If you and your friends enjoy a larger crowd, consider hosting an event and purchasing alcohol in bulk. You can ask the guests to pitch in to help alleviate the cost. If nobody is comfortable buying drinks for everyone else, make it a bring-your-own-beer event. If you or your friends are consistently hosting such events, take the time to learn which stores have the best prices.
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Restaurants are another potential money sink. With a larger entertainment budget, you might be able to eat out once or twice, but if your friends frequently go out for dinner and you want to join them, you may end up spending too much money, especially if your friends visit high end restaurants. Instead of eating out with your friends, offer to cook food at home. With a larger social circle, host potlucks or other events where guests bring their own food.
Even if you have a large entertainment budget, going on a shopping trip with your friends is risky. When you are with your friends, you are more likely to spend money on impulse buys due to peer pressure. Limit your shopping trips with friends to inexpensive areas. Street vendors, flea markets and consignment shops are excellent locations if you are on a budget, and you frequently find unique items at these locations.
Going to shows or seeing movies with friends is another common way to burn through your entertainment budget. There are a few different ways you can save money in this area. If you live close to a college town, consider going to university productions or concerts. Even if you are not near a college, you can save money by visiting local theater groups instead of larger productions. Not only are these shows cheaper, but you’re supporting community events by attending.
If you’re a movie fan, check your area for budget theaters. Budget theaters have a smaller selection of films, and typically do not receive major blockbusters until a few weeks after a regular theater. The prices at these theaters are significantly lower than a traditional movie theater, so you can save substantially by choosing this option instead.
It doesn’t take long to adjust to the budget theater schedule. If you absolutely cannot wait, check to see if your regular theater offers any deals. For example, many theaters have reduced prices on a specific weekday or for early showings. Some movie theaters have a website where you can sign up and receive reduced tickets for select screenings or the occasional free movie pass.
Special Admission Prices
If you have a limited entertainment budget, you can save money for you and your friends by prioritizing locations with special admission. Many popular venues have special admission available, such as the following:
- Amusement parks frequently host discounted days, especially during off-peak times. Try and visit during the evening, especially during weekdays for the best results. Not only do you save money, but you have reduced wait times in line as well.
- Museums and other tourist attractions often have reduced price days. Depending on the location, you either visit during a certain day or during a select timeframe. In addition, many museums offer discounted prices for local residents. It’s not uncommon to get in free solely because you’re a local.
- Outdoor activities, such as camping, cycling or canoeing have lower prices on weekdays or during the off-season months.
- Clubs are harder to find discounted prices, but not impossible. Clubs are busiest during the evening, so if you visit before peek hours you may get less expensive admission. Even with reduced prices, clubs easily become money sinks, so you don’t want to visit clubs too frequently.
Whenever possible, avoid going out to minimize how much you spend on entertainment. There are plenty of events you can host at your home to save money.
If your social circles enjoy sports, consider hosting sporting events at your home instead of going out to watch the game.
If you and your friends watch the same TV shows, invite them over so you can watch together. Card nights or board game nights are a popular and a cost-friendly event for hanging out with your friends.
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