How To Be Social While Sticking To A Budget

Splitting a bar tab

By Shannon Sweeney

Trying to save money and staying on a budget is hard. Like, really hard. And extremely stressful. Not only do you have to completely open up about your finances and take an inventory of everything you spend money on, you also have to figure out how much spending money you have laying around. And for a lot of people, that’s not much — myself included.

More than 30 percent of Americans are ‘constantly’ stressed about money, and a whopping 85 percent of Americans ‘sometimes’ feel stressed about money. So trust me, you’re not alone. Everyone can benefit from learning how to stick to a budget or to pay closer attention to where they’re spending money.

From student loans to high costs of living and more, it’s hard to set a solid budget. And what happens when you want to be social? Grabbing dinner and drinks, going to concerts, and weekends away can add up — especially if you’re trying to save money. There is nothing worse than stressing about money while you’re supposed to be having a good time with friends.

It can be awkward telling your friends you can’t afford to do something with them, but this is totally, 100% okay. If your friends are actually your friends, they’ll understand. But just because you’re on a budget doesn’t mean you have to sit in your apartment eating ramen by yourself all the time (been there).

There are hundreds of ways to have fun while sticking to a budget. Try some (or all) of these activities to see what works for you. Your wallet and bank account will thank you later, and you’ll feel way less stressed about it.

Stick to only drinks

One of the easiest ways to stick to a budget is to set a weekly grocery budget and stick to it. These means no lunch outings or going out to eat every night for dinner. Dinner is such a common activity for friends — it’s a great way to catch up or to meet up before a concert, a movie, or other event. If you’re planning to meet friends for dinner, stick to only drinks! Eat a prepped dinner beforehand at home, or or bring it to work to eat right around the end of your shift if you don’t have time to go home.

Look at free events going on in your community

No matter where you live, your community has free events. I can guarantee it. And just because they’re free doesn’t mean they’re bad! Take a look at your community’s calendar to see what’s going on around you. This is an amazing way to substitute pricey events with friends. A lot of communities do free concerts, art festivals, and more throughout the year.

Have a potluck dinner

Instead of going out to eat, suggest a potluck dinner with your friends. This is a great way to get your friend group together without having to spend a lot of money — have everyone bring a dish or a drink, and you’re set! You’ll have a ton of delicious food for as little as a few dollars — you can’t beat that.

Get outside and explore

Grab a friend and go hiking, relax by a lake, or check out local trails. If you live in a city with little access to these types of activities, check out a new neighborhood around you or plan a picnic in a local park. Again, no matter where you live, there are dozens of places you can visit to have an amazing, budget-friendly day. Plus, getting outside is a great way to relax and take your mind off things.

Look for coupons and deals

Before committing to concert tickets, movie tickets, and more, check out online deals! This is exactly why things like Groupon and exist. I’ve saved so much money on event tickets just from looking things up on Groupon. This is also an excellent source to get ideas for things to do that won’t break the bank. These types of websites can help you save money on other products, too, like cleaning supplies, fitness memberships, and more, allowing you to cut costs in other aspects of your life, too.

Don’t be afraid to say no!

You don’t have to go to everything you’re invited too. Yeah, I know, FOMO — but do you really need to go to that concert where you don’t even know the band? Do you have to see that movie before it comes out on streaming services? Really think about the things you like to do and make sure those are a priority. I say yes to things all the time that I don’t even 100% want to go to, and this has cost me a lot of money. Learning to say no to things I don’t want to do has helped me cut back on expenses, and honestly, it’s made me much more relaxed by having more nights to myself to read, meal prep, and more.

You’ll be surprised at how much money you save when you cut out things like eating out for dinner — that all adds up! Hopefully you find these tips helpful the next time you’re planning a social event with friends. It doesn’t have to cost you an arm and a leg to have a good time.

MoneyShannon Sweeneyssweeney