When you’re going through a difficult financial time, you might not think you have money to spare on luxuries like nights out. But the opposite can actually be true-when you’re under a huge amount of pressure and stress, you need an outlet more than ever.
For many people, the best way to relax is to spend a night out with their friends or partner. However, buying drinks and paying for cab fare takes its toll, and you could end the evening with a substantially lighter wallet. If you’re not careful, your night on the town might become another financial stressor instead of providing some much-needed relief.
To enjoy time with your friends without losing your hard-earned cash, follow our tips below. We’ll let you know how you can take a break from the daily grind, get the most out of your night, and hang on to your money at the same time.
1. Plan Ahead
Budgets are often the best help for saving money, and budgeting for a night out is no exception. Before you leave the house, decide how much money you can afford to spend. Then, decide how you want to spend that money. Relegate a certain amount of money to drinks and cover charges and a certain amount to cab fare.
Make sure you have a little wiggle room. You might end up needing to spend more on a friend’s cab, or prices may have recently gone up at your favorite bar. At the same time, do whatever you can to stick to your budget. The better you adhere to your plan, the less likely you are to overspend.
You can also leave your credit cards at home and take only cash. That way, you won’t be able to spend more than you can afford, even if you want to.
2. Use a Designated Driver
If at all possible, use a designated driver rather than a cab. Even in small towns, cab fare can be expensive-much more expensive than chipping in to pay for your friends’ gas as a group. Plus, local bus routes might not run late at night or cabs could be hard to find, depending on your area.
Of course, if you need to use a cab, you should always call one rather than drive after drinking. But whenever you can, have one friend act as the designated driver. Apart from saving you money, a designated driver will keep you and others on the road safe.
3. Don’t Bar Hop
Staying in one location cuts down on your costs by eliminating gas money or cab fare. Each bar also has a different menu with different marketing strategies. While you might be immune to your favorite bar’s tactics, other bars can have colorful new ads for expensive drinks that you won’t be able to resist. And after you start drinking, you’ll be less aware of how much your additional drinks cost. To avoid impulse purchases, stay put.
Bar hopping also saves you money on cover charges. Of course, your best money-saving option is to choose a bar without a cover. Still, if your favorite bar charges a cover, staying there means you only have to pay once instead of racking up fees across the city.
4. Eat Before You Go
Most people get hungry midway through their nights out, which usually leads to buying expensive pub food. Instead of spending your money on spur-of-the-moment food purchases, eat a large, carb-heavy meal at home before you leave. Cooking at home is much less expensive than eating out.
If you don’t have time to cook before you leave or simply aren’t hungry, prepare some snacks that you can eat as soon as you get home. When you know you have something tasty to look forward to, you’ll be less likely to splurge on an expensive snack right before leaving the bar.
5. Drink During Happy Hour
If you’re worried about spending money on food, happy hour offers a useful solution: many bars offer food discounts during happy hour, and some even put out free food for the occasion. With these discounts, happy hour can save you more money on drinks than any other budgeting tactic. If you’d rather not meet up for drinks immediately after work, try to find bars that offer late-night happy hours in your area.
Some bars offer specials apart from happy hour. For instance, some places might give you discounts if you order a pitcher for a large group, while others accept Groupons. Do your research ahead of time to find a bar with good deals on drinks.
6. Stay Home
If you decide you can’t afford to leave the house, simply bring the party to you. Invite friends over for a night of games or movies and pick up some drinks early from your local liquor store. Store-bought drinks and homemade cocktails cost much less than bar drinks, and you won’t have to worry about a cab (though your friends might).
Don’t let financial strain rob you of a much-needed break. Instead, simply make some adjustments to your usual schedule and spending habits. Apply the tips here to have an enjoyable, less expensive night out.