How to Beat the High Cost of Social Habits
As casual summer beach and backyard gatherings give way to more structured social activities in the fall and winter, you might find yourself spending more money on socializing than you have the past few months. It’s not cheap to maintain a social life, but there are ways to make sure what you do in your down time doesn’t kill your budget. Take a look at the high cost of common social habits and our ideas for less expensive — and just as fun — alternatives.
Night at the Movies
It’s always fun to grab your friends and catch the latest blockbuster film, but going to the movies is more expensive than ever before. The average cost of a movie ticket is approaching $9 — and is already higher in major metro areas (pushing $15 in NYC). Plus, many theaters now add a surcharge for movies shown in 3D or IMAX. Then you have to factor in the cost of the popcorn, candy and drinks, and you’re looking at an event that rings in at least $25 or more per person. Do that a few times a month and the costs really add up. But you don’t have to go broke to see a great movie. Hosting a movie night at home is just as much fun and much less expensive. With streaming and on-demand services, you can see recent movies for just a few bucks. Ask everyone to bring their favorite movie snacks and drinks and the whole evening rings in at less than $10 per person.
Did you know Americans spend more on dining out than on groceries? If you fall into the habit of constantly eating at restaurants or getting take-out, you’ll soon find yourself with very little disposable income to use for anything else. Getting friends together for a delicious meal is one of life’s greatest pleasures, but it doesn’t have to happen in a restaurant. Challenge yourself and your friends to cook at home and enjoy the fruits of your labor with a potluck. To keep it interesting, choose a cuisine — such as Italian or Asian — then ask everyone to take responsibility for a portion of the meal, from appetizers to dessert. Everyone will save money and no one will get stuck paying more than their portion of the tab.
If you hear “empty wallet” when someone says “road trip,” you’re not alone. When you add up the cost of gas, meals, activities and lodging, that quick little getaway can end up costing a few hundred bucks — and potentially blowing your budget for the month. So does that mean you’re stuck doing the same old thing this weekend? No way! Instead of heading out of town, get your friends together for some local sightseeing. Visit all those places you always mean to go, but never make the time for. That could be popular museums, historical attractions or outdoor activities. You’ll see your town in a whole new way and gain a greater appreciation for what has always been in your own backyard.
It’s Friday afternoon and your coworkers are ready to relax with conversation and drinks at happy hour. It’s fun, sure, but it can also end up being expensive. What starts out as a drink or two often turns into more, then everyone starts ordering food and before you know it, it’s 11 pm and you have to call an Uber to get home because you accidentally had one too many. You’ve just blown through your whole weekend budget before the weekend really even started. Instead, plan to get together after work at someone’s house. Chip in so the host can provide mixers and snacks and everyone else can BYOB to share. If you think you’ll miss out on meeting new people, have everyone invite someone from outside the immediate friend group to bring in new faces.
Shopping with Friends
It starts out as a plan to get together just to window shop, but before you know it you’re in the fitting room with a stack of treasures, then whipping out your credit card at the register. Recreational shopping is almost always an overspending incident waiting to happen. A much better, less expensive option is to get friends together for a closet swap. Everyone can bring clothing, shoes, and accessories they don’t wear anymore and swap with each other for things they want. Each person will leave with something “new,” you haven’t spent any money, and you’ve gotten rid of some clutter. Win, win, win!