Here’s the dilemma – you’re broke. You’re super broke, or you want to save money to get out of debt, or you’d like to put away some money to travel. At the same time, you want to live your life. Sitting at home while your friends go out, watching everyone else have fun is crap. You have a youth to exploit. You want to live your life. But you don’t want debt hanging over your head.
Like most things in life the best idea is to create balance. Here are 7 things you can do to help save money while having a life:
STICK TO A BUDGET
Yes, budgets aren’t sexy and sticking to one is rarely fun. But if you want to be able to enjoy life and save, a budget is the best way to do it. Just like you budget everything else (savings being top priority!) set aside a certain amount of money for fun expenses. Drinks, concerts, eating out, movies, they should all go in the entertainment budget. Prioritize what’s important to you and keep track of everything.
If you find yourself “accidentally” going over your budget every month, take the money out in cash and spend it until it’s gone. When you’ve used up your fun budget, that’s it, until the next month when it resets.
Meals can add up. If you include food, the drink, dessert, tip, tax, appetizers and any other add-ons you’re asking for a hefty bill. Skip the dinner drink altogether, water is hydrating. Or some restaurants will allow you to bring your own bottle of wine, they just charge a corking fee to do it. Check ahead to see.
Most American restaurants don’t believe in portion control. If you and a friend have similar tastes you can split a meal and cut your costs in half. Skip the appetizers and dessert, you don’t need it.
Sometimes you get stuck on those group dinners where people insist on splitting the bill, even though you got a side salad and they ordered five drinks. Avoid group dinners altogether, let people know you’ll meet up afterward. Or, if you can’t skip it, make your situation clear right from the start. Let them know you’re on a budget and can’t pay for the add-ons.
LIMIT YOURSELF TO A DRINK (OR FIND SOMEONE TO PAY FOR THEM)
In my 20’s my friends and I skipped eating out altogether for the really important stuff –drinking. But nowadays a fancy cocktail can be as much as a hamburger.
Challenge yourself. Limit yourself to buying one drink or going for the cheapest stuff at the bar. After that drink, you’re done, you can only get more drinks by having someone buy them for you. This doubles as a great way to meet new people (and by people I mean men). Being open to meeting people at bars has lead to some great experiences for me, some of my closest friends have come from nights at the bar.
There are certain things, like concerts, that can be expensive as hell. But if you’re willing to put in a little legwork, and take a few risks, you can find great deals. Stalk festivals that look like they’re not going to sell out for cheap tickets right before the event. I’ve found half price tickets to a weekend festival by looking at Craigslist right before the event.
I’ve also gone to concerts for free. We hung out in front of the venue and people walking out gave us their free tickets. You can’t always expect free tickets but you can sometimes find people willing to sell them at cut-rate prices because they’re desperate to get rid of them.
But what about super popular events? One of my friends wanted me to buy Adele tickets that had been marked up to outrageous prices. I couldn’t afford it. But the day of the concert I hopped on Craigslist and found people who just wanted to get rid of their tickets, and who’re willing to sell them for less than face value. It was worth taking the chance to save the $200 for better seats. (Yes, $200! Outrageous.)
If you’re good at jumping on tickets you could also buy tickets to expensive concerts and then flip the extra ones to pay for your own. Just make sure you don’t get greedy.
BALANCE FUN WITH WORK
If you really need to try to save money balance a side income with having fun. Work at a bar a few nights a week. Babysit. Walk dogs. Find ways to earn extra money. Then use that money to have fun.
Or trade your time for fun activities. A lot of festivals and events will trade off volunteer hours for getting into the event for free. Check music, film and other festivals for volunteer opportunities. Usually you just need to work the festival for a certain amount of time and then you get to attend the events for free.
FIND THE CHEAP STUFF
Crack the happy hour code. Find places that offer the best deals. Take a cheap class. I’ve tried a drop-in improv class for $5 and discount dance classes. Search Group-on for interesting gigs, exercise class deals and discounts on restaurants you’d want to go to anyway. Make sure to only buy things you know you’re going to use.
FIND THE FREE STUFF
Sometimes being broke means getting creative. There’s generally a ton of free stuff around you, you just have to find it. Be on the lookout:
- Hit up the free day at the museum. Most museums have a free day where you can get in for free. Check their websites to find those days and soak up some free culture.
- Do free exercise events. A ton of bars and restaurants sponsor run clubs during the week. You meet up with other people to do a 3 or 5-mile run and they give you free food and/or discounted drinks. Or a lot of yoga places or athletic apparel stores will offer free classes once a week or let you try out their classes for a free week. Most yoga or barre studios have a free yoga class during the week. Check out their websites to find them.
- Find movies or events in the park. Find the free movie nights around you, like screenings of popular movies in the park.
- Get your entertainment from the library. Along with books, most libraries have new and popular movies and TV shows in their selection. Put what you want on hold or go to their latest section to find new offerings.
- Explore free stuff to do with your friends. Go hiking. Take a walk. If you live in a city do an exploratory walk of different neighborhoods and discover new areas. Nature lovers take a trip to the beach or go for a hike. Ride a bike. Have a picnic in the park.
- Go to networking events that offer free food and drinks. Find poetry, book readings or open mic nights and mix it up. Check Meetups near you to try out new stuff.
This is an opportunity. Use your money limitations as a way to find exciting cheap opportunities and try something new. There’s a world of experiences out there, besides just heading out to the bar or hitting up a club. You just need to keep your eyes open, get creative, take a chance and find them.