Published on January 8th, 2012 | by thevyne


Social Life on a Budget

If getting your money right this year is one of the goals you set for yourself then congrats to you for deciding to take control of your financial future. It makes sense, in light of the economy, to make this a focus. At the same time, this is often one of the toughest goals to maintain, particularly if you’re a person with a social life. You start out with great intentions but then your social life kicks in and next thing you know you’re spending money on eating out with your girlfriends, a new outfit for that event, tickets to that play you all wanted to see or airline and hotel for that unplanned weekend jaunt you all decided to take.

But taking control of your finances doesn’t mean you can’t have a social life. It does however mean that you have to think differently about how you spend money to socialize and look for creative ways to spend less and still enjoy the company of your friends. Here are a few tips to get you started:

  • Gourmet Potluck – Instead of hitting up the hot new restaurant in town and spending an inordinate amount of money, try taking turns with your girlfriends to host a gourmet potluck. Each person brings a homemade (or “fake and bake”) dish. You can even be creative and go “iron chef” style by choosing a special ingredient that everyone has to incorporate into his or her dish whether it’s an entrée, appetizer or dessert.
  • Home Happy Hour – Who says happy hour has to be at the local watering hole? Sure the ambiance is great but when you’re watching your pennies, spending money multiple times a week for happy hour can really add up. So why not try hosting your own? The key to saving money will be to use the bottles of wine and/or spirits that are already on your shelf. Ask your guests to bring a happy hour contribution of food or drink that costs no more than $15 and voila, instant happy hour.
  • Daily Deals – Keep an eye out for daily deals on items or experiences via sites like Living Social and Groupon. The key here is not to just look for good deals because most of the items/experiences offered are good deals. Instead look for things that you would normally do/buy at full price and see if you can purchase them for at least 40% off. Spending just because it’s a deal isn’t good but spending on a deal that you would normally pay regular price for is moving in the right direction.
  • ATM Hit and Run – Shout out to “Rach the Remix” and Kari for this idea. Hit up your ATM once a week at the beginning of the week for a particular amount of money. That’s all the cash you get for the week. If you don’t end up spending it all that week, then great, you can roll it over for next week.
  • Old School Lunch – Spending an average of $7-$12 a day on lunch really adds up. We know it’s old school, but try bringing your lunch in for a month and see how much money you save. That means make it the night before, bring it in, try not to forget it in the office fridge and actually eat it for lunch. If going into the work cafeteria will tempt you to abandon your homemade delicacy then avoid it all together and instead invite some co-workers to join you in a conference room once they’ve purchased their meals.
  • Lady with a Plan – Unplanned expenses can be the bane of a budget’s existence. Therefore its important to plan for any trips you will take for the year at the beginning of the year, especially if they have an expense attached to them. Put the money aside now if you have it or base your savings plans around those travel goals so you can be clear about why you’re bringing your lunch in everyday and stay motivate to keep to your budget.
  • Chat About It – If you’re on a savings plan be open with your friends. Let them know you have some aggressive savings goals this year and that you’re going to cut back on the unnecessary spending. This way no one will be surprised when you take a rain check on hanging out.

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