When the wallet is tight and the purse strings need to be tightened, a girl has to think of clever ways to afford going out while broke. While a Saturday spent indoors cuddled up with Netflix and a cheap box of pizza seems like a good idea to keep yourself on budget, you know that's not possible to stay on track with for months on end. It's like putting yourself on a strict diet: Sure eating only kale and brown rice will keep you lean and healthy, but it's a freakin- boring routine that you'll inevitably give up on.
To avoid the Friday night version of a midnight snack raid, instead stick to a few genius practices that allow you to go out while still staying on track with a strict budget. As long as you use the resources that are available to you and practice a few necessary cuts here and there while in the corner booth of the restaurant with your friends, your tabs should be low and your wallet should be happy. Here are seven easy ways to afford going out while broke — follow them and you'll get to keep your social life even during the thinnest of wallet times.
1. Use Groupons
It might not be sexy handing over a coupon to your waiter after a night of delicately sipping cocktails at a swanky place, but if you want to leave the confines of your apartment and stay on budget, this is a great way to do it. So how, exactly, do you find a bill-slashing deal for the place you want to go to? Simple: First find the coupon, then decide to go there.
Then take it a step further and make sure your bill gets cut at least 50 percent. According to Amy Johnson at Life Hack, "To save some serious money, only search through the ‘Best Of Groupon.’ This part of the site offers the best deals —normally 50 percent or even more. This is one of the easiest ways to save money on Groupon." There are plenty of trendy and new restaurants and bars on Groupon, some that you've probably went to before and opted to pay full price. Snag those deals and leave more money in your wallet.
2. Agree To Split Appetizers
Is there a new restaurant you want to try, but it's a little too expensive for your budget right now? Grab a close friend and make an agreement to only nibble through appetizers while there.
According to Trent Hamm at The Simple Dollar, "Appetizers are often split into smaller portions as well, so if several people choose the 'order an appetizer' strategy for their meal, it’s easy to swap part of your appetizer meal for part of theirs, giving you both more variety on your plate." Not only do you get to try more fancy options on the menu, but your bill stays at a comfortable amount. Win, win!
3. Go For Beers Rather Than Cocktails
There are many reasons why you would pick over the beer menu and head for the pretty cocktails instead: For one, whiskey won't make you burp all night long, and secondly, when you hear ingredients like "gin, ginger, and honey" you immediately want to dive right in. But with most beers hovering around half the price of a house cocktail, you can guess which route will keep your tab at a comfortable limit.
When I go out with friends I always do a quick compare and contrast with their drink lists. If the cocktails seem to hover two dollars above the beer selections, then I'll bite the bullet and get something pink and champagne-y. But if they're a good five dollars pricier? The choice is easy. If you can't stand the taste of beer, make a point of drinking only at happy hours or if there's some other deal going on at the bar or club.
4. Eat A Snack Before You Go Out
When you start to feel peckish, your thriftiness goes out the window in favor of your taste buds. To curb any regrettable decisions, make sure to eat a small meal before stepping out with your pals. While that may seem counter-intuitive when going out to eat, it'll make sure that you won't be in the mood to order half the menu because you're on the verge of being hangry.
According to lifetstyle blogger Jillee from One Good Thing, "This will help prevent 'eyes bigger than your stomach' syndrome. Grabbing a light snack before you head out to dinner can curb the desire to order a huge meal." So put a quick sandwich together, eat a fast bowl of cereal — eat something quick and easy and your tab is more likely to stay at a comfortable spot.
5. Social Media Is Your Friend
Before stepping through the doors of the restaurant in question, see what sort of deals you can find online to cut some costs from your tab. For example, check if they have any coupons floating around Facebook or check-in once you're already splitting an appetizer and see if any discounts come through there.
According to Hank Coleman at Money Q&A, "Even mom and pop locations now are finding their way online in an effort to drum up more business. This is a great opportunity for you to find new deals and coupons online." Big chains throw coupons like confetti on social media, but don't think that that swanky new bistro or chic bar won't add a secret deal or two on their Facebook, also. At the very least it won't hurt to check.
6. Pick The Right Day... And The Right Time Of Day
While it can be tempting to just breeze into a new bar or restaurant at [peek] PEAK hours on a Friday night, if you're feeling more wallet-conscious plan your friend-date a little better. Most places have certain specials on certain days, and a lot of establishments dabble with happy hours on top of that. According to lifetstyle blogger Jillee from One Good Thing, "Restaurants will often offer special deals on low-traffic days of the week. Check out local establishments to see if your favorite meal is the bargain-du-jour on a particular weekday and save some money."
For example, before popping into that new Korean barbecue place, see what their specials look like. It might be dollar tacos on Tuesday, or they might offer half-off beers when you come in during certain hours, which means if you time it right, you can get food for a buck and then spend a couple of dollars on beers to wash it all down. That's like poor college living right there, which sounds fabulous.
7. Eyeball The Menu
A lot of the times you really want to try out a new place because of the feel of it: Maybe it's dim and dark and has a cool speakeasy vibe or maybe it's loud and kitschy and puts you in the mood to play. Whatever the reason, the atmosphere of it is mostly what you're paying for. If that's true then eyeball the menu and see what your cheapest route could be for hanging out there for an hour.
Trent Hamm at The Simple Dollar used the example of desserts, saying "Restaurants love to serve you an overpriced dessert at the end of the meal and for people with a sweet tooth it can be really tempting. It’s a good strategy to skip that dessert, however, and pick it up elsewhere." Let yourself sample the cheapest options on the menu and then, if you feel like you need more substance, go somewhere where the price is more comfortable. That way you can still put on your fancy dresses and head downtown, but you don't need to come home regretting ever leaving.
No matter what your budget is, you should never deprive yourself of a good time. So get creative and you'll save money and probably have a better time because of it.