It should come as little surprise that writers don't make a lot of money. It's a cliche, but it's also very true. So we have to come up with inventive ways to have active social lives without going broke. When I first started out as a freelance writer, it was the summer of 2011, and I was making just enough to eat baked beans out of a can for dinner and get drunk on three dollar PBRs at Lucky Dog's happy hour. Now that I'm making a bit more money, I can do fancier things, like, you know, not behave like a 15-year-old with a fake ID whose parents went on vacation and left them alone in the house. But while I'm in the position to splash out on a decadent dinner or tickets to an event every so often, maintaining a consistent social life means choosing my battles.
Contrary to what you might think, it IS possible to socialize regularly and not break the bank. You just have to be aware of where your money is and where it's going. Don't be that person who gets a paycheck and thinks they're the Wolf of Wall Street, buying round after round for a group of friends. That's generous, sure, but once that check is gone, it's a long wait til the next one. Save the gratiutious drink buying until you're rich and for now, abide by my 6 essential tips for having a great social life without going broke. Take it from me: you can do fun things with friends nearly every day if you manage yourself properly.
1. BE THE DECIDER
Make the tough decisions. Be the person that says "Let's do this today." Once you take on that role socially, you can use it to your advantage. You can suggest dinner parties, find free events, and by taking control of what sort of activities you and your friends are doing and by default how much you'll be spending doing them. Try not to be a dictator though; use your creativity to make decisions everyone will enjoy.
2. SPEND TIME RESEARCHING
It's called Google. Type in "Free shit in my city" or maybe something less vulgar. Look for cheap eats, happy hours, free shows, galleries with no fee. I promise you on any given day you'll be able to find a delicious meal for $10 or less, a 2-for-1 happy hour or a fun, free activity. Also, when you're planning, make sure everything is accessible by public transport (or has free parking if you live in a driving city), so you don't spend frivolously on taxis.
3. DO THINGS THAT DON'T INVOLVE GOING TO A BAR
Socializing doesn't automatically mean "go to bar". Snap out of that mentality. Booze costs A LOT, and it's easy to get roped into drinking more and more and more once you're out with your friends and everyone is having a great time. Go for a hike, a picnic, organize a pot luck, see a show, go to a museum. Seeing your friends in a variety of contexts outside the bar will actually really enrich your friendship, and you'll get to build some memories together around actual experiences rather than just drunken bar conversations.
4. BE "THAT PERSON" WHEN THE CHECK COMES
Sometimes you have to be a jerk to save money. If you've had two drinks amounting to $9 and someone else had four $12 cocktails and they want to split the check evenly, speak up. You don't have to pay for your friend's expensive habits out of some weird sense of social propriety. That said, if there's a small difference in price between what you got and what your friend got (say, $5), just take your lumps and split. Like I said, pick your battles.
5. LEARN TO COOK
Stop ordering and eating out all the time. You can save money by eating dinner at home before heading out to meet friends. When you're out for a Saturday stroll around the city, pack a sandwich or a salad in a plastic container. Hell, learn to cook really well and invite people over for dinner. They'll bring the booze and you've got yourself a party.
6. STAY IN!
There's lots of fun to be had at home. My girlfriends and I once spent a Saturday night on the couch drinking wine, watching cute animal videos on YouTube, and then trying to learn Beyoncé's dances from online tutorials. It was one of the most fun times I've ever had. "Hanging out" is a lost art, but remember how good at it everyone was in the '90s? Stay in, invite everyone over, and put the $100 you'd spend going out in your savings account.
Images: Getty Images; Giphy(6)