How Do I Save Money and Still Have An Awesome Social Life?

Hanging out with friends doesn't have to cost a fortune
5 minute read | 11/29/18Nov. 29, 2018

When it comes to being social, there’s often a price to pay – literally. Spending time with friends, family, and others can often result in paid activities like tickets to an event, meals or drinks, shopping, even weekend getaways. One reader asks: 

I’m trying to save money but my friends always want to go out. How do I limit my spending without giving up my social life?

Getting invited to fun gatherings can be tricky when you’re trying to save money but balancing your social life and finances is actually possible. 

So, how do you avoid the awkward conversation with your friends to express your savings goal without making them feel alienated or upset? You could blame it on your brain or tackle it head on to accomplish your goal.

There are several approaches you can take to prevent this predicament. Some are easier than others, depending on what you’re comfortable with and how open you’re willing to be with those closest to you. No matter how you choose to approach it, kudos for making a commitment to save your hard-earned money!

1. Be Open About Your Goals

The best way to share your savings goals with friends is to just tell them. Be open about what you’re working toward and make it known how those goals may affect your social activities. You don’t have to become a hermit but some adjustments will probably be necessary, so give them a heads up.

Hopefully, your friends will be supportive and admire the sacrifice and discipline you’re committing to. Who knows – they may be feeling the same way and ask to join you on your savings journey. It’s common for people to have embarrassing money questions but tackling a goal as a group can make it easier.

But if not, it’s going to be okay. Not everyone celebrates or encourages change, especially when it may bring their own financial insecurities to light. If they aren’t content with their own money situation, sharing your goals could backfire and make your friends defensive. If that happens, try to keep in mind that it’s more of a reflection of them and not you. On the bright side, being upfront about wanting to save money removes any assumptions they may have formed around why “things seem different” with you.

2. Become the “Planner” in Your Social Circle

If openly sharing financial goals with friends isn’t your cup of tea, you can approach it from a different angle by becoming more involved in the planning aspect of gatherings.

Become the go-to planner in your social circle and start recommending cost-conscious options for having fun. It may require some research, but nearly every type of business posts admission prices, menus, and specials online, so you can search and compare ahead of time. You may even be able to plan a whole day around collecting birthday freebies each year!

Simple Changes That Can Help You Save

  • Time of day or days of the week to go out. Some places offer weekly specials, happy hours, and other discounts throughout the week
  • Go out for lunch instead of dinner to save a few bucks
  • Catch a matinee show or movie instead of paying more to see it in the evening
  • Check prices online to see if it’s cheaper (don’t forget to check if there’s cash back through Ebates!)
  • Check Groupon for deals on activities and dining at a prepaid discount

3. Spend Less by “Staying In”

Another approach that allows you to remain social but spend less is to “stay in” more often with your friends. The time spent together is what it’s all about anyway, right?

With a little planning and creativity, social gatherings at home can be quite entertaining and inexpensive without dialing down the fun factor. Endless lists of ideas for theme nights, games, music, food, and more can be found online for free and can become a regular thing within your circle. Have everyone get used to pitching in a little something to keep expenses down. You can also consider rotating between homes and inviting different guests to keep the gatherings interesting as well.

If all that planning seems a little much, you can still plan a great “night in” without a lot of planning. Sometimes all it takes are a few snacks, drinks, and streaming a movie with friends to have a great evening.

4. Remember, It’s Okay to Say No

Saying “no” is tough sometimes but if saving money is one of your main goals, it’s a skill worth working on. If you think you can socially survive, consider opting out of some of the more costly activities your social circle has planned.

By choosing not to join your friends every time you get an invite, you’ll have more time in your schedule to explore and discover a different side of yourself. Finding new hobbies and interests – or expanding ones you already have – will help you fill your newly available time without feeling a sense of FOMO. Staying active, learning, and getting involved in an organization or group (think volunteer opportunities) not only occupy time but can be quite fulfilling as well.

My point is, saying “no thanks” to your friends and sitting at home alone and bored is not a recommended approach. Doing so can create feelings of resentment toward savings goals and your willpower probably won’t last long if you feel lonely. Staying busy can be a win-win situation when you meet your financial goals and experience something new and exciting, especially if it means making a difference in others’ lives.

5. Factor In Your “Social” Budget

The four approaches mentioned above are some of the main items to consider but this final tip is also important to implement for reaching your goals.

You need a budget.

During some months, one activity may take up every last dollar of the money you set aside, while other months may include several low-cost activities that fit into your budget. The important thing is you track it. Don’t let spending get away from you.

Determine what you’re comfortable with setting aside for social spending and track if carefully. You can keep tabs in a note on your phone or even create a fancy spreadsheet if you prefer.

These big changes to your regular routine take intention, effort, and discipline with your finances, so be sure to regularly remind yourself of the big picture – your savings goal! Starting is the toughest part, but once you see progress, you’ll be happy you did it!

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