Something as simple as a night out with friends can end up being an expensive proposition. But it’s hard to say no when your colleagues suggest drinks after work. The experience is similar when you’re drawn to tempting purchases but can’t quite afford them.
Fortunately, you don’t have to settle for either total self-denial or unfettered consumption. Next time you’re torn between carefree spending and mindful spending, consider these five ways to save and still enjoy yourself.
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1. Budget for Fun
When the weekend approaches and your friends invite you out, you’re naturally tempted to say yes. At the same time, the possible cost may give you pause. While you can afford going halves on a pitcher of beer, what if you get dragged to a cocktail bar with $18 Negronis? Although you don’t want to stay in for the night, is going out worth the money you’ll end up spending?
Instead of worrying in the moment, set aside funds for fun in advance while creating your monthly budget. Using a debit card will help you stay on top of your transactions and avoid spending money you don’t have. By reviewing your monthly expenditures, you’ll see where to cut back so you can afford to socialize. Ditching some underused subscriptions and skipping a week’s worth of morning lattes will give you a fret-free Friday night.
This principle also applies to any other potentially costly outing, such as going to a restaurant, concert, or bookstore. You don’t have to create a specific budget for each particular occasion. Instead, you can set aside a certain amount for categories such as “dining out” or “books,” depending on your interests. When faced with these purchases, you can spend without hesitation until you hit your limit.
2. Start the Party Early
If you find that going out is still too expensive despite your budgeting efforts, begin your night in instead. That Negroni will probably come to just $3 or $4 when you sling the Campari yourself. Once everyone has had a first round and filled up on inexpensive snacks, you can head out with a lowered sense of financial fear.
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Needless to say, if you are not using public transportation, at least one person should be the sober designated driver. For an even less costly night out (and more control of your spending), you can volunteer for this role. The lowered social pressure will ensure that you’re far less likely to overspend. You’ll also have the satisfaction of knowing that you’re keeping your friends safe.
While the designated driver is the perfect position for frugality, it doesn’t have to be yours every time. When it’s your turn to indulge, pregaming is a fun and less expensive way to get the night started. Just be sure to consume safely! Knowing when to stop, aside from being healthier, will save you from making frivolous purchases as well.
3. Practice Patience in Purchasing
Speaking of purchases, if you’re always having to deny yourself the things you like, it can get frustrating. Still, that $60 video game may set you back a bit too much — unless you keep your eye on it. If you know where to look, you can get even new products at a discount, so it’s worthwhile to do some research before purchasing.
New and like-new items can often be found at multiple retailers and websites for lower amounts depending on the moment. By holding off long enough to search for the best price, you can get the same item for much less.
With Chrome extensions like Capitol One Shopping, you can even track an item’s price fluctuations over time. Using this information, you can seize the chance to buy once the price drops. If your longed-for item never gets discounted, look into pre-owned versions on secondhand websites. You’ll likely be able to get exactly what you want eventually and save the money you would have spent elsewhere.
4. Go Thrifting
Let’s talk more about buying secondhand. Thrift stores are a great way to save money when looking for clothes or household items. You can often find like-new or undamaged items that cost a fraction of what they would elsewhere. Why pay full price at a retail store when the pool of more interesting, lower-priced choices is constantly evolving and expanding?
The thrill of the hunt makes thrifting a fun activity to engage in with friends or family. When you all decide to go shopping for the day, skip the department store and let loose in flea markets and thrift shops for less. You’ll most likely come away with far more — and far more intriguing — items than you would otherwise.
Due to their ubiquity and easy resellability, clothes are above and beyond the most abundant find at these stores. Search for older, often higher-quality designs and combine them with newer pieces for a more eclectic style. Thrifting is perhaps the best way to personalize your style, as you’ll rarely find the same item twice. It gives you the chance to develop your own look over time and wear what suits you best.
5. Embrace Your Inner Chef
It goes without saying that cooking your own food is significantly more affordable than eating out for any given meal. First, take a look at how much a dish’s ingredients will cost you compared to the price of the dish at a restaurant. A $20 bowl of cacio e pepe (cheese-and-pepper) pasta from a restaurant, for example, might contain $5 worth of ingredients or less. By cooking the dish yourself, you’ll save substantially — plus, you’ll have no server to tip.
You can avoid spending big bucks on food by learning to enjoy cooking and tasting the results as you improve. When working through a new recipe, a little mindfulness and research can help you make it perfectly. For any recipe or technique you hope to master, there’s likely a YouTube video (or 10) that will show you how.
In time, you’ll be eating amazing food, entertaining guests, and spending far less for the pleasure. Cooking good — even fancy — meals will become as natural as making a sandwich is now, and it won’t break the bank.
Putting more effort into being frugal does not have to mean reducing your quality of life. The things you love are still at your fingertips, and by saving where possible, you’ll enjoy them even more. So the next time you have to decide how to spend your money, do so thoughtfully. You might be surprised by the opportunities that have opened up simply by not spending unnecessarily.