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How to Survive a Night Out On the Town When You’re On a Budget

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Finding a balance between saving and socializing doesn’t come naturally. Here are some tips for surviving a night out on the town when you’re on a tight budget:

Commit yourself to some level of spending

Don’t try to tell yourself you’re going to go out with friends and not spend a dime. It’s not realistic, and let’s face it, it’s not actually fun. Further, simply worrying about potential expenses often puts a bad spin on the experience. If you go out, accept the fact that you’ll likely spend at least some money.

To avoid blowing your entire bank account, go into the evening with a clear spending limit. If you give yourself a clear and acceptable spending boundary, you give yourself the permission to enjoy yourself without the weight of money fret.

Bring cash

There’s nothing worse than diligently sticking to an appetizer and water only to have the bill split equally between all other entrees and drinks at the end of the meal. To avoid the conundrum? Bring cash (ideally smaller bills that will cover your cost plus your fair portion of tip and tax). This gives you the flexibility to pitch in for what you owe without having to take too much time rearranging the bill. Some people simply see splitting equally to be the easiest option between big groups, but if you can pay your bill exactly, there’s no extra work involved. It’s just as easy to ask a server to deduct cash first and split the remainder between any cards.

Additionally, taking out a pre-decided sum of cash and using that throughout the evening can also give you a spending parameter that helps you to create a secure financial boundary.

Plan and pay BEFORE you go

Consider these two scenarios…

  • A) You show up to a group dinner with anxiety over your budget. As a result, you choose the cheapest things on the menu (because you don’t want to spend too much) which ends up being an iceberg lettuce salad with a single cherry tomato for $12. The whole time you’re worried about the bill and how it will be split. You can’t enjoy what you’ve ordered nor is it particularly satisfying when compared to the other things people are ordering. When the bill finally does arrive, you end up paying $30 dollars which is twice as much as you wanted to spend. You feel guilty over the amount spent and regretful that you spent the money at all.
  • B) A month before the group dinner is scheduled, you buy a gift card for the restaurant where it will be held. You peruse the menu and decide $30 is a reasonable amount to spend and is an amount that you feel you can budget for. The money comes out immediately from your bank account as soon as the purchase is complete, despite the fact that you have yet to eat or drink a thing. A month later when you do show up for the event, you’re separated from the initial financial deduction. As a result, spending via the giftcard feels less painful, almost as if you’re not spending money at all. Because your mind is free from financial anxiety, you can focus on the meal and the company rather than worry about the bill.

Which one sounds better? I’ll cast my personal vote for scenario B. Our logical minds are tricky little buggers and they can really put a storm cloud over certain scenarios. Despite the fact that both of these scenarios result in you spending $30, buying a gift card ahead of time allows you to feel like you’ve been an active participant in the choice. It feels less painful because you feel as if you’re in control of your actions rather than along for the ride. If you separate the event from the act of spending, you can more easily appreciate it for what it represents — time spent with friends having fun.

If it’s too expensive, be honest about it

Tell your friends if you can’t manage the expense! Sure, it can feel awkward, but honesty is so valuable in effective communication. If you’re struggling financially, it’s best to be upfront rather than harbor embarrassment or shame silently. That’s when it can simmer into resentment. They’re your buds! They’ll understand.

Lastly, remember, quality over quantity. If feeling good about a night out means that you have to reserve it to once a month rather than making half-budgeted attempts every weekend, choose quality! This will allow you the freedom to be fully present when you are out and about and to truly enjoy your social events.

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