A Thrifty Guide to a Night on the Town: Money Saving Tips to Maximize Your Evening

Today’s guest post comes from Anne-Marie Hays, who is a content specialist for Best Company. If you’re looking for tips on how to reduce your expenses while having a great night out, this is an informative read.

Here’s more about Anne-Marie:

Anne-Marie Hays is interested in personal finance, for her own benefit and for helping others. She loves reading, travel, and watching The Office. She writes for BestCompany.com. 

If you’re interested in writing a guest post for The Money Mix, check out our guest post guidelines.

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A Thrifty Guide to a Night on the Town: Money Saving Tips to Maximize Your Evening

Money Saving Tips We all know that a penny saved is a penny earned, but it is hard to remember that wisdom when you are invited out to dinner or to celebrate a friend’s birthday, or when you see mozzarella sticks on a menu, ANYWHERE.

Many of us feel we need to avoid going out on the weekend to stick to our financial goals. Sometimes the tedium gets to be too much, and we splurge on an extravagant meal or expensive tickets to an event we can’t afford. The fear of missing out (FOMO) just gets to be too much, and we crack.

The key to surviving FOMO-induced spending sprees is to find a happy medium: a way that you can enjoy the social aspects of getting out of the house while spending the least amount of money possible.

You don’t have to stay home to avoid spending money. You can go out and enjoy the company of friends, without feeling guilty about compromising your budgeting goals. We have compiled some tips to keep you feeling like the life of the party while keeping yourself free of financial stress.

Going Out to Dinner

  • Eat before you leave. Whether you eat a full meal or just a snack before you go out, this is a good way to avoid making hasty food decisions later. You won’t be starving and wanting to stop at the first place you see. YIf you load up before you go out, you won’t feel tempted at all or when you do go to dinner, you can get a small portion.
  • When choosing a restaurant, remember which places have freebies. If you go in a group, they are not going to take the bread away from you.
  • If you must order food, order from the kids’ menu for smaller portions and cheaper prices.
  • If entrees are too expensive, either order an appetizer as your meal, ask for the specials, or offer to split a meal with someone in your party.
  • Ask to choose the restaurant. Then, choose your restaurant on Groupon to get a great deal. Other restaurant coupon apps like LivingSocial or LocalFlavor can also help you find great deals.

Hanging Out at a Bar

Just going out on the weekend can mean spending time in a bar or cocktail lounge. Keep these strategies in mind the next time you are making weekend plans:

  • Think before you order your drink. Ask for club soda. Most bars serve this for free. You can still have fun with your friends, but not feel like you are left out.
  • If you do want to drink, opt for beer. Cocktails can be expensive, and once you have one, you are more likely to drink three.
  • If you have regular neighborhood bars that you frequent, check out their websites or Facebook pages to see exactly when they have promotions like ladies’ night, happy hour, or deals on shots.
  • Offer to host the party at your house. BYOB, and you can either have what’s extra or provide your own drinks or food. While you still have to pay for your own food and drinks, it will be at a fraction of the cost of eating or drinking out.

Going to the Movies

If you love to go to the movies, but want to save money, try these tips before paying full price:

  • Student and Military ID Discounts. You may not know, but most movie theaters have some sort of discount for students and service members. If you qualify, don’t use the automatic checkout machine. Go to the actual box office to pay.
  • Go to a matinee. Most theaters have showtimes during the day, up until about 4 or 5 PM, but did you know that you can save between 30 and 50 percent by going to a matinee.
  • Join a loyalty app or discount club. Many theater chains offer movie clubs where you use your app during checkout and you gain points for future discounts. MoviePass is a club where you can pay a monthly subscription of $9.95, which entitles you to see three movies per month; however, there are limits to which films and showings you can see. CNet has an interesting breakdown of four different big theater subscriptions: AMC Stubs A-List, Cinemark Movie Club, MoviePass, and Sinemia
  • Check for weekly discounts. Check online to see if your local theater has any discounted nights. Many movie theaters do discounts on regularly slow nights, especially Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. Here are links to discount pages from popular nationwide chains: AMC Theaters, B&B Theaters, Bow Tie Cinemas, Cinemark, Fridley Theatres, Goodrich Quality Theaters, Harkins Theatres, Laemmle, Marcus Theatres & Regal Cinemas.
  • Eat before you go. If you don’t enter the theater completely full, you WILL be tempted to buy popcorn that costs $8-$10. Fill your tummy at home and avoid being tempted when you walk past the snack stand.

Attending an Expo, Fair, or Music or Film Festival

One of the hardest things to miss out on when you are on a budget, is once-in-a-lifetime festivals or concerts. But you might not have to with these suggestions:

  • Volunteer. Before the event, see if the venue or the event itself offers any volunteer opportunities. While these aren’t the type of volunteer opportunities that give you warm and fuzzy feelings, they will often get you free access to an event after you have worked your shift. Examples include the Sundance Film Festival, Bonnaroo, and San Diego Comic-Con.
  • Follow the event on Twitter and Facebook. If you are looking for free tickets, you don’t have to just listen to the radio 24/7 to try and win contests. Events like comic cons or fan conventions will do giveaways through their social media pages. Follow them as an event is coming up to see how to win. Now all you have to worry about is your costume.

Above All

Leave your plastic at home. You can’t spend money if you don’t have it. If you are the type of person who will forget any money saving goals once you are out and about, consider leaving credit cards at home. Earlier in the day, stop at an ATM and get out some cash. Then, bring cash with you, but not more than you are budgeted to spend. That way, you have to pay more attention to the prices of things like a soda, an appetizer, or a club fee.

If you prefer using a card rather than cash, consider getting a prepaid debit card. You can load money on it before you go out to limit your spending. You can avoid having to carry cash or change, but you will have the ease and flexibility of using a card for your transactions.

Don’t waste money getting there. Try to go somewhere within walking distance. If you have to pay for parking or take a taxi or Uber, you are going to have to pay for it. Why waste money on getting to and from your fun? If you are walking, either wear or bring comfortable walking shoes.

If you are driving somewhere, see if your friends will help split gas. You can pay in cash or with an easy app like Venmo to request and send money to one another.

If you are driving or paying for an Uber, make a point of swapping out another driving trip. For example, pick a day and walk or take public transportation to work or when running errands.

Tell the truth. If you don’t have money to spend, be upfront. You don’t want to be stuck with the other half of someone’s taxi ride that is going to leave you feeling guilty about it later.

Following these tips can help you keep your budgeting goals in mind while being able to have fun with friends and family.

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