While Saturday Night Live’s club kid Stefon may know all the hottest, trendiest spots you just have to check out, he makes no mention of one hugely important factor of a night on the town: budgeting.
Consumer spending was up 3.2 percent in the first quarter of 2013, and perhaps a little too much of this money is going toward weekend entertainment. If you’re a twenty- or thirty-something who likes going out, but is also juggling student loans, you really can’t afford to wake up to a $200 bar tab. And, without planning ahead you’re in danger of overspending in pursuit of fun.
Whether it’s your best friend’s bridal shower or just time to blow off steam with your coworkers, here are the dos and don’ts to have a cheap night out on a Saturday or any other day.
The Dos for Saving Money
Do look for deals like pub crawls, which charge a small fee for a free drink at different locations. Pub crawls are a great way to meet people and save money if you plan on being out for a while at multiple watering holes.
Do head out early for happy hour specials, so you can enjoy those two-for-one deals.
Do plan events using Groupon. Sometimes these online deals offer greater savings for larger groups. Plus, you might find a cool venue you’ve never tried — wine and flatbread included.
Do enjoy a drink at home before heading out — provided you aren’t the one behind the wheel. A drink at home can keep you from spending too much at the bar or restaurant where the price of alcohol is marked up.
Do eat a snack before you go out so your stomach doesn’t order the biggest, most expensive meal on the menu. Maybe that pricey sushi restaurant can wait a bit longer.
Do carpool with friends and save on sharing gas and parking fees.
Do learn how to mix your favorite cocktail at home or taste something new at liquor store prices so you don’t waste money on mystery drinks you might toss out.
Do leave your smartphone at home to keep. I know it’s a tough one because you want to snap pictures of all the fun you’re having, but how can you post those pictures when you can’t remember at which club you lost it?
Do search for places without a cover charge.
Do research the type of music or DJs playing at a venue so you don’t have to pay to listen to terrible music.
Do snap pictures before heading out to keep from paying $3 for poorly lit photo booth shots.
The Don’ts for Spending Too Much
Don’t buy a whole new outfit. Women can look for a dress on the clearance rack or a pair of bright new earrings. Guys, get a new button-down shirt to liven your wardrobe.
Don’t end up shelling out cash for a taxi when you know a sober friend who can help out.
Don’t take out cash at an ATM where a surcharge could be added to your withdrawal. Instead, stop by your bank before going out.
Don’t take a credit card. Bring just enough cash and you’ll follow a budget. Otherwise, you might just drink your way into credit card debt.
Don’t forget to include tips for the bartender in your budget. When you are planning how much you are going to be spending — a decision that should be made before the alcohol starts flowing — make sure to figure in the cost of tipping bartenders. A few drinks, plus tips, can add up fast.
Don’t buy all your friends shots. The price adds up quickly and half of them will probably regret choking down too much alcohol later that night.
Don’t go out for a late-night snack when you have a fridge full of goodies at home. Plan ahead and buy your fave junk food at the grocery store where it costs less.
Going out with friends can be affordable. You can have a cheap night out and still have fun.
Alanna Ritchie is a content writer for Debt.org, where she writes about personal finance and little smart ways to spend (and save) money. Alanna has an English degree from Rollins College.