Now that lockdown is lifting, here are my top tips on how to socialise without blowing your budget.
After months stuck at home, you might be tempted to hit the town at every opportunity – with the resulting damage to your bank balance.
Yesterday morning, I enjoyed chatting on BBC Radio Suffolk about how to have fun without spending a fortune.
Build a budget
My top tip is to work out how much you can afford to spend. If you’ve been lucky enough to save some cash during lockdown, you might well want to blow more than normal on socialising.
Start by thinking about the big ticket items you’re desperate to do – whether that’s a holiday, concert, big match, theatre trip, wedding weekend or whatever else. Make sure you set aside enough for what’s really important, rather than discovering your spare cash gurgled away in rounds of drinks. Personally, I’m excited after booking discount seats to take the kids to a musical, and I’ve been eyeing up tickets to the family enclosure at Newmarket, so we can take a picnic to the races.
Next, break down what’s left into a monthly budget, with cash left over for boring things like bills.
Then before heading out for any individual event, decide how much you want to spend, rather than waking up the next morning with a banging headache and a black hole in your bank account.
If you really want to stick to a budget, withdraw the money in cash beforehand. There’s nothing like handing over coins and notes to register quite how much you’re spending and how little you’ve got left, rather than running up a big contactless bill.
Getting a great deal
Think about why you’re really going out.
Is it because you’re desperate to go clubbing / knock back cocktails / return to a restaurant after all this time?
Or is the venue not so important, and it’s actually about seeing friends?
If it’s the venue, take advantage of all the ways to have fun for less
When you go
For example, if it’s a particular bar, suggest meeting during happy hour. Go clubbing on less expensive nights. Book restaurants at times when you can snap up set menus or special offers, such as early in the week, or pre-theatre meals early evening.
What you order
Be upfront with your friends if you’re on a budget – you may find they’re keen to save too.
In the pub, say if you’d like to stick to buying your own drinks, rather than getting caught up in multiple rounds. In the restaurant, mention before ordering that you’ll be sticking to a main course rather than having a starter too, and would rather pay your share than splitting the bill. It doesn’t have to be a big deal if you flag it up front.
Where to find deals and discounts
Snap up any deals and discounts to enjoy your favourite places for less.
For example, sign up for mailing lists and follow social media accounts for specific venues, from restaurants to theatres. That way, you’ll get details about discounts or new bookings early, with more chance to book cheaper options.
Check out deals sites such as Wowcher, Groupon and Buyagift (affiliate link) and google voucher codes for restaurants. I’ve nabbed discounts on everything from an afternoon tea with my mum to weekends away and a cheese making course with friends.
Don’t forget classics like a year of Meerkat Meals & Movies just for buying an insurance policy, where you can get 2 for the price of 1 cinema tickets on Tuesday and Wednesdays, and 2 for 1 offers on starters, main meals and desserts at a ton of restaurants Sundays through Thursdays. They’ve also expanded to offer at least 10% off takeaway and delivery food, and 50% off a £3o+ spend on pizza delivery from Papa John’s and Pizza Hut.
Find free and discounted tickets to theatres, gigs and comedy nights via the likes of ShowFilmFirst.
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Getting together for less
If socialising is more about the company than the venue, there are loads of less expensive alternatives.
Catch up over a coffee, rather than a pricey meal out. Plan a walk rather than a shopping spree. Visit a a newly-reopened museum or gallery – many permanent collections are completely free to view.
Above all, remember that eating in is almost always cheaper than eating out. Now that changing rules mean we can actually invite up to 6 friends inside, or host up to 30 people outside, consider inviting people round for drinks, a meal or a barbecue. Cooking yourself, asking friends to bring drinks and dishes, or taking it in turns to host, will help keep costs down.
The chance to see friends in person, rather than braving Zoom, is definitely the best part of the rule changes for me. I’m very over-excited about the invites to a picnic, barbecue and housewarming already in the diary.
Now – over to you. What are you looking forward to doing now lockdown is lifting? What are your top tips on how to socialise on a budget? Do share in the comments, I’d love to hear!