It is a tale as old as time; we want to grow up, master the art of adulting and have an impressive bank account that we can turn to for everything from the mortgage to a night out without ever fearing it will be empty. But this is never as realistic of a goal as we hope.
I will never forget the first time I told my mom I wanted to move out after college and get my own place. She was incredibly supportive, but she sat me down and told me I needed to come up with my budget. “Write down what you make versus what you will be spending.”
I thought this would be an easy enough project. After all, my friends would be coming over to see my place, instantly saving me money on eating out and going on expensive adventures. But even with the unrealistic expectation of expenditures, writing down rent/mortgage, electricity and utilities, etc. it quickly became clear that I would have absolutely no money whatsoever. So I was going to have to learn to save before I was able to move out. But how was I supposed to do that? I didn’t want to give up my social life, but I also didn’t want to give up my wallet!
Don’t Panic! Here’s How You Can Keep Your Money and Your Friends.
1. Don’t order an entrée
I always wind up with leftovers when I go out, so this tip helped me save money and stop wasting food! When you go out with friends, choose appetizers or desserts as meals to cut 20-50% off the cost of your outing. This can also be fun if you’re friends do it, too. It makes eating anywhere feel like a tapas restaurant!
Just be aware of the kind of restaurant you’re visiting. While most establishments are happy to take your money, some do have a minimum spending amount and even charge fees for sharing. This info can always be found on a menu or in advance via their website.
2. Drink your own booze
If you plan on going to a bar, drink at home before heading out. If you still want a drink when you get to your destination, opt for only one since bars always up the prices of alcohol. But please don’t drink and drive. This one does take some time to get used to though, as you have to practice a lot of self control. You will be tempted to order more than one drink, especially if you’re at a specialty bar. But remember what your financial goals are when that temptation strikes.
3. Break the Rules
Listen, I’m not trying to get you kicked out of your local movie theatre, but have you seen the prices on popcorn and candy?! Bring your own snacks and buy tickets online from discount sites like Swaybacks or Gift Card Granny. Additionally, some theaters offer reward programs which can add up to discounted tickets.
If you don’t want to get caught bringing in food, opt for a DIY movie night at home with your friends.
4. Attend a concert for free (as a volunteer)
Almost any event you want to go to will need additional help. Instead of hopping online to their website for a ticket, navigate to the “Volunteers” section of the site or submit a query via the “Contact Us” option. If you need help convincing your friends, remind them that there’s a good chance of meeting the band if you’re helping set up for their show. Sure, you will have to do some manual labor and you’ll probably leave pretty sweaty, but you would’ve been anyway if you were jumping up and down with the band!
5. Shop Secondhand
While this used to be a taboo idea, it’s become a fabulous option in recent years. With stores like ThredUp and Plato’s Closet, you can get cash for your own clothes and then buy other people’s consigned pieces. I’ve found it’s a great way to trade in your out-of-season pieces for trendier options without spending big. Plus it means you have an ever-changing closet which can give the illusion of constant shopping sprees!
Keep in mind that you won’t want to use this option for designer items you have strong feelings for. While it’s a great way to get a little extra spending money, you won’t get what you “think” they’re worth.
6. Keep your closet basic
If you fill your closet with basic pieces (think layering tops and well-tailored jeans), you can have endless outfit options just by switching accessories. If you get caught up with your friends shopping plans, opt for jewelry pieces you want to invest in rather than wardrobe upgrades.
Recently I went through my closet and separated all of my pieces into outfits. If a couple things could work in numerous ways, I sectioned those items together. This has made shopping easier and cheaper since I don’t inadvertently duplicate items I have, and it’s also helped me speed up my getting-ready-routine in the mornings. Bonus!
7. Stick to a palette
This tip goes hand-in-hand with number 6. If you keep a consistent color palette, you can rest assured knowing all of your items (even new purchases) will coordinate. For instance, pick a color range like black, white and grey and know that you’ll easily pair outfits. Don’t think this means you need to have a cartoon character wardrobe in which you have 7 of the same pants, but just keep it neutral enough that you won’t wind up with that really expensive blouse that requires entirely new pants and shoes.
8. Give thoughtful gifts, not expensive ones
While thoughtful and expensive can sometimes go hand-in-hand, it’s important to stick to gifts your loved ones will cherish rather than fancy gifts they will use once and be done with. I have started shopping for holiday gifts year-round to balance out my budget. This way if I do want to get a couple bigger ticket items, it’s less overwhelming when the holidays arrive.
I like to use this rule of thumb when shopping for others: is it clutter and will they find use for it? I was once gifted a gorgeous crystal picture frame. It was very expensive and lovely, but I had no use for such a nice piece. It became clutter and I ultimately donated it.
9. Use (discounted) gift cards!
If you plan your outings in advance, often times you can get discounted gift cards that work just like cash from Gift Card Granny or Plastic Jungle. And hey, your friends don’t even have to know you gave the gift card to yourself! Pro-tip: you can also use this as a gift idea for your friends!
10. Create your own social events
If you have a certain skill that your friends always say they’re jealous of, like cooking or decorating, use it to your advantage. Host a day of teaching your friends how to be great at that thing and you won’t have spent a dime! It’s a free way to have a busy social calendar and also be known as the helpful friend.
Like anything in life, saving money is easiest when done with support. Let your friends know what your goals are and ask them to encourage you when you want to make poor spending choices. Looking out for your financial health is nothing to be embarrassed about!