Every college student knows the struggle between your wallet and the instinct to say yes to plans. Almost 40% of millennials spend out of their budget to avoid missing out on fun times with friends.
I once spent $80 just to go apple picking for an hour; it was fun, but not for my wallet (word of advice: look up the orchard beforehand to avoid taking a 30 minute Uber to the wrong place).
Hanging out can be oh-so-fun, but it shouldn’t always have to be oh-so-expensive.
From eating out to watching movies and day trips, these fond memories can eat up a lot of money at a time in our lives when money is tight.
You can only justify an expense with “Treat Yo Self!” so many times, right? But we can’t sacrifice the people and things that we love just to stay on budget.
We put so much time into our classes, work, and papers – at the end of the day, we deserve to be able to relax with the people we care about.
Being on a budget and enjoying time with friends don’t have to be mutually exclusive.
So with that in mind, here’s the broke student’s guide to hanging out with friends!
When you’re staring at a $70,000 tuition bill, saving three dollars on a movie ticket doesn’t seem like much. But there are a ton of great student discounts out there that add up if you take advantage of them enough.
Museums, theaters, and restaurants are great places to start looking for discounted student prices. Sometimes, certain days, locations, or times will be more discounted, which is another great way to save. If they don’t offer lower prices for students, sites like Groupon and LivingSocial are a great place to look for deals.
Lots of schools host great events for free or reduced tickets – concerts, theater shows, sports games, you name it. I’ve seen comedians from SNL perform and taken part of chocolate making workshops, both of which were offered by my school for free.
Be on the lookout for tickets regularly, though, because big-ticket items can run out pretty fast. Art galleries, free public concerts, and town festivals are also free events that can take you off-campus, as well.
Pay attention to where a lot of your money is going. Are you someone who uses the subway a lot to go out with friends? Or maybe you like to catch a movie every couple of weeks?
Local transportation or movie theater passes can save you a lot of money over the course of a semester if you’re someone who uses them frequently. They often have special passes for students that are discounted even more.
Those savings can soften the cost of going around with friends from week to week.
Sometimes tickets are out of our budget, but that doesn’t mean the activity itself is out of your reach. Get creative!
If you can’t get yourself to the event, bring the event to you. Last year, my friends and I had been thinking of going to a paint bar for a fun night out. But when it turned out to be more expensive than any of us wanted to pay for, we opted to buy paint supplies ourselves, bake cookies, and spend an excellent (and low-cost) night together painting at home.
Low-cost alternatives can also be outdoor activities such as hiking, bike rides, or park picnics, which tend to be inexpensive if not free.
Staying in for a game night, movie night, or potluck are other great ways to be with friends without spending a lot of money.
Spending money with friends is an unavoidable reality. Hopefully, these tips will help lower the cost, but at the end of the day, you do sometimes splurge on a meal or a ticket.
Create room in your budget to accommodate these expenses, keeping in mind aspects such as transportation or parking (use student discounts and passes to help with other costs, too!).
And that might mean having an honest conversation with friends about your limits. No one wants to be the friend that skips a night out because they can’t afford it, but in a group of college kids, you’re probably not the only one grimacing at the cost.
A night of fun is less about what you do than who you do it with, and good friends will understand that you want to spend less money hanging out.
We can’t always avoid the expenses that arise from hanging out with friends (and who would want to give up ordering Indian food or going to a concert?). But we can do our best to minimize the cost of hanging out, and that means we don’t have to feel so guilty about making plans for the weekend.
Mugdha Gurram is a rising junior at Boston University studying International Relations. After graduating, she hopes to pursue a career in law. In addition to international and domestic politics, she is passionate about accessible education, including the ability of students of all backgrounds to pay for their education.