Social activities that won’t break the bank

I like to spend time with friends on weeknights and weekends, but I checked my credit card statement and was horrified at how the coffee dates and nights out added up. Obviously, I wanted to keep seeing my friends, so I had to get creative. Here are a few ideas I adopted that you might suggest to your friends for how you can hang out without breaking the bank.

1) Cook together

When a friend invited me out last week, I asked if we could cook together instead. She was thrilled. She said she loves cooking but isn’t motivated to do it alone. Not only did we have fun brainstorming how to spice the chili, we also paid a quarter of what we would have at a restaurant. An unexpected bonus was that she also lamented how she had been spending too much money in social situations, and we both came up with ideas of less expensive things to do together. I realized this was one of the reasons we were compatible friends: we inspired each other to make sound decisions.

2) Venture outdoors

Not every outing needs to involve food and drink. Outdoor ventures, while aided by water and perhaps a protein bar, are minimally expensive and maximally adventuresome. Depending on where you live, day and night hikes (with a headlamp) could both be safe, but make sure to read other hikers’ opinions on local blogs. If you live somewhere cold, bundle up and go out when the sun is high in the sky, most likely on a weekend for 9–5 folks. I lived in Boston and Chicago for most of my life, and still had fun venturing outside with friends in the winter, even if I wore a ski mask and was joking (or not) that I couldn’t quite feel my fingers, even with the instant heat.packs stuffed in my mittens.

If you’re not the walk and talk type, you can also look for free tennis or pickle ball courts in the area. I’ve also had a great time roller blading with friends who were skateboarding and could act as my brake down a hill. There’s nothing that will bond you like relying on a friend from stopping you from crashing into a gate at the bottom of an incline that looked so slight before your wheels gained momentum…

3) DIY fitness classes

Since yoga classes hover around $20 per session in Los Angeles, I decided to instruct my friends in yoga for free at a local park. It’s been a blast. If you’re not one who likes to lead, you can also clear the most space you can in your living room and set up a YouTube video for you and your friend to follow together. One of my friends and I have had many laughs attempting some insane poses that the highly skilled instructor was demonstrating! My favorite instructor right now is Donna on the Yoga Vine, whose Australian accent is soothing beyond belief.

4) DIY crafts

Speaking of DIY, yarn and needles are fairly inexpensive, and you can learn to crochet, knit, or embroider pretty quickly. If you have yarn and no needles, you can even finger knit- one of the more hilarious activities at the last Galentines party I hosted. You might not be a master at first, but it’ll be exciting to see how your stitched become more consistent over time. Those who sit in knitting circles have figured it out: keep the hands moving and the conversation flows.

5) Movie night

While supporting theatres in this tough time is admirable, I try to have friends over or go to someone else’s place to watch a film, since tickets here range from $15–20. Musical dance numbers or sci-fi panoramas may not be as stunning on a smaller screen, but there ends up being more time to discuss the movie after if it’s at someone’s place rather than when you all are ushered out of the theatre.

You will also save a good amount on popcorn when it comes out of your own microwave. I like to get the natural dried corn-on-the-cob corns that can be popped in a paper bag, which will save you pounds as well as dollars.

6) Mutual massages and manicures

Clearly, only suggest this one with friends to whom you are close enough and wouldn’t be freaked out. I must say, though, my best massages have been given to me by my good friends, and I love the chance to also help alleviate their aches and pains when it’s my turn. I only do this with a few close girl friends or my boyfriend; I wouldn’t suggest this to one of my guy friends, because I wouldn’t want to send the wrong message. However, it’s SO worth it with your close friends, since you save anywhere from $75–200 if you don’t have to pay for a massage when you’re stiff and sore. Some of my best friends have helped me out when I had a crick in my neck or was extremely tight from marathon training.

Similarly, you could also suggest manicures at home- either each doing your own or helping paint each other’s nails. Some of my friends are amazing at nails and others… well, let’s just say there’s a reason they chose another line of work. But all in all, it can be a fun bonding activity that can save anywhere from $35–50, the typical price of a manicure around me.

Some of your friends might not be responsive to these less expensive activities, but I have yet to find anyone who isn’t excited to do something a little different and save some cash along the way. Smart and caring friends help each other make financially sound decisions, so don’t let anyone pressure you into spending above your means.

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