How to have a budget-friendly night out

We all know the scenario. It’s Sunday. You wake up and think about whether or not you should check your bank account after your weekend’s activities. While we are all wary of our wallets, this doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a nice night out every now and then. Here are some tips to help you save a few dollars while still making the most of your weekends.

Save on dinner

According to data analyzed by the Food Institute, millennials spend nearly $3,000 each year eating out. That’s 4 percent more than the baby boomer generation. Here are ways to curb your spending when having dinner at a restaurant. 

1. Friends are family. Portions can be huge, and many restaurants have specific dishes meant for sharing family-style. Grab a couple friends and split a few dishes and the bill. Still hungry? Pick an inexpensive appetizer or dessert — but not both.

2. Did someone say happy hour? Check the restaurant’s website for any specials or happy hour discounts, which usually take place earlier in the week and earlier in the day. Websites such as Yelp and Groupon are also a great resource for finding check-in offers (free appetizer, anyone?) or discounted gift cards at local joints.

Save on drinks

With an average revenue of $24 billion dollars per year, the bar business is booming. Here are a few tips to save some cash on those weekend social nights.

1. Avoid cover charges. This one might be pretty obvious, but if you go to an establishment early enough, you may bypass having to pay to get in. Call ahead to see if there’s a cover, and try to find an option that’s free. Some places even have a guest list online that will get you in free, so check before you go.

2. Sharing is caring. See if the bar offers pitchers or larger drinks that you can share with your friends (and also split the bill).

3. K.I.S.S. My dad’s favorite phrase has always been “K.I.S.S.,” or “keep it simple, stupid.” See if the bar has any specials that night. Get to know your cheap beers and well drinks. This gives you room to be creative with some basic two-ingredient cocktails.

Other tips to help you save

1. Be your own Uber. Have a designated driver and do a quick search to see if the area you’re headed to has free parking. Of course, this isn’t always possible, so if Uber/Lyft are your only option, see if a friend hasn’t used it before. They’ll receive a credit for a free ride, and you’ll receive a discount, too, for referring them. Avoid taxis planted outside nightclubs or on busy streets, and don’t travel during peak times, as the rates will typically be higher.

2. Set a budget before you go. You don’t have to create an Excel spreadsheet with every detail of what you plan to spend, but consider giving yourself a spending limit before going out. Only want to spend $30 tonight? Withdraw $30 in cash and leave your credit cards at home. It may help harness that self-control.

3. Be a coupon clipper. This goes for restaurants and bars. Sign up to receive emails from your favorite places, especially big chain establishments. They’ll send the most discounted coupons. Don’t want to receive these in your main inbox? Set up filters that direct them to a separate folder or make a new account dedicated to promotional emails.

As students, we have to watch our spending, but part of making your way through school is developing friendships, and this may include participating in social activities. Don’t feel like you have to be a hermit in order to maintain your budget. Always be mindful of your finances, and you can still enjoy an active social life.

~ Christy Tran, Midwestern-Arizona ’20

Christy Tran

Christy Tran is a student at Midwestern University College of Dental Medicine in Glendale, Arizona, graduating in 2020. She is her chapter's immediate past president. When she is not updating her Google Calendar, she enjoys traveling, catching up on all her TV shows, and trying new restaurants and recipes.

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