9 Ideas for cheap nights out

ideas-for-a-cheap-night-outIt’s the end of the weekend, and once again I’m left thinking about how my friends and I made all these plans … and yet I ended up staying in, for the most part, watching movies and working overtime on a project. Not only is it hard to organize getting everyone out together, it’s also expensive. But there are some ways to make your weekends fun and affordable.

1. Share food
My friends and I switch off who buys the pretzels, fries, mozzarella sticks, or whatever cheap bar food is available. It’s $4 for a plate that will last two or three of us at least half the night.

2. Decide why you’re drinking
Do you want to get drunk? Go back to your early college years and pre-game before hitting the town. Do you want to draw the night out with your friends? Find the drink that’s at the right intersections of large, tasty, and cheap. Nurse said drink for awhile. People often recommend setting a budget, and that’s great if you can stick with it. Another trick is to know what drinks you want when you go out – no shame in just buying your fav drink or two, especially considering how much each can cost. Then just bring the exact amount for those drinks in cash (plus tip!).

3. Bar calendars
My college magazine has a calendar they publish once a term that lists all the deal nights at the bars. $2 Taco Tuesday, 50% off well drinks, $2 shot nights etc. It’s all nicely laid out on a weekly calendar. Chances are your local bar favs have these nights too, but you’ll need to collect the info for your own calendar.

4. Host the party
Going out is great and all, but staying in can be even better. Especially during those winter months when no one wants to go out anyway. This can get expensive, food and booze-wise, so I recommend BYOB style. Another fun thing is to make the food the focus of the night; have a fondue night, bake some cookies together, host a BBQ, learn how to make your favorite mix drinks from YouTube tutorials, or roast marshmallows indoors. Go big on the cheap snacks to decrease costs and food prep.

5. Find your town freebies
This one isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but I’m always down to waste a couple hours at a local festival, First Friday, or an art walk, if it’s free. You can normally find this on a town’s designated website, tourism web page, or calendar at a community center. Local businesses often get involved too, so look for posters at your favorite shops.

6. Campus activities
You don’t have to be a student to enjoy campus activities. My college lets most students into events for free, and it’s only a small charge, if any, for locals. Here, theater movies shown on campus are only $3 for non-students, there are festivals and parties for almost every holiday that happens around the world, there’re other various events multiple times a week, the campus museums and galleries have freebie-days, and the observatory has star viewing parties. Head to your local campus and check out what they have coming up, or check their online calendar.

7. Museums & galleries
Museums and galleries often participate in first Fridays and art walks, but they also have opening events for new exhibits. These events are a fun excuse to dress up with your friends, and often there’s free food and booze.

8. Farmers markets, local markets, and craft fairs
Not only can you waste hours here, but the products are generally local and any purchase you make is directly helping a small shop, artisan, or farm near you. Find your local markets and take a look at what they have to offer. You may also find that groceries like vegetables are cheaper, and if you haven’t had fresh cheese and fresh bread before I  highly recommend it.

9. Discount theaters
Depending on where you live these may or may not be common. Discount theaters show movies after they’ve transitioned out of the regular theaters, but the DVDs haven’t hit the commercial market yet. The local one here was built in the 40s and still has all the old fixtures, including some preserved artwork. It’s $3 per movie, and during slower times they’ll do festivals and special events. This past weekend there was a Miyazaki marathon, and next month there’s a Harry Potter marathon leading up to the release of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Find a local discount theater near you and check out what’s showing and what events they have.

What other ideas do you have for a cheap (or free!) night out?

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