10 things to do with friends without spending money

I had a good friend in college who liked to meet around meals. Unless we were getting dinner at this fast food place near campus or treating ourselves to that pricey buffet ― it was like I never saw her. But because I wanted to catch up with her and feel in the loop with our mutual friends, I’d often cough up the cash to treat myself in a way I didn’t exactly need or want.

In my post-grad life, I still find it difficult to maintain friendships because I haven’t exactly graduated from frugality. This will be my third year in a row implementing a spending fast in the month of June, and below I share the tips I’ve found for staying in touch without breaking the bank.

Challenge your friends to a spending fast.

While it isn’t any of your business just how much your young professional friends are spending, you all can work together in cutting your spending if that’s a personal goal for each of you. Don’t think you can commit to cutting your spending for an entire month? Check your schedule for an upcoming month, and pick two weeks where you have no events planned. Or, you can decide to hide your bank card for two weekends out of the month.

Two years ago, I set a three-week timeframe for a June spending fast. I’d decided that buying gas and a Father’s Day gift didn’t count, and spent a total of $54. But who knows how much I saved as I declined offers to movies, shopping, and eating out.

If you can’t possibly imagine hiding your debit card, here are some passive ways to save:

Host a movie/marathon/screening night.

If you have cable, pick a popular show that you know all of your friends watch, and invite them over for the showing. If not, host a Netflix night so you can re-watch Fuller House or gear up for the new season of Orange is the New Black. Or, you know, you could always invite your friends over to watch old movies VHS movies that haven’t gotten any love since the 90s.

But, if you don’t feel like sitting around watching television is the best way to hang out with friends while still saving money, then feel free to try the other techniques.

Eat beforehand.

Just because the meeting is at Panera doesn’t mean that you have to order anything. But then again, who really wants to watch others eat while attempting to stifle the groans of your stomach? Opt for getting in a quick meal between class or work and the gathering. Then, once you’re there, you can truthfully say that you’ve already eaten, and feel no pressure to purchase that Chipotle Chicken panini.

Have a picnic.

Picnics aren’t just for lovers. In fact, this is one of my favorite ways to bond my girls. Raid your pantry and fridge, and enjoy catching up with besties over your favorite to-go snacks.

Share an appetizer.

If you just can’t imagine the social life with opening your billfold, consider splitting a meal. My philosophy for spending on food is simple: I refuse to spend more than a few dollars on dinner if I know that it won’t hold me over until breakfast and will find myself scouring the fridge in two-to-three hours. My advice — split a few appetizers that will last just long enough to spill the tea on what’s going on at work and hear about your friend’s new partner.

Hang out afterwards.

As lame as it may sound that you’re not attending the concert or hitting up the bar, suggesting to hang out afterward will still keep you in the mix. This is a great tip for introverts, especially, who may not jump at the opportunity to spend money to be immersed in a big crowd. Instead, join the gang for the cooldown at a friend’s apartment where old-but-goodies background music and fruity drinks are involved.

See a matinee.

Seriously, why has anyone ever paid full price to see a movie? Flexible schedule? Try to arrange a day off to coordinate with a friend, and get into the movie theater for that early matinee. If the weekend looks better, many theaters offer the first showing (usually around noon) for several dollars off the regular price.

Go thrifting.

Anyone else hate shopping with friends because they pressure you to get things you don’t need (and can’t afford) that look great on you? Well, not giving in is so hard, but your wallet thanks you. Instead, opt for a consignment store to play dress up and find some reasonably-priced duds for your wardrobe.

Find free events in your city.

Free is my favorite price, and with summer approaching, many cities are bound to offer loads of free events. Who doesn’t like relaxing in a lawn chair at some park, sipping Mike’s Hard Lemonade and wine that a friend bought and let you have, while listening to cover bands ― all for free? Talk about #LifeGoals.

So, do your research and find those free movies, Zumba sessions, and concerts in a park near you.

Hit the trail.

Whether you’re comfortable running or walking, the miles will fly by with good conversation. Hitting the trail with a friend is a great way to cross off a workout and get the latest on dating, roommates, work, and hair.

We’ve been hearing for years that multitasking isn’t as effective as we’ve once believed, but when it comes to relationships, I’ve found that’s the best way to go. If you often feel pressured to spend your hard-earned wages, socializing works best when combined with an event or plan that both parties need (such as, a meal or a workout), and being smart about what you need and how you should get it will make all the difference for your savings. Sure, you may be teased for being cheap, but as my momma likes to say — that’s the only way to keep a dollar.

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