How To Have A Social Life On A Budget (and not hate your life)

Is it possible to have a decent social life on a budget? Without hating your life and alienating all of your friends? Yes! Read on for tons of great ways to have fun, see your friends, and NOT spend tons of money. #frugalhacks #moneysavingtips #savemoney #centsandpurpose
Want a social life on a budget? Trick question – doesn’t everyone?! If you want to see your friends, get out of the house, and socialize without breaking the bank, keep reading. Anna Newell Jones has some great cheap socializing ideas for you!

The friend/social thing is tricky. It was crazy when I realized how much money came into play with my interactions with people.
The people in my life were used to me doing things with them (everything) and then suddenly I wasn’t able to do all of the same things with them anymore.
I think the key is to make it seem like you’re not having a hard time with doing the Spending Fast and that you’re not like “Woe is me, look at me suffering over here…” friends don’t want to see their friends suffer, you know.
Give your buds an explanation and be honest if you can’t afford to do something and then seriously, don’t do it.  Don’t dwell on not being able to do something; suggest something else to do.

If the friend persists in their questioning or if they insist on paying so you can participate, tell them all about what you are doing and why.

Tell them that you’re going to be in a better place at the end of the Spending Fast and that’s why you’re doing it in the first place – that will go a long way in helping the situation.

Go with your friends and do the cheapest (read: free) version of whatever they are doing.

If they are going for drinks, get a tonic water with lime so it looks like a drink and no one will give you grief. Have drinks at someone’s (or your) house before you all go out. If it’s dinner out that they’re doing, find a friend to split an appetizer with or eat dinner at home before you go.

Just don’t make it a big deal that you’re not spending money. Have a great time. Don't focus on the not- spending-money part. Share on X

It’s not about spending money it’s about spending time with your friends and the money-spending-part is just a common side-effect of hanging out with friends. You’re being pro-active and doing what you need to do to get yourself out of debt. It’s a very good and responsible thing to undertake.

You might be surprised how many of your buds are in the same situation financial situation as you and you just don’t know it. Being broke and being in debt isn’t something that many people talk about. It’s typically considered very private information.

A lot of people do what they have to do to keep up appearances and they may not be doing as well financially as they seem to be.

I racked up a lot of my debt because I kept doing things and buying things that I just could not afford because I wanted to keep up appearances and keep up with everyone else. I tried to avoid realizing and recognizing this for a long time and I got into a lot of debt because of it.

Free (or super cheap) things to do with friends

Eat your brown bagged lunches from home in the park together

This is a good one to do with work friends!

Start a Spending Fast Group Challenge

How much can you each save? This can be set up on a percentage basis (similar to how The Biggest Loser TV show does it since they all start at different weights).

Get a thrift store tennis racket and go to the public tennis court and hit some balls

Even if you have no idea how to play tennis it’s fun to run around and whack the balls.

Do a clothing swap

Everyone rounds up all of their un-used and un-wanted items and trades. Everyone gets something new to them. (Here’s how to purge your closet without losing your mind.)

Host a game night at one of your houses

Check out movies from the library and gather up at someone’s house to watch

Variations on this classic saving money option is to theme it out: Horror/scary themed movies. 80’s movies. Nicholas Cage movies… Bonus: home popped popcorn is super cheap. If you already have Amazon Prime or Netflix there are tons of movies you can stream for free!

Get together and make crafts using supplies you all collectively already own

Who can bring what and what can you make?

Group bike ride

 Everyone takes turns mapping out a route!

Hike can help you find the best trails in your area!

Volunteer together

Volunteer Match is a great place to start!

Start a book club

Check out the same book from the library. Again, if you’ve got Amazon Prime and a Kindle, you’ll have access to tons of free books!

Team up with a bud and be getting-out-of-debt supporters for each other

Bonus: you’ll have someone to split appetizers with and cheer you along.

Google “free things to do in (insert your city here)”

There are probably a lot of things going on that you don’t know about!

Host a potluck

Just don’t buy anything new for the ingredients! Only use what you all already have in your kitchen. If you can only make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich make a couple and cut them in 4’s. There you go – finger foods! And really, who doesn’t love PB&J? Or host a breakfast potluck!

Do a group yardsale

Go to the public pool

If you’re here in Minneapolis, check out the Webber natural swimming pool!

Do a picture Scavenger Hunt

Make lists and separate into smaller groups. Here’s a great roundup of photo scavenger hunt lists!

Go camping!

Pull an HGTV and re-arrange a room in each others houses

It’s amazing what a fresh pair of eyes can do with a space!

Sit on a patio and ask each other questions you’ve never asked before.

Here are 55 ‘Would you rather’ questions!

Doing a Spending Fast is hard and you’ll have to make sacrifices. Dynamics of some relationships might change. Just know that despite the occasional awkwardness the hard times really do payoff in the long run. Trust me – it is so worth it!

How do you guys navigate budgets and friendships? I’d love to hear your tips in the comments!

P.S. You can choose to want less

Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

Welcome to Yes & Yes!

Want to spend your time, money, and energy on purpose? I'll show you how.

You might also like…

How To Get Over Comparison + Why We Should All Try

How To Get Over Comparison + Why We Should All Try

“Oh my God. Becky, look at her house. It’s so big! She must be, like, one of those people who shares photos that trigger my comparison envy.” ($5 if you get that reference) If you’ve ever felt jealous or wondered how to get over comparison: Congratulations, you’re a...

read more
5 Google Calendar Tricks That Will Help You Save Money

5 Google Calendar Tricks That Will Help You Save Money

If you’re looking for advice on budgeting spreadsheets, coupon codes, or investing apps - this is not the blog post for you. ? When people ask me for money tips, they’re pretty surprised when I tell them that one of my favorite money-saving tools is … Google calendar?...

read more


  1. Laura

    I really like the ideas for cheap/free things to do, but I have to say I disagree with two of the suggestions: to bring your own alcohol to a bar if you want to drink, and going to a restaurant and eat the free bread. It's not the end of the world to only order an appetizer when everyone else is ordering entrees, but I think it's inappropriate to mooch like this – i.e., if your friends weren't ordering meals, the restaurant would probably kick you out for just eating the bread and not ordering anything. I think a better solution would be asking your friends to pick a restaurant you CAN afford, or meet them after dinner. If you can't afford to buy an alcoholic drink, then make plans to go somewhere that has a BYOB policy or go to a friend's house.

    LOVE the scavenger hunt idea – I've done that before and it's a lot of fun!

  2. Little Lo Hood

    Some awesome tips here! I should really follow suit…I need to save save save! 🙂 -Lo

  3. anna

    thanks for having me as a guest! xo

  4. Meg

    Love this list! I've been unemployed recently and this list has given me some new ideas on how to keep hanging out with friends inexpensively. Thanks for the inspiration!

  5. Maria

    My freelance contract is coming to an end in February and with no foreseeable means of earning an income I see myself implementing these tips straight away! Although, truth be told, whether you're financially comfortable or not – these are great, grass roots ways to be sociable anyway.

    Maria xx

  6. Shanna Sandmoen

    What a bunch of great ideas! Definitely writing these down!

  7. Caitie

    I'm a graduate student, so scrimping, saving and budgeting is what I'm all about. HOWEVER, going to a restaurant and not ordering anything or bringing your own alcohol is straight up RUDE. And, certainly where I live, bringing outside alcohol into a bar or restaurant would get you thrown out on the sidewalk so fast your head would be spinning.

    I budget a specific amount per month for dinners and drinks and once I go over that, I decline any further invites. If you're on a complete spending fast you need to tell your friends you won't be able to do dinner rather than acting like a rude mooch. You can always meet them after or find a different activity.

  8. staceymcbride

    I like the term 'Spending Fast.' Whenever I'm on a saving spree or working towards paying off something, I tell people I'm on a Financial Diet. I think it takes some of the social stigma out of "I can't afford it."

  9. Sarah

    I love this! And perfect timing for me as I'll be moving states over Christmas and have no job to go to. I love the term "spending fast" and I love the idea of making it a competition/race – I've found that's the best way for me to save because otherwise I get all down in the dumps about not being able to buy my favourite wine and feeling poor!

    This article is getting bookmarked for much future reference – thank you 🙂

  10. Claire

    Fan-freaking-tastic. Although I have to agree with Caitie that declining to order at a restaurant is rude, I love the rest of this post. So helpful.

  11. Camels & Chocolate

    These are awesome ideas. As someone who spent the last seven years living in SF and NYC, the fact that you can actually save money in your 20s is a novel concept to me.

  12. Yan

    If you or a friend has a fancy TV or internet-attached game system, Hulu has movies for free, too.

    In my town, a sleepy state capitol, there are free lectures, author readings, and discussion groups on a semi-regular basis, and some of them are great fun. Parks "free days" at the beginning and end of the season, historical society free days, and even museum freebees are great.

    Oh, and just the weirdest "free" thing I've ever encountered — if your name is Isabelle, you will always get in free to the Isabelle Stewart Gardener Museum in Boston.

  13. Rachel

    @Laura @Katie – no one suggested bringing your own booze or eating the free bread! The suggestion was to go for the cheapest options at a bar or restaurant. Cheez louise.

  14. Laura

    Rachel: It appears the original post has been edited, as those two options were explicitly called out before. The remaining suggestions are much more reasonable.

  15. Anonymous

    Great Article. I like this style of writing. And the insights are so ON POINT 😉

    -Paul Sanders

Pin It on Pinterest