When you are in your 20s and 30s, there is so much fun to be had: festivals like Coachella and Burning Man, bachelor and bachelorette parties, weddings, and weekend getaways. The only problem is having fun can leave you running low on funds.
Just because you have student loans doesn’t mean you can’t go out and have fun. However, you should keep to a budget and focus on having the most fun for the lowest cost.
Here are some quick tips to enjoy going out with friends without breaking the bank.
Limit trips to the bar
Night clubs, concerts, and vacations are a blast, but with cocktails running $20+ at some venues, drinking can quickly get out of control on the money front.
Instead of heading to the bar for another round each time your glass is empty, try these strategies:
Drinks are a fraction of the cost from a liquor store or grocery store. Cut how much you spend on drinks in a night by having one or two at home, so you don’t feel the need to spend as much at the bar.
A word of warning: do not overdo it on the drinks before you go out. Binge drinking is dangerous and many venues do not allow people inside who are visibly intoxicated.
For every drink you finish, have a glass of water next. That will not only save you 50 percent on your bar tab, but help prevent a hangover, too many booze-fueled calories, and bad decisions.
Be the D.D.
Being the designated driver is not always fun, but your friends will appreciate it and you will spend zero on drinks for the night.
Enjoy outdoor fun
While it does not look like spring in some snowy parts of the country, warm weather is here or just around the corner. Instead of another night out at the bars, organize a day trip or weekend getaway in the great outdoors.
Camping is inexpensive and fun if you have the equipment already, or you can rent cheap camping gear from REI or a local outdoor equipment store. In addition to camping, you can go hiking or spend a day on the beach for free.
Many of my friends in Colorado purchase a season pass to the big ski areas at the beginning of the season. After making an investment of a few hundred dollars, every day on the slopes is free!
Become the activities coordinator
Most groups of friends have that one guy or gal who does most of the planning for the group. If you are not already, become that person!
The planner in the group suggests fun activities and outings more often than anyone else. If you are the one planning the next adventure, you can choose whatever you want. To stay in budget, you can pick the fun and budget friendly activities without making a big deal that you do not want to spend money.
Game nights, progressive dinners, group bike rides, museums, picnics, 5k runs, farmer’s markets, author events at bookstores, and bargain hunting at garage sales and consignment stores are all fun activities that usually come with a low price tag.
It is okay to spend on fun!
One night, I was out at my favorite Denver nightclub with a group of friends. In the excitement of the moment, I said, “next round’s on me!” Ninety seconds and $120 later, I realized I made a budget mistake.
If you are paying off student loans, or any other debt, you can still go out with friends and spend money on entertainment. Just do it with a budget-first mindset to make sure you don’t blow $120 you can’t afford in less than two minutes.
Start by looking at your income and required expenses each month to figure out how much you have leftover to spend on fun. Expenses like rent, groceries, insurance, and your cell phone bill are not optional, so take that money off the top.
With what’s left, decide how you want to allocate your money into what you value most. If your goal is to get out of debt as fast as possible, which is a brilliant plan, allocate a big chunk of your disposable income to debt pre-payments.
This calculator can help you figure out the fastest route to getting out of debt:
Student Loan Prepayment Calculator
Total Amount Paid
Time to Repayment
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Next, allocate your spending into other categories like savings, clothing, entertainment, and anything else you can survive the next month without. Remember, you can still have fun on a budget.
A lot of people are just like you and have student loans. Your friends might appreciate you taking the time and effort to plan fun, budget-friendly activities that help everyone keep spending to a minimum If you do it right, you’ll be debt-free in no time and still have plenty of fun.
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