I’m the first to admit, I don’t get out much (even before kids). We’re not much of a socialite nor have we ever been into ‘clubbing’ so our entertainment budget is fairly minimal anyway.
A while back, a friend encouraged us to socialise more by inviting us out. But everything was dinner out, or drinks out, or drinks first then dinner out. In other words money out, out, out.
What is the real aim of going out? Catching up with friends, socialising, being entertained, getting out of the house and meeting new people. All of this can be done on a budget. Here are 30 ideas for things to do with little or no expense.
1. Potluck Dinners
Staying in and having friends over for dinner has come back in vogue over the last few years. But you don’t have to do all the work. I love the American idea of the potluck dinner, where everyone brings a dish to share. Or you could organise who brings what so you have nibbles, dinner and dessert covered. Another alternative is to take turns entertaining amongst friends.
2. Progressive Dinners
A variation on the Potluck dinner, each course of the meal is prepared and eaten at a different house.
3. Game Evenings
I think that games tend to be thought of as a little daggy, but I love board game evenings. An evening of Pictionary or Balderdash and a couple of bottles of wine can be absolutely hilarious.
But you don’t need to have board games. Improv games like charades can also be a lot of fun. We used to play a variation of charades when we were at Uni (grog free too!) that left us rolling around in stitches. If you’re interested, leave a comment and I’ll post the rules. Do a Google search for after dinner games and improv games for some ideas, or for something a little more adult only, try some drinking games.
4. Video Night
I guess it’s DVD night now but movie night at home is a lot cheaper than going to the flicks. For a free version, local libraries often hire movies for free, or raid your friend’s DVD collection and swap. For something interesting make it a theme night, like black and white classics, or musicals, make some popcorn, dim the lights and bring out the pillows.
5. Cocktail Evening
Drinking cocktails out can be very expensive, but you can have a cocktail party at home for a fraction of the price. Before hand, decide on a few cocktail recipes and ask everyone to bring one bottle and some nibbles and whatever extras you might need for cocktails. Tell people what to bring so that you are sure to have all the right ingredients.
6. Theme Parties
If you or your friends have a pool, then why not try a pool party? Dress up parties are also popular. And murder parties. Shake things up by suggesting something a little different.
7. Craft Gatherings
Nothing like a good old quilting bee to bring people together. Last year when my mother stayed, one of the favourite things that I did with her was spend the morning making Christmas cards. Crafting together gives us a chance to catch up and do something entertaining at the same time.
Alternatively, if you’re wanting to get out, going to craft lessons can be a good way to learn a new craft, meet new people, hang out with your friends and start a new obsession.
8. Have High Tea
The only badge that I ever got at Brownies was the hostess badge. I had to serve tea out of a tea pot and into fine china along with scones that I made myself, jam and cream, to a lady I’d never met in order to earn my badge. There’s something special though, about getting out a proper cup and saucer and real napery and having a high tea.
9. Throw a Jam Session
For the musically able, getting together for a music session can be great fun. My brother makes a lot of friends through sharing music. For the rest of us, we can listen, sing along or just throw on a CD.
10 Chuck a Barbie
No doll throwing, but a good old BBQ with friends, bangers and mozzies is a wonderful way to while away a Sunday afternoon.
11. Have a Video Game Night
I’d say bring back Super Mario, but the whole Wii thing looks like a lot of fun too. This is how my husband catches up with friends, by having a gaming day.
12. Host a Poker Game
If the stakes are high, then this can end up not such a frugal suggestion unless you’re only betting with chips for pretend. Prefer bridge? Of course, any card game could do.
13. start your own Book Club
Our local library offers a book club service where you can choose from an extensive list of books, put in your order and borrow enough books for everyone in your book club – for free. What a fantastic service!
The great thing about a book club is that it is not only a way of catching up with friends, it gets you reading books that you wouldn’t normally read, expanding your interests at the same time.
14. Go on a Picnic
A picnic is a wonderful way to enjoy the outdoors. It can be as simple as throwing your dinner in a container to eat out (risotto is one of our favourite easy dinners on the beach) or taking a simple sandwich and eating in the park.
If you want to be more elaborate, share the burden of preparing food for a picnic by taking turns or everyone bringing something to share. Some parks offer BBQ facilities so plan ahead and check out what’s available.
15. Go Fishing
If you’re anything like me, then you only go fishing for the social reasons, ‘cause I never get a bite.
16. Support a local sports club
Spend a Friday night at the footy supporting your local football team. Or your local cricket team, or basketball team. They will appreciate the support and you get a night out watching your favourite sport without the huge ticket price of the premier leagues.
17. Explore Your Inner Child
Sometimes I think kids have all the fun. Just because we have to grow up and be responsible, doesn’t mean we can’t play. Do you ever look at a swing or a slide and think “I want a go?” Well why not?
Ok, my bum gets stuck in the swing too.
Let go and learn to play like kids once in a while. It’s fun and great stress relief.
18. Go Hiking
Explore the great outdoors for free with friends, and maybe throw in a swim or a picnic. You can often find free or low cost local guided tours that will show you the local or historical attractions of your town or point out key flora and fauna in your local national park.
19. Play some backyard cricket
Or the sport of your choice. No backyard? Take the Frisbee down to the local park or beach, it can be a great way to meet new people.
20. Join a Sports Team
Want to get out to meet people? Then joining a sports team is both exercise and meeting new people at once.
21. Go Camping
Camping is fun, but camping is even more fun with a group of friends. Borrow, scrounge and share tents and other camping bits and bobs and enjoy some toasted marshmallows and ghost stories.
22. Go on an Exercise Date
A couple of years ago, my friend and I got motivated and met every week for a walk and talk. To me, there is nothing more boring than doing exercise, but I’ll have a good chat any day. Exercising with a buddy or more takes out the boredom and you can motivate each other to get fit, all while catching up.
Be Entertained for Less
23. Keep an Eye Out for Free Local Events
Check out your local guide, local paper, council or community notice board (or Facebook page) for free events in your area. When we lived in Sydney, a group of us would enjoy Jazz in the Domain. Less than $10 each would cover the nibbles, wine and the train fare to and from the city. The entertainment was free.
Keep an eye out for free local festivals, events, concerts, open days, expos, information days, school fetes etc, gallery openings etc. Our local council has a Facebook page and I find out what’s on through my Facebook newsfeed.
24. Check Out Low-Cost Local Events
As well as free events, check out the low cost events. Local drama society productions, school musicals, fashion parades, info nights, recitals, and open days. The local University drama club can be a good source of plays and often the local TAFE have art showings as well as restaurants where you can get five star food and service for a two star cost.
26. Free Attractions
Museums, art galleries, zoos, markets can often be free or have free sections for the general unpaying public. It can be a good way to pass a leisurely afternoon. Public parks and beaches are also free.
Some non-free attractions may have free open days. For example, some paying museums have a free Saturday every month.
25. Discounts, Coupons, Twof’s and Drinks at Home
Keep an eye out for movie deals, discounts, coupons, shoppa-dockets, two-for-one deals and meal deals. The local papers can be a good source of discounts as well as tourist brochures if you live in a tourist region. If there is a group of you, see if you can get a group discount.
Alternatively, do your regular events at different times. Take advantage of cheap Tuesday, go out for lunch instead of dinner, meet over coffee and cake instead of a whole meal.
If the plan is to go out, then why not only pay for the most important part of the experience. Eat and drink at home before the movie or concert. Take your own food and drink if it’s allowed, get pickup instead of home delivery.
26. Support local bands
Going to see a local band can be a fraction of the cost of more popular band tickets. Pubs and cafe’s often have bands playing where you only pay the cost of a drink or two.
27. Join the Club
Take advantage of member discounts and services by joining the club. We get great meals for a fraction of the price of restaurants at our local RSL for only $5 membership a year. As members of the football club, we used to get $2 beers and $1 pool – for me a whole night out for less than $10.
If you enjoy the local theatre society, art house movies, or museum then membership to these venues can give large savings on the ticket price over the course of the year.
28. Celebrate the Holidays
Free events are often held for Holiday Occasions: Carols by Candlelight, Australia Day BBQ’s and New Year’s Eve Celebrations just to name a couple.
29. Learn to Dance
You often get two for one at social dance lessons held at local community halls etc – the lesson first then a social dance afterwards.
This may seem like a strange entertainment suggestion, but if your wanting to get out and meet new, like-minded people, then one way to do so is to volunteer. And the benefits usually don’t stop there. Volunteer at a festival, concert, play or other entertainment event and you usually get free entry to the event as recompense.
Entertainment and socialising with friends doesn’t have to break the budget, but you can have just as much fun (or more fun) by adopting a few frugal entertainment ideas.
Have I missed a great entertainment suggestion? Why not leave it in the comments below.