It’s easy to get wrapped up in the whole financial independence journey, eking out every bit of saving here and there. This is a great thing if it lets you focus your spending on things that really matter. But if it’s causing you to stress out and alienate yourself from social interactions, then I don’t think its worth the sacrifice.
I’ve found myself in this situation before, avoiding going out to town for nights out with my pals because I didn’t want to drop several hundred dollars on Ubers, restaurants and overpriced drinks. But, as they say, you should do everything in moderation. A couple of nights out aren’t going to destroy the budget – especially if you’ve actually included a line item for some fun – and at the end of the day you need to enjoy the journey towards financial independence for it to be sustainable. Read on if you want to learn a few of my ‘social hacks’ that show you how you can save money and still have fun.
Save money and still have fun: Organise the event yourself
Most people will look toward a strong or dominant person to be the leader of their group. It’s human nature, the Alpha leads the pack. If you are confident, charismatic and fun, your friends will associate this with competence, and usually let you take charge.
Being the leader has several distinct advantages. One of which is getting to shape the social interactions, which you can subtly mould around less spendy activities. Examples of some social events which you can organise which won’t break the budget but can be really fun together are:
- Taking your mountain bikes and hitting the trails
- Planning a board game night
- Catching a movie at your local drive in cinema
- Having a video game night
- Having a BBQ or dinner at someone’s house – everybody brings one dish and a drink to share
- Picking out some films for a movie night at home
- Home brew session: Everyone chips in, lends a hand and walks away with a couple of six packs of quality beverages – and of course many of the previous batch get drunk during the ordeal.
- Grabbing your backpack, water bottle and some trail mix for a hike
- Loading up your swag or tent, finding a good spot for a campfire and sitting around it drinking beer under the stars, telling furphies (made up stories about all those hot girls you used to date in high school)
- Heading down to the beach and gathering up driftwood for a beach bonfire and a swim
- Gathering at a mate’s house for ‘pre-drinks’ before heading out to the town – a much cheaper option than drinking out all night
Get your friends on board your save-train
Turning an ‘enemy’ into an ‘ally’ can be a power move on your journey to financial independence. We all know friends and family can be potentially destructive to your wealth if not properly managed, so influencing them and getting them on board your ‘save-train’ can pay dividends when it comes to being able to save money and still have fun and be social.
You don’t need to necessarily pour your heart out with tear-jerking speeches about why you want to reach financial independence or retire early. Instead, use one of these wonderful made up lines to start your own ‘socially acceptable’ reason for why you are trying to save money and divert the activity to something less expensive:
- “Jennifer and I are saving up for our first home deposit so we need to be a bit tight on our budget for the next X months or so. Maybe we could have you guys over for dinner instead of going out?”
- “I need to do more soul searching and Contiki around Africa so I can clean oil spill pollution off penguins and pose on social media, it really is just who I am as a person. I need to save X thousands of dollars by X months, so I’m going to have to give the (money bonfire) a miss sorry.”
- “I’m actually saving up pretty hard for my (wedding / new car / holiday / boob job / hair transplant / electric dog polisher) and I’ve had a few financial setbacks and big bills recently, maybe we could just catch up to kick the footy instead?”
Alternatively, just say ‘no’. You can always just politely decline an offer without offering a reason and leave it at that. You don’t owe anyone an excuse and a true friend will understand.
There is nothing stopping you from making new friends. On my journey to financial independence, I’ve expanded my social circle and made friends with those on similar paths.
Actually, even just through this blog alone I’ve made a heap of new friends all over the world, and about half a dozen in Australia who I now regularly catch up with. Because our goals and values are much more aligned, our spending goals also aligned. This makes social interactions much more fun, less spendy and less stressful.
Give it a go – try reaching out to some of the other personal finance bloggers on their websites or social media and see what happens. If personal finance isn’t really your thing, then start finding blogs and social media groups for things that do interest you. I’m active on a number of personal finance, investing, gardening, saving, self-sufficiency, minimalism, aviation, space and community groups, and personally get a lot out of them.
How to save while dining out – my top ‘restaurant hacks’
Ok, I’ve warmed you up with the more socially acceptable ways to save money and still have fun and be social, but here comes the real ‘cheapskate’ stuff hey? Just kidding. I’m not a cheapskate, and I’m not going to tell you to load up on breadsticks or buy one plate at the all-you-can-eat buffet and secretly share it.
I love dining out! I love eating and experiencing new and exciting meals. I am happy to pay for wonderful food that I’m unable to cook at home, and use these as inspiration for recipes and new creations in the kitchen. It’s especially fun with great company and great wine.
But dining out can be bloody expensive, especially when I can very quickly vaporise a month’s grocery money ($120) on a few dishes and glasses of vino. This is something I only do every couple of months, for special occasions.
So what are my top tips for dining out?
- Go easy on the drinks – I limit myself to one, or just have water.
- Don’t go into the restaurant starving hungry. Have something before going out, so that way you can just order something small or a couple of starters to sample the different flavours of the menu.
- Choose your restaurants wisely. Jump on Google and search for “cheap restaurants in (your location)”. You can also check out the reviews and have a sneaky peek at the menu to figure out how much you’ll be spending.
- Avoid ‘group tabs’ – I pay for my own meal and drink separately, or calculate my individual bill and contribute this to the group bill. I’m not here to subsidise other people’s drinking habits!
- Skip dessert. Your wallet (and waistline) will thank you.
You don’t have to sacrifice your social life to save money. There are a heap of awesome things you can do with your mates that won’t break the budget, and plenty of little tips and tricks that we have discussed that can save you money without sacrificing your friendships.
Enjoying your life is the real reason we are all chasing financial independence. If you’re presented with an opportunity for an awesome night out and it requires you to spend a little bit of money, just realise you are probably already at a 99% solution when it comes to your finances.
Spending a hundred bucks here or there isn’t going to destroy your chances at FIRE, and at worst it’s probably going to take you an extra day or two to hit FIRE. In my books this means it’s worth it, especially if you can count the times you’re having these spendy nights each year on one hand!
I’d love to hear your tips for saving money while still having fun and seeing your friends!