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How to Have Fun on a Budget, See Your Friends and Not Break the Bank

Today, I’ll tell you how to have fun on a budget so that you can see your friends, even when in money trouble, and keep your bank account happy.

My friend J. Money did what we all should do: instead of trying to figure out what are the most popular money problems he asked the people with the problems. They told him! Two of the most commonly experience problems when people have money troubles are:

  • Eating out; and
  • Socialising with friends.

It seems to me that these are connected. Think about it: what do you do with your friends?

Yes, that’s right. You have fun by going out eating and drinking. Which is not on the cards when you are skint and have just committed to sorting out your money problems.

Do you really have to eat out?

Did you know that the mark up on food, in an average restaurant, is on average one to ten. In other words, food that will cost you £2 when prepared at home is likely to set you back £20 when ordered in a restaurant. (This is the average, the mark up can vary a lot for different dishes. Soups, for instance, are the highest earners.)

Similarly, the mark up on drinks is between five and twenty times depending on what you are drinking.

Don’t believe me? Start paying attention.

You have fun and go to the cinema. You go to concerts. You go to the pub to chat.

It adds up. And all these activities can be substituted with ones that will save you a ton of money and are as much fun.

You have a choice: you either stop going out and seeing your friends or you re-think the things you do together.

I’d chose learning how to have fun on a budget, if I were you.

Here are five entertainment ideas that are low cost and fun. For these to work, however, your friends must be fully on board. (If you can’t convince your friends to join you in this adventure, you may need to change your friends.)

Have fun on a budget by:

#1. Giving Dancing/Themed Parties

Giving a party is not that hard and it can be wonderful way to catch up with friends and meet new people (depending on the rules for attendance you set up).

This is how to keep the costs of a party down:

  • Prepare the nibbles/food yourself. What I do now, is cook copious quantities of stews and rice (if I offer food). When I was younger I didn’t serve food – we drank far too much to mix this with food.
  • Buy only just enough alcohol to be able to get the party going.
  • Ask your guests to contribute and bring a bottle and/or desert.

A successful party needs a bit of planning of the theme – which if you know the people you are inviting should not be a challenge.

Be prepared to do some cleaning and to end up with much more alcohol in the house than when you started the party.

#2. Start a debating group

I know that reading clubs have become very popular; I’ve never been part of one of those because I’m too much of an individualist when it come to my reading.

I still believe that organising a reading/writing/debating club is very efficient way to keep in touch with the friends you have and to make new friends.

The only thing that works better than shared interests in bringing a group together is a shared enemy/threat.

I’d rather stick with the shared interests.

#3. Organise movie watching/discussion evening

Going to the cinema has become pricey. Tickets are between £9 and £14 per person; if you decide to get treats…well, we are talking seriously unhappy bank account.

One way to continue enjoying movies with friends, without breaking the bank, is to organise movie watching evenings at home. Again, you and your friends can take turns hosting these.

All you need is Netflix, or Amazon Prime, subscription. Even if you ought to rent the movie through these platforms it still works so much cheaper.

Splash out on the treats!

#4. Attend ‘fringe’ concerts and performances

If music is your kind of thing (until recently I thought it is not mine but have changed my mind) you can save a lot, and still have the joy of the experience, if you attend performance that are not ‘mainstream’.

Check the music schools around you; check the training, or alternative, theatres. You’ll come around outstanding opportunities at a fraction of the price you’d expect to pay for the mainstream performances.

If you are a real connoisseur, just pace yourself.

#5. Organise diner parties

Now we get to my favourite part. Organising dinner parties is substitute for eating in restaurants.

Here are the rules:

  • Make the menu interesting. You don’t have to be a chef, you just need to be able to follow a recipe.
  • Don’t be cheap on the ingredients. Hone your judgement; e.g. how much difference in quality is in price difference.
  • Cook from scratch. This is important not only for keeping the cost down but also for taste and quality.
  • Select a combination vegetarian and meat/fish dishes. Meat/fish dishes don’t have to be ‘pure’. For instance, cooking a taste paella is fine; Stifado, or other stew, is fine.
  • Invite dinner guests that share interests. It’s easier for the conversation to flow.

We hosted a dinner party for seven, last Monday. Here is how I followed my own rules for entertaining on a budget:

Make the menu interesting

This is what I served.

For starters I made humus, roast pepper and mango salad, olives and feta cheese and a special Bulgarian salami. I also made pita bread which is always a winner.

have fun on a budget

The main course was a bit more problematic – there was one vegetarian. When I thought about it, there is one dish that has meat and vegetarian versions that can be prepared in parallel: stuffed pepper.

have fun on a budget

Desert was Pavlova which we have mastered to great heights.

have fun on a budget

Don’t be cheap on the ingredients

Having fun on a budget doesn’t mean being cheap. The ingredients we used to cook all that are from Aldi (peppers, cream, strawberries and blueberries, flour, lean beef, mango etc.) and from a Turkish shop that sells imports from Bulgaria (feta cheese, the salami, the chickpeas for the humus and the rice for the stuffed peppers).

Cook from scratch

You know these were cooked from scratch. Here are links to some of the recipes:

Stuffed peppers

Pita bread


Invite dinner guest who share interests

Well, certainly. I know my people – the only one who may have been a bit bored was John. The rest of us were sorting out the future of higher education in the UK (and the world).


When we hit money trouble, the thing we tend to sacrifice first is having fun. This come with its own problems including feelings of isolation and socialising less.

You don’t have to cut yourself off your friends; you just must learn how to have fun on a budget.

How do you have fun on a budget? Please do share.

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