8 Tips for Budget-Friendly Fun with Friends

By Rori Boyce

With marriage comes significant changes, to your name (sometimes), your tax filing status (sometimes) and to your personal spending budget (almost always). Here are our tips for budget-friendly ways to spend great times with friends - old and new.

Sometimes I remember with a little longing the days before marriage when I was the only one who cared about where my money went. Back in those carefree days, I wouldn’t have thought twice about going out to lunch with a friend from work or joining my group of friends for the next pub crawl in Boston. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t that I could always afford to do those things; it was that no one else was minding the store and the only person I had to be accountable to was, well, me.

I won’t get into the bad side of that behavior or talk about the resulting mound of credit card debt here because those are lessons for another blog. But it seems like as soon as I said ‘I Do’, things I never expected started changing. Now, anyone who has ever gotten married understands this. You have this idealized idea of what being married ‘is all about’ but there are pieces of that perfect picture that are generally absent from the version in my head.

One of the biggest pieces that I was missing was the understanding that if his money was now my money that meant my money was his money and that he got to help decide how all that money was going to be spent. This meant embracing a kind of frugality with which I was unfamiliar. That reality of that understanding kind of bummed me out. It meant no more impulse-buy purses, no more shoes simply because they were on sale, and no more going out with friends without at least considering the cost.

At first, it was a real struggle to navigate my new financially locked-down world. I had been on my own for so long that I wasn’t very good at discussing anything to do with money with another person do I just started saying no whenever any of my friends tried to make plans with me. It didn’t take long for my friends to decide that my husband must have turned into some kind of tyrant who forbade me from seeing my friends. Obviously, that wasn’t true which meant I had to find a better solution.

I bit the bullet and cornered my hubby one Saturday morning to explain my predicament. He was a little confused as to why our new spending limits had convinced my friends he was a monster but didn’t press the issue because he also didn’t understand why I couldn’t spend time with my friends without spending money.

It was like a light bulb went off over my head. I realized that he wasn’t having the same problem because he already did a lot of things with his friends, like playing pick-up basketball or going fishing, that were basically free. Most importantly, I realized that in order to more successfully navigate this new world I was going to have to take the lead and start planning fun things to do with my friends that were free or at least mostly free because spending time with my girls is too important to skip.

It didn’t take long for my friends to see that my new hubby really wasn’t some over-bearing oaf who wouldn’t let me leave the house. It also didn’t take long for us to accumulate a nice-sized nest egg simply by sticking to our new budget. Best of all, I found a bunch of fun ways to spend time with my friends without spending a bunch of money.

Here are some of our favorites!

Good Food, Bad Movie Night – Everyone brings an ingredient or two for a healthy meal that we all make together. After dinner, we curl up on the couch and provide our own version of RiffTrax for the movie.

Hiking – There is nothing better than getting a good workout and appreciating nature while spending time with good friends and not spending a dime.

Craft Night – Everyone brings their favorite crafty supplies and we spend the afternoon or evening helping each other finish projects or creating something new.

Make-up Swap – Everyone brings all the make-up, lotions, and other beauty products that they bought but never really used and we swap items. It is a great way to get some new goodies while getting rid of things you don’t use.

Volunteering – This is one of our favorites because we rotate where we volunteer so that we each get to pick the recipient of our combined time and efforts.

Join a Softball Team – It doesn’t have to be softball, but the idea is the same. Joining a team with your friends is a great way to spend time together doing something active, just make sure you have a plan for whose hosting the party after the games so you aren’t tempted to head to a pub for a beer.

Binge Watch a Favorite Show – Think grown-up slumber party meets TV show marathon. We are doing this with “Orange is the New Black” soon and I can’t wait.

Project Day – This is a great way to get all your friends that are couples together (and to reinforce the idea that your new husband is not a monster). Once a month, everyone in the group goes to someone’s house to help with big projects like refinishing a room or moving or building a garden.

The lesson you can learn from my experience is that you don’t have to let go of your friends if you can’t afford to hang out with them in the same ways you always have. All you really need to do is find some new ways to have fun and make the time to do it!

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