How to Ball on a Budget When You Go Out

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Let’s say you get a call from a close friend. She just got a promotion at work, and she’s inviting you to a trendy Thai restaurant to celebrate. You love Thai food and want to go, but there’s one problem: Your budget’s looking pretty tight this month.

Thankfully, you can still go out without compromising your savings. For example, you can decide how much you can spend and then adjust your budget accordingly.

“If you know that in the summer, you tend to go out more and spend more money, then make room for that in your budget and cut back in other areas to accommodate that,” says Jamila Souffrant, certified financial education instructor and founder of the blog and podcast Journey to Launch.

For instance, you can cut the cable cord and ditch your meal box subscription, leaving more wiggle room for nights out, concerts and movies. To help you get started, we’ve rounded up some tips for saving money on just about any outing. Take a look.

At a Sporting Event

If you’re dying to see the Chicago Bulls (or your own favorite team), you can make it happen without breaking the bank. Souffrant recommends buying your tickets in-person from the box office to avoid service fees from online ticketers.

You can also pick games that aren’t super expensive. For example, maybe go on a work night when it’s less crowded and you can more easily score cheaper tickets. Typically, games during the week are less costly than Friday, Saturday, or Sunday games.

On the day of the big game, be sure to eat before you leave home to avoid paying the markup at the snack counter. Your belly and your bank account will feel fuller.

At a Movie

Sometimes, it’s good to catch a summer blockbuster on the big screen and swoon over your favorite actors. Just be sure to steer clear of the overpriced movie theater concession stand.

“Definitely do not buy any of the snacks or drinks in the movie theater. I know it’s tempting, but eat before you go and/or bring your own snacks,” says Souffrant.

Souffrant also recommends looking for discounted tickets or deals on sites like Groupon or the theaters’ own website. You can also go to a weekend matinee and head out to dinner afterwards – instead of the other way around.

By planning in advance, you can enjoy buzzworthy movies and save money at the same time.

At a Concert

Hanging out with friends at concerts is part of summer fun. But to save money, it’s important that you try to buy tickets at the box office in advance, says Souffrant.

Why? You’ll typically get the lowest price, she says.

Even if you can’t manage to score inexpensive tickets (some of us are Beyoncé fans), you can find other ways to save when you consider the costs of the whole night. Souffrant suggests carpooling or even taking public transportation to the event.

If your concert-going night involves multiple destinations, you may want to turn on push notifications from your bank. You’ll get an alert each time you use your debit card, which may be the reality check you need to curb your spending.

Lastly, look for free concerts in your city. While you might not be able to attend a Beyonce concert for free, there are plenty of other bands and music festivals that offer free concerts.

At a Restaurant

Back to the friends-at-a-Thai-restaurant example: When you’re going out to eat, it can help to speak up about your financial goals.

“If you’re on a budget or you’re trying to save money, don’t keep it to yourself,” says Souffrant.

When you explain your intentions at the start of a night out or before you arrive at the restaurant, your friends will be more likely to understand when you choose to pay only for what you ate and drank.

“I would avoid splitting (the check) equally. That can get expensive if you’re trying to be conscious but they’re not,” says Souffrant.

If you do decide to split the bill, try using Chime’s Pay Friends feature.

At a Bar or Nightclub

If you can avoid a cover charge by getting to your favorite spot before a certain time, then do it, Souffrant says.

You and your friends can also do research in advance to see which local watering holes have special offers or discount nights. Lastly, consider nursing one drink or sticking to water to save money on the bar tab. This way you can still enjoy a night out with friends without overspending.

At an Exercise Class

If your friends are veteran yogis or distance runners, they may have guest passes to a gym or fitness studio that they can share with you, Souffrant suggests.

“You can also just try out the good old park,” she says.

Besides being healthy, workouts at the park are totally free.

“Go together, take a run, take a walk. Use the environment for your own workouts and outside activities.”

Save Money and Have Fun

The tips above make one thing clear: You can meet your savings goals without becoming a hermit.

One final pro tip: Try automating your savings. If you use a Chime Visa Debit Card, for example, every time you use it to purchase concert or movie tickets, or pay your restaurant bill, your transaction will be rounded up to the nearest dollar. And, that round up amount will be automatically deposited into your Chime Savings Account. This way, you’ll save money while you’re out enjoying yourself!

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