I’ve touched on this a little bit on this blog, but it can be really difficult trying to balance a social life with the financial restrictions of being unemployed. On one hand, you don’t know when you’ll be employed again and the little voice in your head is constantly calling out to you: “don’t waste money!” and “be frugal if you don’t want to be be bankrupt,” which makes perfect sense. But on the other hand, there’s only so many hours a day you can spend holed up in your apartment. And it’s only natural that you want to see your friends and have a good time. Going out with friends inevitably involves spending money (duh) so as an unemployed person, I need to either 1) limit how much I go out and/or 2) be thrifty when I do.
This weekend, I had a friend visiting so I really wanted to go out to a bar at least one night. Friday night I decided to stay in, so Saturday I invited some friends over to pregame and then go out. I brought $40 out with me and was still able to get my buzz on and have a great time, all without feeling guilty about spending too much money.
Here are my Suggestions for Weekending on Unemployment:
- Pregame at an apartment. Yes, pregame is a very college term (and not even a real word). But it’s true…if you drink at someone’s apartment before going out, you can save a lot money that you would be spending on your first few drinks at the bar.
- Buy alcohol for said pregaming at discount liquor stores. I can say with almost 100% certainty that your local neighborhood wine shop marks up its wine and liquor tremendously. You pay a price for convenience. So if you’re unemployed and have some free time, take a trip to a Buy Rite liquor store or to TRADER JOE’S WINE SHOP (which is truly heaven on earth). If you buy cheap wine in advance and keep it on hand, you won’t have to waste money on marked up liquor when you’re in a rush. I highly recommend Trader Joe’s Three-Buck Chuck. You can get some great bottles of wine there for around $5.
- Forget top-shelf liquors and take advantage of deals. Let’s face it: a Grey Goose martini doesn’t even taste that different from a house vodka martini. If you’re drunk you probably can’t even tell the difference. Why do you even need a martini anyway? Beer tastes good. Also, happy hour is a great time to meet up with friends and take advantage of great deals on beer and well drinks.
- Skip going out to dinner. Cooking and eating at home is probably one of the best ways to save money in the city. Going out to dinner is fun, but completely not necessary. Meeting friends for coffee, cooking for friends at home, or just meeting friends for a drink are all much more economical ways to catch up without spending too much money. Any real friend will understand and respect that you need to save money because you lost your job.
- Bring cash to the bar and leave your credit card at home. If you bring a set amount of cash out and leave your card at home, you’ll be able to stick to a budget. Plus, you’ll actually know how you much you spent the next day when you wake up. A lot of bars have a credit card minimum of $20ish, so if you’re stuck without cash and use your card, you’re forced to spend at least $20 no matter where you go. Oh, and I’ve learned the hard way that buying rounds of shots and drinks at the bar for friends when you’re drunk will come back to bite you in the ass. If you must rip Jager bombs, let people buy shots for you: they have jobs and you don’t.
- Coordinate cabs so you can split the cost. A cab split four ways rarely amounts to much, but lots of cabs alone and split two-ways can add up. Coordinate cabs with your friends who live nearby, or even ask the driver to make more than one stop. Little savings add up.
- Tell people you got laid off. They will feel bad and buy you drinks. Trust me, I tried it last night and it worked. Also, it’s a good way to strike up conversation. Sometimes.