How to Hang Out with Friends When You’re on a Budget

Spending time with your friends can be a really life-giving thing. However, when you’re in college, it can also feel like there’s a lot of pressure to spend money, depending on what your group of friends likes to do.

You might feel like you have to spend a certain amount of money to hang out with a specific group of friends, or you might find yourself missing out on a lot of hangouts because you simply don’t have the cash. The thing is, no matter how wealthy your group of college friends is, college is a time of life when people should be trying to save and stockpile some money. College is a unique season where most individuals are mostly independent, while still relying on their families for some monetary support. However, this doesn’t ring true for everyone!

Hanging out with your friends does not have to be an expensive endeavor. Read on for tips about how to have fun without breaking the bank.

1. Do something outside

The outdoors are proven to help with your physical and mental health anyways, so why not try and get outside more? Depending on where you live, spending time outside could look like going to the beach and surfing, or it could look like going for a hike or taking a weekend to go camping. At the very least, a walk around a lake or a picnic in a park could be a really fun thing to do with a friend (or a few!). Bonfires are also great outdoor activities—especially when a guitar and s’mores are involved.

Do a little research and find out what kind of outdoor spaces are available in your community. Are there state parks nearby? Or nature reserves? Do you and your friends have access to bikes or the free rental of canoes? Take advantage of the outdoor activities your campus offers as well—there might be a lot of complimentary opportunities your school offers.

2. Host something in your dorm room

You don’t have to throw a raging party to have people over. Invite a couple friends over for a movie night with popcorn, or ask everyone to bring some snacks from their own kitchen, and you’ll have a great smattering of food available. Another fun thing to do in your own room is to host a dinner where everyone brings a different element of the meal. Someone can cook the main dish, others can bring sides, and someone can bring dessert. Give the room a little ambiance with twinkle lights and fun music.

Other ideas: have a game night, do a clothing swap, have a dance party, or have a bake-off. Of course, get creative—there are tons of things you can do from the comfort of your dorm room.

3. Check local events

Google or check Facebook for free events in your area! There are loads of festivals, meet-ups, and other free events in most cities, and it’s only a matter of figuring out where they are and how to get there. Keep in mind that a lot of free events do require payment if you want to enjoy food and drink, but many have free entertainment and things to do and watch.

If you like a lot of your favorite restaurants and other local haunts on Facebook, you’ll be more likely to see when businesses add free events for people to attend.

4. Find a cheap place to eat

There are lots of low-key restaurants and bars in college towns—scope out your least expensive choices and make it your go-to hangout. Some places have live entertainment, and you could even try your hand at karaoke if you’re brave enough. Keep in mind that you don’t always have to buy an entire meal every time you go to a restaurant—try splitting an entree with a friend or buying a drink and something small to eat. At the very least, buy a drink and leave it at that!

5. Go to a cheap movie

There are lots of movie theaters around the country that offer discounted tickets on certain nights of the week. Skip the popcorn, grab a couple friends, and go see a new flick. Second-run movies are another great option if you’re looking to keep the price down. Even if you’ve already seen a movie, it can be fun to see it in a movie theater environment with new friends.