I’ll start by saying it’s really bloody difficult to do nights out frugally. I am the worst for opening my wallet at every opportunity when I’m a few drinks in, and a lot of things about a night out are inherently expensive. But I believe it’s possible to save some money on a night out. Here are some things I have learned over the years from many many nights on the lash to try and keep costs down.
#1: Pre-drinking is great
Drinks in the pub or club are significantly more expensive than those you can buy from a shop. Drink at home with some friends to get in the mood before you go out. I recall taking a beer into the shower (bottle with a straw) after going to the gym to get a real buzz on but I wouldn’t suggest this. I also recall almost cracking my skull open one time.
#2: Try to go out with someone who has money to burn
So this is somewhat exploitative. I am not suggesting you should pressure or manipulate anyone into paying for your drinks. But you do occasionally meet those individuals who just have tons of disposable cash, no big outgoings, and just wanna share it. Make friends with these people.
#3: Plan where you are going to end up
This is potentially massive. Students do this all the time. Clubs and bars tend to run “nights” with specific drinks offers, music, bands, whatever it may be. Do a bit of research and plan your night around something that has decent drinks offers but also that actually represents value to you. There’s nothing worse than paying into a club and hating the music when you get in, and then leaving 10 minutes later.
#4: Avoid the trendy cocktail bars
These places make an absolute killing off of the trendy side of going out. They feed off instagram likes and blog mentions, and have worked in enough of them to know that they normally use cheap/standard spirits rather than the good stuff. In short, they are designed to rip you off.
Don’t get me wrong though, there is a time and place for a decent cocktail bar that uses good ingredients. Whilst they tend to be expensive, at least you won’t come away feeling sick or ripped off.
#5: Don’t be afraid to have a couple of drinks in the pub
Pubs cant be a variable experience, so I get why they aren’t always part of the plans for a big night out. But a little googling or checking up on foursquare and you can find a decent pub in every town up and down the land. In truth, sometimes the cheapest pubs can serve a really good pint. Wetherspoons, despite all of the press and stigma attached to it, tend to be nice enough places that serve decent drinks at very good prices.
#6: Work out if rounds are for you, and don’t be afraid to opt out
This is another trap that a lot of people fall into. You are drinking bog standard lager or cider, and your mates are drinking gin & tonics or premium pints. If this is the case, AVOID the round! You’ll fork out more per drink than you would have done if you were just buying your own drinks. Another one to avoid is if people in the round drink faster than you. You’ll only get pressured to drink faster at greater expense. There is zero shame in just saying “No thanks, I’ll get my own!”.
However, there is a time and place when rounds might be for you, especially if you are all drinking similar stuff, it represents value. You don’t have to go to the bar as often and you get to party more.
And for god sake, don’t be the guy drinking craft beers when your mates are putting up with Carling to try and save a few bob.
#7: Go out with the smokers from time to time
This is one you might not think of if you don’t smoke. I know I didn’t. But think about it, it creates a natural barrier to drinking constantly, so reducing how much you drink and therefore the cost. And frankly, it makes for a nice break from the music normally.
And obviously, don’t take up smoking. And if you do smoke, STOP! You are literally burning money and poisoning your body.
#8: Plan your journey home for a certain time
This is a classic. Plan to get the last train or book your taxi BEFORE you go out. Have your exit planned. Drinking begets more drinking, and so having an exit is the best way to put a stop to the drinking and therefore the spending. Your head will thank you in the morning.
#9: When you’ve had a few, drink a water for ever other drink
Simple. Water doesn’t cost anything, hydrates you so you can party harder and best of all it helps stave off that nasty hangover.
#10: Avoid the bookies and casinos, but if you can’t, plan what you can afford to lose
This is by far and away the biggest single waste of money on the list, and the least frugal thing you can do on a night out. I don’t pretend to be a saint. I have really enjoyed a gamble and have been known to drink around a roulette wheel on a night out. However, the reality is that these places are literally engineered to take your money from you. The longer you stay, the less likely you are to do well. Ignore your mates who claim they’ve won at accumulators or blackjack. Probability guarantees over their life they have lost more than they have gained. And if they feel that way then they aren’t intelligent enough to live the frugal way.
But the casino might literally be part of your plans. So if it is, go in with an amount you are happy to lose, in cash, without any bank cards, and stick to it.
One thing I have found is that watching people gamble is almost as fun as gambling itself but without the risk.
#11: Drugs aren’t cheaper than drinking
Now I know literally speaking drugs are cheaper than drink, and everyone has that friend who justifies his massive chang, horse tranquilizer or yellow bentines habit by claiming it’s cheaper than Stella. He’s right. But he’s also wrong. Drugs remove your inhibitions, and you can end up spending money on other nonsense that wasn’t even part of the plan, like crap nightclubs, expensive restaurants, taxis across cities or horrible women in dingy holes. But that’s a story for another time.