Frugal Date – A Saturday Out Saving on the Sly
So this past weekend, it really sunk in that we hack our ways to savings and frugal dates in ways that other people don’t even realize. A group of friends of ours were meeting up for dinner, drinks, and a rally downtown. Free rally? Sign us up. Dinner and drinks? We can hack that to make it fit into our goal of FIRE. We LOVE our friends, they are as close (or closer) than family. And while we are probably both on the introvert end of the spectrum, we spend a lot of time with our core group of friends. We both have friends from high school and college, and we definitely won’t let our goal to save hinder our seeing them. With time, we’ve figured out how to just naturally spend less money than everyone else when we go out.
Step one, get involved in the planning and make suggestions of where to go. For me that means finding out the best happy hours on the day we are planning to hang out. We are not willing to sacrifice our craft beer or enjoyment of good food to save money, but I also hate going to the bars where beers are $7 a piece! Last Saturday I found a brewery with happy hour on Saturdays, all of their beers were $4 each. Win! We don’t like national chains, with the exception of Qdoba/Chiptotle (I LOVE burritos). If we are going to spend our money at a restaurant, we’d rather go local.
Step two, eat or drink, don’t do both. We love good food and good beer. However, we both brew decent beer and cook awesome meals. So, going out just isn’t as unique an experience for us as it is for others (or so it seems at least). Recently, we’ve been remarking to ourselves after every meal, “We eat really well.” That phrase took hold when we were discussing why it seems that our friends and families go out all the time and we no longer feel that drive. I used to go out for every lunch with my friends in high school! I could have saved so much more babysitting money! We rarely crave going out to eat since we eat really well at home. And you better bet that it is healthier and cheaper. So, while all of our friends were both drinking and eating, we had dinner before leaving so we just each had two beers. Nobody pays attention or judges people for eating/drinking less, so no big deal. After tip, we were out the door for $20. Yeah, not the most frugal event, but every other couple easily spent triple what we spent.
Step three, NEVER pay for parking.* I grew up in a Big Ten college town and capital city, so there were parking garages and meters everywhere charging $0.50-$1.50/half hour depending on where you are. That adds up very quickly, so I’d scour the surrounding neighborhoods finding the free parking. Many of the neighborhoods just one block farther away than the meters had 2 hour free parking. Better yet, if you are willing to walk 3-4 extra blocks you can park all day for free. A little bit of exercise to save some money? I think that fits into our FIRE plans well. Also, parking after 6 and on weekends is often free, so timing meeting up with people around that is a nice trick too. For this weekend, we did the ultimate hack and biked the 10 miles downtown. Round trip, that’s 20 miles biked, 1000 calories burned (aka the beers that I didn’t need to drink), happy wallet and waist. We don’t always bike (in fact we rarely do), but we are hoping to improve that this year.
Step four, bring a game. As the night was wrapping up, people were wanting to hang out more. We could have easily hit another bar, but we were prepared. We brought a game and suggested heading back to a friend’s house to drink and play. Much cheaper and more comfortable after being out for four hours already. At that point people were down for heading to a friend’s house. For some reason, our friends have not latched onto the potluck idea that other FIRE bloggers have had such success selling. Maybe it’s because none of us have kids yet. People really do like going to bars/restaurants, so we compromise and hangout sometimes at homes and sometimes at bars. Everyone gets what they want.
The next day it sunk in, just how much I felt like I didn’t sacrifice to have a great night with friends. By planning just a little bit more than everyone else, we are able to maintain a high savings rate, but not stress about a night out with friends.
*We really take the never pay for parking to the next level. We work in a downtown area and our jobs don’t provide free parking. Instead, we’d have to pay $17/paycheck for the luxury of parking near our building. (Conveniently we work in the same building and carpool.) When I started working there, I walked during lunch through all of the surrounding area in search for the free parking. Alas, I found four different areas with free street parking anywhere from 0.5-1 mile away. So, if the closest place doesn’t have any spots in the AM we check out the other places. I’ve never had to park in the 4th farthest place, but if we did, I’d go looking for the 5th farthest place with free parking. I have zero desire to pay my employer for permission to go to work every day. We’re over one year into the parking and walking, and other than one day where it was downpouring SUPER hard, we’ve had no problems (definitely should have brought a change of pants and underwear that day :/ ).