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Five quick tips for going out on a budget

Posted by Karyn Polewaczyk  August 13, 2013 03:40 PM

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A piece I recently wrote about FOMO (or the fear of missing out) went viral last week, sparking conversation across the Internet about what makes us succumb to the "grass is greener" mentality. Aside from social media, there's one place where FOMO can strike especially hard: nightlife.

And in a city like Boston, where the cost of living is high and the opportunity to try, taste and see everything beckons around every corner, it can be hard to stick to a budget of any kind, whether you’re making beaucoup bucks or barely scraping by. Still, it can be done—and it doesn't have to be painful. Here are five quick tips to shape up your social life, one dollar at a time.

First things first: be honest with yourself. If your financial house is looking more like makeshift shack, and you know, deep down, that you should probably make it a Netflix-on-the-couch night, then do it. Charging a $15 martini to a credit card might provide instant gratification and a nice buzz, but keep in mind that you’ll be paying interest on something that eventually (and literally) will wind up in a toilet. Also, just because you’re pinching pennies doesn’t mean service staff are any less deserving of gratuity. Feeling like you'll have to skimp on tipping to swing a night out is a sure sign that staying in is within your best interest—or that you’re just plain cheap (which, in my opinion, is even worse than being broke).

Use cash. It’s much easier to know you’ve got, say, $25 or $50 for an evening out if you can physically see how much you have left. Even using a debit card can get you into trouble, since paying with plastic is very easy and provides leeway into going just a little bit over your preset limit.

Plus, this.

Eat at home. “Going out” is a very ambiguous phrase, and it means something different for everyone. However, I stand by the credo that a good meal (which may or may not be part of your plans) is worth the money, whether it’s at a four-wheeled food truck or served atop a white tablecloth. If I know I’m going to be staying out late, that means I’ll likely need a cab ride home—and it means that my noshing needs will be satisfied within the confines of my kitchen (including late-night snacks I sometimes prepare ahead of time to avoid the regret of 3 AM Chinese food).

Get creative. One of the most obnoxious complaints I’ve heard about this city is that there’s nothing good to do during the week, or that all of the stuff worth going to is expensive. Wrong, and wrong. It does require a bit of thinking (and willpower) to get outside the trap of bar hopping, but I’ve found fun, inexpensive things to do every day of the week. Scour places like Dig Boston's and Boston.com’s event pages (which will sometime list the cost of attendance, if any), and get on the mailing list for your favorite venues to see when they’ll have special events. I’m also partial to the free museum nights offered at places like the ICA and MFA. And for the sake of all parties involved, get over the fact that we don’t (currently) have happy hour.

But on that note—consider curbing your thirst. Drinking and all that it entails, including hangover remedies and finding your way home on Sunday morning (when applicable), is likely your biggest expense when going out. If it’s not, then good for you—but if you’ve seen your bar tab tally up faster than you’d like, consider staying on the wagon for the night. If you need further convincing, take a look at this infographic that shows the long-term effects of alcohol on the body, or the just reminisce over the after effects of a few ill-timed drunk texts (cringe).

Do you have a budget for going out? How do you stick to it, and where have you found success? Share your tips in the comments below.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About this blog

Karyn Polewaczyk lives and writes in Boston, and believes that heading out into that good night, like any adventure, begins with the first step. Let's Go Out is a conversation about dating and nightlife in our notoriously chilly city, with first-hand tips from the trenches. Karyn's writing, which focuses largely on women's lifestyle topics, has appeared in the Weekly Dig, Jezebel, xoJane, Northshore Magazine and More.com, among others. Follow her on Twitter at @KarynPolewaczyk.

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