“My pocket’s full of nothing and it’s keeping me light.”
– Hot Tonight, Tokyo Police Club
“So, I’m poor,” one of my sisters texted me from her bedroom down the hall two Wednesdays before I left for Paris.
“Same. Always,” I replied.
“What do you want to do?” she asked.
“I’ll think of something cheap. Wednesday night is usually good for that,” I said.
“Okay. You’re good at finding cheap,” she responded.
“I have to be,” I told her. “Otherwise I’d never be able to afford my social life.”
I go out a lot. There are whole weeks that my family doesn’t see me. To prevent double booking, I have a social calendar to keep track of it all. Given my busy calendar and the fact that knocking restaurants off my to-eat list is my go-to thing to do, it might seem like I spend a lot of money; but by comparison to friends, I’ve noticed I spend less in a couple weeks of going out than some people do in a couple nights. Like I told my sister, I have to be good at socializing cheap, because if I want to maintain my active social life, it has to reside within my financial means. For those who find that they’re social lives are getting pricey, below are some tips on financially smart entertainment.
1. Google free events.
This is easily the best thing you can do for your bank account when making plans with friends. Plus, it’ll help you get creative. In searching for free things to do, you’ll come across events that you wouldn’t normally have thought to attend or just didn’t know were happening. The summer is particularly good for this, given all the free outdoor festivals held across the GTA.
I love food! (See Insta.) I make it affordable to eat downtown by mostly ordering off appetizer menus, as Toronto main courses are up-the-ass expensive. However, when out but not at a restaurant or food event, I don’t eat. I won’t grab food at a festival or a concert or something. Instead, I pre-eat from the fridge before going. An extra $10 spent on food might not seem like a lot, but you can multiply that by how often you go out to see how much pre-eating can save you.
3. Do the free or super cheap version.
There are many things that can cost money but don’t have to. It’s about whether or not you choose to spend. If an activity or an event is free and you’re on a budget, let free be free. You don’t have to eat. You don’t have to buy a drink. You don’t have to play a carnival game. Take in your surroundings, laugh with your friends, and just have a good time.
If you want to eat, drink, or et cetera, do it up; just don’t do it up big unless you can afford to. Cheap out. For example, I simply can’t justify a glass of wine for $8 when there are bottles of wine that go for the same price. And about those handcrafted cocktails that start at $12, Toronto, are you crazy? First of all, that egg mixed with that bourbon costs less than $0.25. Second, all cocktails are “handcrafted.” If I’m drinking, I’m going for max millilitres per dollar, which means I’m going to the LCBO.
4. Don’t pay for parking.
I refuse to waste money on parking when I can park on side streets (and most main streets after 9 pm) for free. (Warning: Do not park on King during rush hour. Your car will be towed. #beenthere) Don’t know how to parallel? If I can learn, you can learn. After two years of frequent parallel parking, I now only sometimes need my passenger to step out of the car to guide me. #progress
5. Walk and talk.
Walking and talking is underrated. Some of my most laughable stories with friends, my most charming moments with guys, and my most memorable adventures with strangers have happened while walking and talking. So walk and talk, friends. It’s completely free, and your social life is more about who you’re with than what you’re doing anyway.
About the Author
Maria Bellissimo was the protagonist of a sad, boring life until she turned her story into a happiness experiment. She chronicles her search for happiness on her supremely awesome and appropriately named blog, The Happiness Experiment, which she hopes will inspire others to launch their own happiness experiments. Follow her adventures on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.