Rhonda Perky’s comment ‘no one wants to miss out all the time’ (via ‘Signs your partner/friend is budget fail’) implies that being frugal, by choice or otherwise, is incompatible with having fun. After all, food costs money and so does alcohol, a Wii Fit, and a ticket to Meredith. So how do we enjoy, enrich, and entertain ourselves with little or no money? I thought I’d start a new category, ‘Thrills without frills’, trying to address this question.
Firstly, basics. No matter where we go or what we end up doing, there are a few questions to be considered:
- Is there a stay-at-home equivalent?
Do you need to go out to a movie, dinner or drinks with the mates or can you invite them over to your place? Arranging a video(games) night or a potluck dinner with BYO goon will usually be cheaper and ensures the evening will not end with middle-aged you in a tarty skirt trying to hustle up a city cab at 3am in the morning.
- Can you BYO food?
As much as you love your three-bedroom, two-bathroom mortgage, sometimes you just need to get out. But while missing out on some things (like The Hunger Games) is not optional, eating out is. I’m not advocating an eating disorder, just homemade instead of store-made. As a financially-challenged student, my friend Sarah used to take in all sorts of treats when she went to the cinemas; the sad thing is, her burritos, pomegranates, etc. probably still cost less than a small popcorn from the candy bar.
While you may feel uncomfortable bringing food into a venue that makes money by diners people off, you should not have any qualms over packing food for a day out in the Docklands or the Dandenongs. At least bring your own water bottle if only to help save the environment.
- Are there any discounts?
Unfortunately, most fun-filled activities cost money. Fortunately, some attract discounts. Look for ‘early bird’, ‘Tightarse Tuesdays’, ‘2-for-1′, ‘group’, ‘club’, ‘last minute’, ‘off peak’ or ‘Living Social’ offers. For instance, the Penninsula Hot Springs’ early morning and late evening bathers get $10-20 off their entry fee.
- What’s the most economical way of getting there?
With parking fees costing around $4/hour in the CBD, a trip into town can really hurt. Minimise fees by driving in on weekends, weeknights (street parking is free after 8:30pm) or parking in the surrounding suburbs.
Otherwise, avoid parking fees altogether by catching public transport for all or part of the way, especially on weekends when there are discounted fares. However, if you’re in a group or planning to stay out late, driving may still be the cheaper option.
Inner suburbanites have the bonus option of walking or cycling in. Admitedly, drunkenly stumbling home on a cold and rainy night isn’t much fun, but it is much cheaper and, in some instances, safer than taxis, public transport, or driving under the influence.