HOW TO: Have a cheap night in with friends

Recently, I have become queen of the cheap date.
I am officially addicted to saving my money. This is good because the clock is ticking and I have roughly 6 months of saving for my goal before my deadline in March.

One of the hardest parts of living on a tight budget these past few months has been the restriction on my “entertainment funds,” i.e. going out for dinner/drinks, etc…

My saving grace has been my nights in with friends…

These nights have allowed me to save money, bond, laugh, and just generally have a jolly good time–while not feeling like I’m throwing down large wads of cash or like I’m missing out. Here are a few of my favorite, personally tested ideas.

Curry turkey scallopini with garlic mashed potatoes; from a recent gathering at my place

1. Throw a potluck dinner!

I hesitate to use the word “potluck,” as this conjures up memories of church potlucks, eeeeck. However, I currently lack a better word…

Volunteer to make the main course, and assign your friends with a task; have one bring wine, another dessert, another a salad. Preferably something that is tasty, cheap and a general crowd-pleaser; this could include entrees such as lasagna, tacos, homemade pizza, or pasta. Dishes like these often conveniently provide loads of leftovers (depending on the size of your crowd), which can cover lunch tomorrow. Score!?

Take it the the next level: Take turns hosting and aim for dinners once or twice a month. To spice things up (or in honor of a special occasion) turn it into a progressive dinner; drinks and hors d’oeuvres at one place, main course at another, ending with dessert at a new place.

2. Plan a TV viewing gathering.

I plan to throw one of these next week for the NBC Thursday night premieres. Just an excuse to get together. Tell the gang to bring treats and beverages to pass; throw in some popcorn, chips & guac, bean dip. Or combine it with a dinner. Enjoy the work of a few comedic geniuses while in the company of a few of your favorites.

Take it the the next level: Make this into a weekly thing; i.e. NBC Thursdays or HBO Sundays. Go in on a large bottle of Liquor to use exclusively on these nights; for example, Tequila and a big ole jug of margarita mix.


3. Turn your place into the bar.

This is easy. Buy some booze; tell your friends to bring their favorites, and you will spend a fraction of the $$ you would if you went out to an actual bar. And no tipping! If the weather is agreeable, sit out on a patio, light some candles, play some good tunes. Can it get any more chill than that?

Chances are the people you want to be with will be by your side, and you won’t even have to struggle to talk over loud bar music.

Take it the the next level: Add some sort of a theme; have a beer or wine tasting night. Request that each of your friends bring a 6-pack of a micro brew they’ve never tried before; then swap one of each with one another and try them all.

4. Movie night!

This has always been a cheap option, but in the age of Netflix and Redbox; movie nights have almost become free. The night can be as simple as grabbing a new release (or an old favorite), providing some snacks and refreshments, and rallying in the troops.

Take it the the next level: Combine it with dinner! i.e. Homemade pizza & beer with a movie.

5. Games!

I swear to you one of the saving graces of my winter last year was my Wii. My mom gave me Just Dance 2 for Christmas, and I will admit I developed an obsession. Luckily a few of my friends felt the same, and would periodically drop by to join me. Cold winter nights turned into hot and sweaty dance-offs. Sometimes we’d even leave a bar early to play.

I realize not everyone is into dancing, so for that reason, I’d recommend purchasing another group friendly game; some crowd-pleasers include Mario Cart, Wii Sports/Resort/Party/Play, Wii Jeopardy, and Monopoly. Trust me, there are loads. Save a few pennies and buy it used on Amazon.

At least one person in your group must have some sort of gaming console. But if not; go old school and have a board game night. There are some pretty entertaining games out there these days. Try Things, or Apples to Apples. Or try searching “adult board games” on Amazon, if for nothing else than a good chuckle. Throw in some booze and you’ve got a potentially rowdy night in.

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