Budget Entertainment: Cheap Fun Things to Do With Friends

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Don’t let soicalising break your budget. Here are 30 ideas for cheap fun things to do with friends.

Cheap fun things to do with friends
Ideas for cheap fun things to do with friends. Image by Joshua Resnick @ stock.adobe.com

Socialising is essential for our wellbeing.

We’re social animals, after all.

But while hanging out with friends can be great for our happiness, it can also be brutal on the budget.

Catch up for coffee. Drinks after work. See a band. Cover charge at the pup. Dinner at a restaurant.

Fun stuff. But sheesh, does it add up.

What is the real aim of going out?

Catching up with friends, being entertained, getting out of the house and meeting new people. All of this can be done on a budget.

Here are 30 ideas for things to do with little or no expense.

Ideas For Staying In

1. Potluck Dinners

Staying in and having friends over for dinner has come back in vogue over the last few years. But you don’t have to do all the work. Try American idea of the potluck dinner, where everyone brings a dish to share. Or you could organise who brings what so you have nibbles, dinner and dessert covered.

The other alternative is to take turns entertaining amongst friends.

2. Progressive Dinners

A variation on the Potluck dinner, each course of the meal is prepared and eaten at a different house.

3. Game Evenings

I think that games tend to be thought of as a little daggy, but I love board game evenings. An evening of Pictionary or Balderdash and a couple of bottles of wine can be absolutely hilarious.

But you don’t need to have board games. Improv games like charades can also be a lot of fun. We used to play a variation of charades when we were at Uni (grog free too!) that left us rolling around in stitches. If you’re interested, leave a comment and I’ll post the rules. Do a Google search for after dinner games and improv games for some ideas, or for something a little more adult only, try some drinking games.

4.Movie Night

Hire a DVD (or stream a movie) or binge on Netflix together – entertainment at home is a lot cheaper than going to the cinema. And you don’t have to sit still or be as quiet.

For a free version, local libraries often hire movies for free, or raid your friend’s DVD collection and swap. For something interesting make it a theme night by watching all Hitchcock movies or all black and white classics, or musicals. Make some popcorn, dim the lights and bring out the pillows.

5. Cocktail Evening

Drinking cocktails out can be very expensive, but you can have a cocktail party at home for a fraction of the price. Before hand, decide on a few cocktail recipes and ask everyone to bring one bottle and some nibbles and whatever extras you might need for cocktails. Tell people what to bring so that you are sure to have all the right ingredients.

6. Theme Parties

If you or your friends have a pool, then why not try a pool party? Dress up parties are also popular. And murder parties. Shake things up by suggesting something a little different.

7. Craft Gatherings

Nothing like a good old crafting session to bring people together. Crafting together gives you a chance to catch up and do something entertaining at the same time. And it’s always easier to talk when you have something to keep your hands busy.

Alternatively, if you’re wanting to get out, going to craft lessons can be a good way to learn a new craft, meet new people, hang out with your friends and start a new obsession.

8. Have High Tea

High teas came back into vogue because there’s something sumptuous about fancy china and little cakes. Bring back a little yesteryear with a high tea.

9. Throw a Jam Session

For the musically able, getting together for a music session can be great fun. For those of us who are not musically talented (that would be me) we can listen, sing along or just stream Spotify.

10. Throw a Barbeque

Bangers and mozzies is a wonderful way to while away a warm Sunday afternoon, maybe with a little cricket and a lot of chit chat. For cheap entertaining ideas see:

11. Have a Video Game Night

I’d say bring back Super Mario, but the whole Wii thing looks like a lot of fun too. This is how my husband catches up with friends, by having a gaming day.

12. Host a Poker Game /Board Game Night

A games night is a fun way to hang out with friends. Share your favourite board games or card games.

13. Start your own Book Club

Our local library offers a book club service where you can choose from an extensive list of books, put in your order and borrow enough books for everyone in your book club – for free. What a fantastic service!

The great thing about a book club is that it is not only a way of catching up with friends, it gets you reading books that you wouldn’t normally read, expanding your interests at the same time.

Getting Outdoors

14. Go on a Picnic

A picnic is a wonderful way to enjoy the outdoors. It can be as simple as throwing your dinner in a container to eat out (risotto is one of our favourite easy dinners on the beach) or taking a simple sandwich and eating in the park.

If you want to be more elaborate, share the burden of preparing food for a picnic by taking turns or everyone bringing something to share. Some parks offer BBQ facilities so plan ahead and check out what’s available.

15. Go Fishing

If you’re anything like me, then you only go fishing for the social reasons, ‘cause I never get a bite.

16. Support a local sports club

Spend a Friday night at the footy supporting your local football team. Or your local cricket team, or basketball team. They will appreciate the support and you get a night out watching your favourite sport without the huge ticket price of the premier leagues.

17. Explore Your Inner Child

Sometimes I think kids have all the fun. Just because we have to grow up and be responsible, doesn’t mean we can’t play. Do you ever look at a swing or a slide and think “I want a go?”

Well why not?

Let go and learn to play like kids once in a while. It’s fun and great stress relief.

18. Go Hiking or Biking

Explore the great outdoors for free with friends, and maybe throw in a swim or a picnic. You can often find free or low cost local guided tours that will show you the local or historical attractions of your town or point out key flora and fauna in your local national park.

19. Play a Sport

Play some backyard cricket or shoot some hoops with your friends. No backyard? Take the Frisbee down to the local park or beach, it can be a great way to meet new people.

20. Join a Sports Team

Want to get out to meet people while getting fit at the same time? Team sports is a great way to do both at once.

21. Go Camping

Camping is fun, but camping is even more fun with a group of friends. Borrow, scrounge and share tents and other camping bits and bobs and enjoy some toasted marshmallows and ghost stories.

22. Go on an Exercise Date

A couple of years ago, my friend and I got motivated and met every week for a walk and talk. Exercising with a buddy or two takes away the boredom of exercise and you can motivate each other to get fit, all while catching up.

Be Entertained for Less

23. Keep an Eye Out for Free Local Events

Check out your local guide, local paper, council or community notice board (or Facebook page) for free events in your area. When we lived in Sydney, a group of us would enjoy Jazz in the Domain. Less than $10 each would cover the nibbles, wine and the train fare to and from the city. The entertainment was free.

Keep an eye out for free local festivals, events, concerts, open days, expos, information days, school fetes etc, gallery openings etc. Our local council has a Facebook page and I find out what’s on through my Facebook newsfeed.

24. Check Out Low-Cost Local Events

As well as free events, check out the low cost events. Local drama society productions, school musicals, fashion parades, info nights, recitals, and open days. The local University drama club can be a good source of plays and often the local TAFE have art showings as well as restaurants where you can get five star food and service for a two star cost.

26. Free Attractions

Museums, art galleries, zoos, markets can often be free or have free sections for the general unpaying public. It can be a good way to pass a leisurely afternoon. Public parks and beaches are also free.

Some non-free attractions may have free open days. For example, some paying museums have a free Saturday every month.

Don’t forget to check out your local library for free classes, author talks and other events too.

25. Discounts, Coupons, Twof’s and Drinks at Home

Keep an eye out for movie deals, discounts, coupons, shoppa-dockets, two-for-one deals and meal deals.  The local papers can be a good source of discounts as well as tourist brochures if you live in a tourist region. If there is a group of you, see if you can get a group discount.

Alternatively, do your regular events at different times. Take advantage of cheap Tuesday, go out for lunch instead of dinner, meet over coffee and cake instead of a whole meal.

If the plan is to go out, then why not only pay for the most important part of the experience. Eat and drink at home before the movie or concert. Take your own food and drink if it’s allowed, get pickup instead of home delivery.

26. Support local bands

Going to see a local band can be a fraction of the cost of more popular band tickets. Pubs and cafe’s often have bands playing where you only pay the cost of a drink or two.

27. Join the Club

Take advantage of member discounts and services by joining your local RSL, football, surf or other club.

If you enjoy the local theatre society, art house movies, or museum then membership to these venues can give large savings on the ticket price over the course of the year.

28. Celebrate the Holidays

Free events are often held for Holiday Occasions: Carols by Candlelight, Australia Day BBQ’s and New Year’s Eve Celebrations just to name a couple.

29. Learn to Dance

You often get two for one at social dance lessons held at local community halls etc – the lesson first then a social dance afterwards.

30. Volunteer

This may seem like a strange entertainment suggestion, but if your wanting to get out and meet new, like-minded people, then one way to do so is to volunteer. And the benefits usually don’t stop there. Volunteer at a festival, concert, play or other entertainment event and you usually get free entry to the event as recompense.

Entertainment and socialising with friends doesn’t have to break the budget, but you can have just as much fun (or more fun) by adopting a few frugal entertainment ideas.

 What frugal things do you like to do with friends?
socialising on a budget

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  1. Janet Lawrie says:

    I’d like to know your version of charades.

    1. Melissa Goodwin says:

      This is a great game for a group.

      Everyone in a group puts two names of famous people into a hat. The harder the names, the more fun.

      Then you pair off and each person in the pair has two turns each round to pull a random name out of the hat and the other partner has to guess.

      Round one, you can describe the person without sayin the name. For example: “Current Australian Prime Minister”. It gets hard if your partner has no idea who the person is, then you might have to give hints to their name, like another word for spinning around (rhymes with burn) + male cow.

      Round two, you put the names back in the hat and you have to act out the name you pull out as per traditional charades.

      Round three and all the names go back in for the last time. When you pick out a name, you can only say one single word to sum up the person or a word that will jog your partner’s memory. This can be funny because the word you choose might have more to do with the context of the game and less to do with the actual name. We always had fun with this.