Grabbing dinner, meeting for lunch or even visiting a hot new dessert place are often at the heart of anyone’s social calendar. Food and friends are a winning combination, but it can certainly add up. Next time you want to hang out with friends, propose something new. There are plenty of cheap things to do with friends that aren’t focused on food. Here are some affordable ideas for your next hangout.
1. Take a Hike
Experience nature, exercise and spend time with friends by going on a hike. You can find local trails with websites like Trail Finder. Money doesn’t need to be spent on food. If you’d still like something to nosh on, bring a protein bar and water bottle from home.
2. Go for a Bike Ride
Go for a ride around your neighborhood or in a local park. Even if you don’t own a bike, you can borrow one or even rent one for an affordable price. Although, a bicycle can actually make you wealthier if you use it enough, so it might be worth investing in.
3. Attend an Outdoor Movie or Concert
These are almost always free, just check your local community event calendars. You can even opt to bring your own drinks and snacks if you’d like to add some budget-friendly pizzazz to your night.
4. Visit the Zoo or Aquarium
Many zoos and aquariums have days where you can donate the amount of your choosing instead of buying full-price tickets. Keep in mind that these pay-what-you-can days are often crowded — if a crowd doesn’t bother you, taking advantage of these days is a great way to stay on budget. Most places also offer picnic areas for you to eat lunches you’ve brought from home. (And we have a lot of great tips for having a picnic on a budget!)
5. Head to the Beach
This is a perfect summer activity and it doesn’t have to cost a thing. Remember to stick to public beaches unless you’re willing to pay the fee to access private ones. You could even just opt for a walk on the beach or nearby boardwalk, which is simpler and still free.The only food a trip to the beach involves are optional snacks.
6. Host a Craft Night
Buying craft supplies and a bottle of wine can result in a fun night in. There are a lot of ways to save at Michaels and other craft stores, making supplies fairly affordable. Plus, there are plenty of free craft tutorials and projects on Pinterest and YouTube that can help you create anything.
7. Go Camping
Enjoy a taste of the outdoors at no cost. No state or national parks nearby? Or maybe you’re not much of an outdoors person. No worries — you can also camp in your own backyard. You’ll experience the great outdoors without being too far from running water and electricity.
8. Try a Fitness Class
Classes like barre, yoga or even kickboxing will help you and your friends get into shape while having fun. Often you can find great deals on your first few classes when you use sites like Groupon. Also, check your local community center or parks — often they offer yoga classes for free.
9. Watch the Sunset or Sunrise
This is free to enjoy and you can choose the location. Look up the sunrise and sunset times online, spread out a blanket at a great lookout spot or enjoy from your porch.
10. Visit a Museum
There’s a museum for everyone and everything — from modern art to sex. A lot of museums offer free admissions or pay-what-you-can entry fees. Not only can this be an educational experience, but also you’ll save by not needing to purchase food.
11. Host a Bonfire
Bonfires are the perfect way to warm up and get together with friends on a chilly autumn or summer night. Just be sure to follow local fire ordinances to avoid a fine.
12. Tour a Brewery or Vineyard
These tours often provide samples or you can purchase drinks at the end. Some breweries and wineries even offer tours for free. This is a nice way to combine a fun experience with the classic hangout of grabbing drinks.
13. Host A Video Game Tournament
Indulge in a childhood favorite pastime with a fun night in with friends. Dust off your old GameCube or bring out the newest gaming system and challenge friends to a tournament.
14. Visit a Botanical Garden or Wildflower Field
This, of course, depends on your location. Enjoying flowers is perfect for the nice weather and is sure to result in beautiful photos. Visiting is free, though some gardens might charge a small entry fee. Always check calendars for times or dates when the garden might be open for free or have a discounted rate.
15. Check out a Comedy Club
Save by visiting new talent showcases and day time shows. You also generally get better deals when you visit a show during a weeknight rather than the weekend.
16. See a Matinee Movie
These are a lot more affordable than evening films and food is not required. If you do wish to spend a bit on snacks there are a lot of ways to save on movie concessions.
Chances are there’s an animal shelter or soup kitchen in your town that could use some help. There are plenty of opportunities to volunteer and it’s more fun when doing so with friends.
18. Have a Board Game Night
Indulge in some nostalgia with a good old-fashioned game night with friends. Play some old school games like Monopoly and Uno or play new ones, like Cards Against Humanity or Catch Phrase. By staying in, you can enjoy affordable snacks, home-cooked food or even a potluck style meal, meaning you spend little to no money on food.
Remember to stay budget conscious while doing these activities. Saving by not spending on food could make you feel extra frivolous in other ways. For example, since you’re not buying food at the zoo you might decide to buy extra souvenirs. This defeats the purpose of saving on food in the first place. Swipe your card with caution and use rewards cards when possible. Most rewards cards require a decent credit score, so before applying see where you stand. You can check two of your credit scores for free at Credit.com.