Paycheck Chronicles

Frugal Friday: 11 Cheap or Free Friend Dates


Friends are important.  And in this crazy military world where you might move at any moment, it's important to spend time with your friends when you can.  That can be a challenge when you're on a budget.  (Says the girl who is headed out to have breakfast with a friend in a moment.)  Thankfully, there are ways to spend time with your friends and not spend a ton of money.

When I was in high school, a parent was telling us all how they spent their newlywed years - a big week was a Saturday night playing a board game in the hallway between apartments, with two couples sharing a six pack of beer.  As a know-it-all high schooler, I thought that sounded boring and a little sad.  As a responsible middle-aged person, I think that sounds perfect.  And we would have had a lot more money as newlyweds if we'd had game night instead of meeting our friends at restaurants.

In that spirit, here are ten ways to cut the costs of spending time with your friends:

Go Outside

In many places, the weather is warming up.   There are so many free or low-cost things to do outside.  Go for a walk or a hike.  Bike ride to a coffee shop for a cuppa, or have an italian ice or ice cream cone.   Go to the beach, or try stand-up paddleboarding.

Use Coupons and Discounts

If you are going out to eat, use discounts and coupons to lower the cost.  Many places offer coupons, online, through local area coupon magazines, or through fundraiser discount books like the Entertainment book.  Also look for happy hour, early bird, or other deals such as Monday night specials.

When my husband and I were first married, a big date was half-price burger night.  For $20, we could get two burgers, two beers, and still leave a healthy tip for our server.  Nowadays, my favorite restaurant offers half-price appetizers in the bar during happy hour.

Work Parties

Not just for painting or moving, pull your friends together to rearrange your furniture, major landscaping, or swingset assembly. Bonus if you provide them with beer and pizza (or pulled pork and Dr. Pepper.)  Get that project done at your house this weekend, and next month help a friend with their project.

Entertain At Home

Host a game night, a cooking competition, Netflix and popcorn, or s'mores around the firepit.  Poker can be budget-friendly if you're playing for pennies or just chips.

Even expensive dinners are more affordable at home.  Lobster at a restaurant might not be in the budget, but lobster tails at home might be.  And lobster bisque, lobster risotto, or lobster mac and cheese would give you luxury for an even better price.

Get Your Sport On

Grab your buddy and join a local adult sports team.  Skill level can range from none (frisbee golf) to high (lacrosse.)  Bonus:  you'll get your exercise at the same time!

Look For The Freebies

Most areas have some fun, free entertainment.  Summer concert series at the park, free museum days, or art galleries are all great places to spend an afternoon or event.


Get a group together, and pick a place to volunteer.  This could be part of an organized volunteering event, like Make a Difference Day, or something more informal, like picking up trash at a local park.  Soup kitchens, elementary schools, libraries - there are many places and ways to volunteer.

Go Old School

Schools have all sorts of free or low cost entertainment: improv shows, basketball games, musicals, and concerts. Local colleges, high schools, and even middle schools can put on some pretty darn good shows, and they are usually very affordable.

Window Shopping

I don't usually recommend window shopping, but it can be fun when it's something ridiculous.  Dress up and go to open houses in a fancy neighborhood, or test drive a luxury car.

Get Crafty

Everyone has some sort of craft that they enjoy.  Whether it's pottery or power tools, bring your friends together to learn a new activity, or each do your own thing in the same space.  You'll spend time together and accomplish something that the same time.

Spending time with your friends is important, but don't let it cut into your spending plan.  There are plenty of ways to spend time with friends without spending money.

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