How to Save Money During a Night Out

Spending Friday night out at the bars is the best and worst thing about the beginning of the weekend. One the one hand, looking forward to Friday is what gets us through that final day of the grueling workweek. On the other hand, it's what drains all the money we just made on said day's paycheck.

To many young city-dwellers, it can seem like we have two options: Go out and spend a thick stack of cash, or stay in and dine on Cheetos and a bottle of Two Buck Chuck. Neither option is all bad in theory, but there is a happy medium.

Spending a night out with friends or on a date on a tight budget is totally possible– it just requires a strong game plan. I've had more than my fair share of practice of going out on a budget, and I've learned a few helpful money-saving tips along the way. Check them out:

Start a Night Out Right at Home

The single best way to spend less at the bars is by drinking a little at home first. It's a college-learned method that is just as useful in a big city as it is on campus, and quite frankly, I imagine I'll keep doing it for at least another decade of my life.

You definitely don't want to go overboard before you've left your house (we all have that one friend), but it can really cut down on your bill once you hit the bars. If you do it right, you'll only have to spend your hard earned cash on one or two drinks while you're out.

Pick Public Transportation

That one drink might not seem like much on its own, but when you pair it with $25 in Uber bills, your well-executed Friday night becomes a big bummer for your bank account. If you're spending the night out with friends in a relatively safe area, opt for public transportation instead.

If you already have a commuter pass in your city, this will be completely free; and if you don't, it won't cost more than a few dollars.

Seek Out Specials

Here in Chicago, we have a website called that lets you know where you can buy drinks on the cheap in your neighborhood, and I rarely leave home without referencing it.

The good news? Most cities have a site or app just like this. You'll be amazed how much money you can save this way, especially if you make a habit of only going out to bars with specials.

Pay in Cash …

Most people will tell you to set a budget when you go out, which is pretty helpful information. The only problem? After a drink or two, I never know how much money I've spent.

One good way to overcome this is by pulling out exactly how much cash you want to spend and leaving your card at home. When your budget runs out, so do your drinks. Simple as that.

… But Don't Use an ATM That Charges You

The one caveat with the cash-only strategy is the ATM with exorbitant withdrawal fees. Do yourself a favor and find a free ATM sometime earlier in the evening. Three dollars might not seem like that much now, but you can save hundreds of dollars each year by avoiding ATM fees.

Skip the Rounds

Many groups of friends like to buy rounds of drinks to save time up at the bar. While this is a superb strategy for small groups, it can go horribly wrong if you're the first to buy for a big group.

The likelihood that everyone in the group will actually get a chance (or remember) to buy a round themselves is incredibly unlikely– and you'll be left with a very sad sum of money in your wallet.

Stick to the Basics

I frequently have to remind myself that I'm budgeting for a reason: I don't have enough cash to buy whatever drinks I want with abandon. That being said, this probably isn't a time in my life that I can afford to order all my drinks with Grey Goose– instead, I opt for the house vodka and pray the cranberry juice is potent. That's what being young is all about (or so they tell me).

Opt For a Double

One trick that few people employ when going out is what I call the Unit Pricing Strategy. Ordering a double seems more expensive only on the surface: It has double the alcohol content of a single drink for less than the price of two drinks.

More drinkage per dollar means less money spent throughout the course of the night. Another great way to leverage this trick: When buying beer, opt for a pitcher. When you split it between you and your friends, it will be way cheaper than buying individual brews.

Save Money on Snacks

There's one thing I always forget to budget for: Late-night pizza. Though I generally go out with blind optimism and hope I'll spare myself the calories of a pepperoni-and-jalapeno pizza, I always come home with a cardboard box in tow.

After-bar food stops can make a major dent in your wallet if you've already spent money out at the bars, you don't have to fall victim to this trap: Make sure you have plenty to chow down on at home.

Frozen pizzas are a great choice, but waiting for an oven to preheat is a recipe for disaster when you've been drinking. So what's a hungry bar-hopper to do? Make your food before you leave and stick in the fridge until you return.

Purse? Check. Lipstick? Check. Totinos pizza rolls? Check, check. Now that, my friends, is what I call a successful and savvy night out. Enjoy yourself.

Photo by Kelsey Chance on Unsplash

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