Socialising on a budget
May 15, 2012 2:47 AM   Subscribe

Socialising on the cheap. How does one do it?

I'm lucky enough to have a lot of friends but hanging out with them is a big drain on my purse.

We all live in a big city (London), work in the centre of town and live out in the sticks, relatively speaking. Entertaining people at home is difficult because people have to travel such a great distance to get to each other's houses. We end up just meeting in the centre after work and getting dinner - it's always dinner rather than just coffee or drinks, because we're starving by then.

We never go anywhere really fancy, but when you meet up with people about 2 or at a max. 3 times a week you are still talking a fair bit of money.

Weekends are different as we can do fun, free stuff like museums or hanging out at each other's houses; my problem specifically relates to socialising on weekday evenings after work.

Also, I don't have one big circle of friends who all know each other, so I can't get together with all of them at one go and see everyone at one fell swoop as it were. They don't all necessarily get along, and I like having one on one time with my friends.

So with those limitations in mind, what are some creative ways of getting together and seeing people without spending a lot of money? Admittedly there is always the option of socialising less - that's already occurred to me, and worst case scenario that's what I'll have to do. Other than that, though, what other options do I have?

Recommendations for cheap restaurants etc would be great, but I'd also like some creative ideas for socialising in general which don't involve spending much.
posted by Ziggy500 to Work & Money (13 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
Take (healthy) snacks from home to eat during the afternoon so you're not starving by the time you leave work? Then have dinner later when you get home.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 3:05 AM on May 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Board games or cards, traditionally. Look for a pub or cafe that doesn't mind your monopolizing a table for a couple hours, while ordering lightly.
posted by Scram at 3:17 AM on May 15, 2012

Best answer: When weather permits, picnics are a cheaper dining option. On a promising day, pick up some fresh bread, cheese and other sundry items, and head to one of London's many fine parks. It's a good idea to pack a few plastic picnic plates, a wooden board and a bread knife; keep these at work if it becomes a regular thing.
posted by pipeski at 3:29 AM on May 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

My friends and I are quite broke, so pretty much all socializing for us is done on the cheap. If we do go out do restaurants, frequently we do a "just appetizers" round or settle for drinks and free bread. You could also start doing a pot-luck kind of thing. Meet everyone at a rec center or park with a dish, so no one's spending a fortune on food. Or do it tail-gate style.
posted by shesaysgo at 3:46 AM on May 15, 2012

Best answer: When I lived in London my default option for a want-to-eat-out-but-am-broke evening with friends was the Indian veggy restaurant on Chapel Market near Angel Tube. £3.95 for all you can eat (I don't think it's gone up since then) is probably unbeatable.
posted by altolinguistic at 4:06 AM on May 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Art gallery opening nights are another possibility
posted by Heart_on_Sleeve at 4:53 AM on May 15, 2012

Along the same lines as what pipeski said, make "eating outdoors" part of the appeal? You can do pizza, take out, whatever, but it will be cheaper and places some restraint on everyone because you have to order ahead. Or do drinks but call it happy hour. Other people can order food, but you eat a light dinner beforehand.
posted by bread-eater at 5:17 AM on May 15, 2012

Oh, also evening hikes (urban or wild). I'm sure there are popular routes either in parks or through interesting neighbourhoods. You can take care of food along the way.
posted by bread-eater at 5:18 AM on May 15, 2012

Best answer: Hey, I am in London, like fun things, and don't like spending money! Here are my recommendations:

First, if you work somewhere with a microwave and fridge, deal with food before you meet up. Reheat leftovers, make a sandwich, buy a cheap readymeal, whatever: the key point is you can have dinner for well under £5. If you usually leave work too early to eat properly, then have a substantial dinnery snack, and something else when you get home - you just need to be not-hungry for a few hours in order to do your socialising without accidentally going to a restaurant. (There are definitely cheap restaurants around as well, but I don't know as much about these.)

Then, keep track of free interesting evening things, and plan your socialising around these: not "hey, wanna do something Tuesday? Hmm, what is there to do?" but "hey, there's this free thing on next Wednesday that sounds like you might like it, maybe meet up for that?".

These can be regular events, or one-offs. Key hints:
  • Museum late openings! V&A till 10pm every Friday, Science Museum till 10pm one Wednesday a month, British Museum and National Gallery till 8:30 and 9 on Fridays, RIBA exhibitions till 8 on many Tuesdays (and later-running events once a month), NPG till 9 on Thursdays and Fridays, Tate Modern till 10pm Fridays, Tate Britain till 10pm once a month. There are one-off late openings at other museums as well, sometimes (the Horniman, etc).
  • Informative lectures! Lecture List has quite a lot, about half of them free - it doesn't have every lecture in London, but it's a good quick overview, so if you don't have hours to go scouring for interesting stuff, it's really useful.
  • Prolonged festivals and vent series are another way of finding out about lots of stuff for minimal scouring effort: the London Festival of Architecture looks interesting, and in summer there'll be the National Theatre's Watch This Space series, for example, running free events on the Southbank for months and months.
  • The Southbank area in general, in fact. The BFI Mediatheque is open till 8, and has a ton of strange old films that you can browse and watch for free, and the stations have two sets of headphones on them so you can watch with a friend. The Southbank Centre has loads of indoor seats and less-busy corners that you can sit in and chat or knit or draw or whatever else, and is open till 11.
In terms of general listings sites that can be good, Londonist remains cheery and interesting, Ian Visits is more sober and has a lot of great odd events (my most recent fun-courtesy-of-Ian-Visits was some free, unexplained fireworks in Greenwich a week or two ago), and if you search Time Out, there's a "refine search" option on the left-hand side of the page that lets you show only free events.

One day, one day in the not too distant future, it will be warm enough to go and sit in the park after work. Not now. But some day.
posted by severalbees at 5:24 AM on May 15, 2012 [11 favorites]

If you go to the pub, try going to Samuel Smiths pubs. Loads cheaper than other pubs.
posted by ComfySofa at 6:30 AM on May 15, 2012

Best answer: volunteer to do something together. all sorts of programs need volunteers.
spend a day cleaning a community garden, or working together at the hospital.

volunteer projects are often better when you do them with someone - it is a bonding experience.
and, if you find a project, then toss it out to your friends, 'i am going to be volunteering at xyz soup kitchen on tuesday nights, anyone want to join me' - you will find a friend to help, and you will get that extra personal zing for showing your selflessness to your friends.

you can do something good, and hang out with, bond with, a friend
posted by Flood at 8:13 AM on May 15, 2012

Flood is exactly right. Figure out some things you all have in common and then find an organization related to those interests. They will probably be delighted to have a regular set of volunteers.
posted by aniola at 2:33 PM on May 15, 2012

Volunteering for something regular may also reward you with free food and refreshments, or at least the facilities to let you bring your own.
posted by Hawk V at 9:04 PM on May 15, 2012

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