Frugal Ways to Hang Out with Friends

Does your social life suddenly end when you decide to start living a more frugal existence? Of course not! I had a young friend ask me how she can save money and still maintain those important relationships that usually revolve around eating out.

Eating out used to be a big part of my social life too. My friends and I would go out after nearly every play and concert, or after work. Now Josh and I have other financial goals and priorities. We believe in simplicity and living on less so we have more to save and give.

But friendships are worth investing in, of course! Good quality friends are worth way more than money. I love how Kalie from Pretend to be Poor put it in her post You Can’t Afford Not to Date: it’s about connection, not consumption. Connecting can happen in lots of ways that are non-consumerist!

Here’s how I’ve been maintaining my social life for the past several years: 

Play the Host

A restaurant isn’t the only place quality hang-outs can occur. Whenever possible, I open up my home to folks rather than meeting them places. I know this isn’t always an option, but sometimes all people need is a venue. And they won’t come unless you invite them. I have a pretty well-known open-door policy at my house. That’s not to say we don’t do other things, but friends know my place is always an option. I’ll brew some coffee or tea, we can bake healthy cookies or have some green pancakes for brunch. We can play with my kiddos or watch a movie after they go to bed. It may not be glamourous, but it’s affordable and it’s real. I’m convinced people are more authentic in a home than in a restaurant. And no waiter to tip!

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Backyard hangs with Lotus House friends!

Get Outside

Meet up for some frugal physical activity outdoors. If your friends enjoy hiking, biking, or running, get out there and enrich both your body and your soul. Some of my favorite dates with Josh have been long hikes and runs. It costs absolutely nothing – okay, a little gas money to get to the place – and it’s got all the perks of a conversation over coffee…and then some!

How we celebrated our anniversary: with a free run in Forest Park!
A free hike in the woods while camping.

My girls and I love exploring the city and doing photo shoots with one another. We’ve been doing it since we were teenagers and the tradition lives on. It’s free, it’s fun, it’s creative, it’s self-expression, and it brings us together.


Taking photos at parks is so much fun!

Just say no to the American sedentary lifestyle. Invite your buddies to go explore a cave with you and you’ve just taken your friendship to a deeper level. No pun intended.

Google state parks near your city and you’re sure to find some frugal fun adventures.
If you belong to a gym, indoor workout dates are great as well. Community centers and county pools are also affordable ways to interact with the members of your neighborhood.

Get Creative

Josh and I regularly get together with groups of friends to do things as simple as craft or make music. Whatever your hobby, try turning it into a social activity. If there’s any costs or supplies involved you can split it up. Craft night gives me a chance to be creative and catch up with my ladies. We potluck the appetizers and wine and create for hours. It’s not always planned, but spontaneous jam sessions happen quite often among the musically-inclined members of our gang. The sky’s the limit. Let your creativity and passions be the inspiration next time you want to do something with friends.


Sing-alongs aren’t just for kids. We love jamming with our musical friends.

Picnic or Potluck

If food is a must, go on a picnic with your friends. This doesn’t necessarily mean PB&J. Have fun thinking up crazy things to eat in crazy places. Start at the grocery store or shop your fridge for a gourmet antipasti platter: crackers, grapes, olives, wine, cheese, and apples. Eat it at a park, in a tree, in a parking lot under the hatchback, on a bench downtown, or in a cemetery (just don’t get locked in the cemetery. This may or may not have happened on one of our first dates…we’re still together though!) In the summer, I keep a blanket in the car at all times for spontaneous picnicking.

We also host and attend many potlucks year-round. That way the food responsibilities never fall on one person. It’s great to taste everyone’s specialties! Potlucks are so casual and laid-back, there’s no stress in the planning! Everything from the food to the conversation encourages community. We usually talk for hours afterward!

My guys and the trusty car blanket.


When you’re not involved in the choosing of the event, but still wish to make an appearance, eat beforehand. I’m one of those people with a large appetite. There’s huge savings to be had by eating dinner ahead of time, and just ordering dessert and water. Or a salad and water. Or a drink, but no food. You get the idea. I consume very little. I focus on the people. I tip well at the end of the night.

Breakfast stout and good company. Worth it every time.

Do any of these ideas apply to you and your friends? How do you make the most of your relationships without spending a lot?

If you’re in St Louis, here’s some of my favorite places to explore:

Meramec State Park

Castlewood State Park

Hawn State Park

Elephant Rocks State Park

Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park

Forest Park – the Zoo, the Art Museum, and the History Museum are all great, but I particularly love the running trail around the park’s perimeter.

Have fun with this! You might find sitting in a resultant is downright boring next time!


Add yours →

  1. That was so helpful!! Definitely gonna use some of these. Thanks Emily!

  2. I couldn’t agree more with this! We consider social connection with friends a non-negotiable, but have found cheaper ways to hang out. We have done a lot of hosting and pre-gaming in our day! (And yes, tip well if you don’t buy much.)

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