Cheap Ways to Spend a Night Out

By Meg Favreau on 10 September 2012 (Updated 21 September 2012) 4 comments
Photo: syvwlch

While I love entertaining at home and attending events at friends' houses, sometimes, I just want to go out in the evening. Well, that doesn't have to mean dropping lots of cash to be entertained. Below are 15 great ways you can affordably leave the house. (See also: 7 Free Ways to Get Out of the House)

Also, a note about bars and coffee shops — you'll notice that I've included a fair amount of things that take place at those venues; they offer some great, free entertainment. You do need to buy something to spend time in them, but remember — just because you're in a bar doesn't mean you need four fancy mixed drinks, and just because you're in a coffee shop doesn't mean you need an extra-large latte and a brownie.

1. Attend Gallery Openings

A lot of buzz goes to First Fridays (or Second Saturdays, or Third Thursdays), nights when shops and galleries stay open late, often offering free food and drink. But many galleries have other openings that are not associated with these events, and they'll also often feature extended hours, free refreshments, and entertainment. Check your local event listings.

2. Got to a BYOB — or BYOF — Establishment

If you want dinner and drinks, one way to save a bit is to go to a restaurant that lets you bring your own alcohol — or a bar that lets you bring your own food. And don't think that BYOB means fancy food — depending on your local laws, it might be possible to find a BYOB in your area that serves inexpensive fare like burritos or sandwiches.

3. Have a Board Game Night at a Bar or Coffee Shop

Take the classic frugal entertainment out on the town. As long as you don't go overboard in order drinks, this will still be a frugal event.

4. Take a Walk

It's a classic for a reason — it's healthy, invigorating, and a great activity for chatting with friends.

5. Do a Scavenger Hunt

The prevalence of digital cameras and camera phones makes it easy to have a photo scavenger hunt. Gather some friends or family, make up a list of photos people have to get (such as "a pretty flower" or "shaking hands with a stranger"), and split into teams. The first group to get photos of everything wins — plus everyone has great photos to share.

6. Go to the Preview of a Play

When new plays are about to open, they'll sometimes have "previews" — shows before the play officially opens where the performers work out kinks in front of a live audience. These tickets are often discounted. You can also look into rush tickets — available a few minutes before a show if it hasn't sold out, these tickets are usually drastically cheaper than regular ones. Rush tickets are sometimes available only to students; ask the theater if they offer them and, if so, what their policy is.

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7. Take Advantage of Daily Deal Vouchers

I feel like they've gotten kind of a bad rap recently, but daily deals vouchers from companies like Groupon and LivingSocial can still net you some pretty awesome discounts for things to do outside the house. I bought trapeze classes through LivingSocial earlier this week!

8. Go Stargazing (or People Watching)

Which one you do is based largely on where you live — in the city, you can't make out those stars as well, and in rural areas, you probably don't have as many people to watch. Wherever you are, set up a blanket or plop down on a bench, and watch the world go by.

9. Attend an Open Mic

Whether it's for music or comedy, plenty of bars, coffee shops, and comedy clubs offer free nights where anyone can perform — or watch.

10. Check Out Secondary Stages

Some theaters have more than one stage. And while their secondary stage shows might not be as prestigious, they can also be plenty of fun — and a lot cheaper.

11. Do Karaoke

Don't worry if you can't sing — karaoke is about spirit!

12. Take a Cheap Night Class

Several businesses, schools, and organizations offer night classes — and many of them are exceedingly affordable. Whether you want to learn to knit, shine up your language skills, or become a better cook, there's probably an evening class out there for you.

13. Compete in Bar Trivia

Bar trivia is only as expensive as the food and drinks you buy, which means you can make it very cheap indeed. Search online for "bar trivia" and the name of your town to find out what establishments in your area have trivia nights.

14. Go to an Arcade

Or, even better, if there's one in your area — a retro arcade. Recently, my boyfriend and I went to an arcade with lots of vintage machines. They were still $.25 each, and we played about a half-hour of pinball for just $1.00.

15. Join a Club

Whether it's a book club, a knitter's circle, or something else entirely, joining a club (or forming one with your friends) is a great way to get out (and possibly meet new people).

What are your favorite ways to get out of the house on the cheap?

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Guest's picture
Fox

Wonderful ideas, when i want to save during a night out, i invite a lot of friends with me so that we can split the expenses even. That way, i can minimize my own.

Guest's picture

My friends and I went to this cool little bar that was stocked with old games like Jenga and pictionary. We had a blast playing and didn't spend much on drinks because we were all so into the games that we only had 2 or 3. I've also done trivia a few times at local bars, and it's seriously a fun time!

Meg Favreau's picture

Oh, I love places like that! I went to a restaurant the other night that actually had a game menu -- the waiter would bring you whatever you requested.

Guest's picture

Nice article and I agree good nights out don't have to be expensive, it's more about who you are with. Karaoke is the best!