4 Ways to Save Money at the Bars


We all love to go out with friends, but I for one am hesitant to pay $8 for a glass of wine at a bar when I know I can buy the whole bottle at my friendly neighborhood wine store for only a few dollars more. Here are a few tricks I've developed to pinch my pennies without hurting my social life:

Shop Around for Happy Hour Specials

It might seem obvious, but my un-budget-conscious friends tend to go where we always go rather than considering deals. So, suggest a new locale. To find deals, you could try a site like www.happy-hour.com, but in my smaller town I've had more luck simply Googling "happy hour specials" and going with a local site (ours is compiled by a local magazine). Or you can also check out the websites of different establishments to get an idea of current specials.

Check Out Restaurant.com for 40-60% Off Coupons

These can be used on food as well. One caveat to these coupons, however: Read the fine print carefully. The restaurant whose coupon you’re purchasing generally sets stipulations regarding the coupon’s use, including days of the week that they can be used, minimum dollar amounts of purchases, etc. Also, smaller towns have a more limited selection of participating locations. If you’re hung up on the fact that a minimum purchase is required, try convincing your group to go in on one. A bonus for signing up for a free Restaurant.com user account is that you can choose to receive e-mails that will regularly offer you 70% – 90% off the coupon price. I recently bought three $25 coupons for a total of $6.

Eat Before You Meet

Planning a later happy hour or time to meet friends gives you the opportunity to eat at home beforehand. I know, sometimes the point of meeting friends is to have a fun night out that includes trying new restaurants. If it’s more about the socializing, though, pushing back your meeting time gives you the chance to eat at home, which is almost always a more frugal option. Another plus: You have time to take the dog out and change out of your work clothes, an opportunity I always welcome. If you are actually excited to try the food somewhere when meeting friends, you can always eat at home first and then order an appetizer or dessert with drinks, which will also cut down on overall spending.

Drink Less, or Not at All

To some, this sounds like a terrible idea. But I promise you, drinking less (or teetotaling) is not the worst idea I've ever had. In the past several years, medical research has pointed out the benefits of consuming alcohol in moderation, including reducing your risk of developing heart disease, dying of a heart attack, or developing diabetes. If you feel awkward not having something in your hand at all times, try ordering a "mocktail." Alternatively, you could try alternating alcohol with a glass of water — not only will it rehydrate you and prevent you from drinking too much in one evening, but it will also prevent you from lightening your wallet by spending too much on alcohol!

What tricks do you use to save money at bars? Share your ideas in the comments!

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Guest's picture

Another way to save on alcoholic beverages is to join a fraternal organization or social club, such as the Eagles, Moose, etc. These types of locations will offer the least expensive alcoholic beverages, generally have kitchen services for food and offer live entertainment or jukeboxes.

Guest's picture

One of the main ways I save money at bars is to drink before I go out!

Guest's picture

LOL! My husband and I will have a couple of drinks before heading out for dinner - then maybe just order one drink with dinner. One could also order soda and top it off with the contents of a flask kept in a purse or jacket. Not that I would to that! :)

Guest's picture

When I was finished with my bottle of beer I would go into the ladies room and fill it up with water. It was easier than asking a bartender for a glass of water, because they would inevitably place a bottle of water on the counter and name its price. I can see how it would be tough for them to serve glasses of water all night (I live in a college town), but I wasn't going to pay for bottles of water, either. And I always had a beer bottle in my hand, so I fit right in.

Guest's picture

Going to a bar with friends is great but the urge to overspend is extremely difficult thus I make it a point not to bring my credit card and just bring enough cash that I plan to spend for the night.

Meg Favreau's picture

Bonus benefit: If you keep your credit card at home, you're not going to start a tab and then accidentally leave your card at the bar after having a few too many (as a couple of friends of mind have done).

Guest's picture

Not that I hate to drink in bars but I just find it useless and expensive. I make sure, I'm full before meeting my friends in that way I can save more.

Guest's picture

What about just not going to the bars in the first place? I know it's fun, but they are just so expensive. I usually look for happy hour specials and try not to stay out too long.