Eating out and enjoying good food with family and friends is an essential part of socialising but one that is often met with trepidation when times are hard and you are strapped for cash, but there are many ways to save money and have fun when living on a budget. Here are my top tips:-
1. Never split the bill. No matter whether it’s for meals or just drinks only ever pay for what you have consumed. You don’t want to come across as tight, and you probably don’t want anybody to know that you are watching the pennies but I have been in a situation so many times where somebody has been a real pig either with food (very often left when their eye’s were too big for their belly) or drink and may have consumed copious amounts of alcohol on a night when you may have to drive and therefore can not drink, why should you pay for them?
2. Order sensibly, if you know you will never get through three courses, think about which you would prefer, starter or pudding. Ordering all three and leaving one is a waste of money.
3. Set menu’s are often cheaper. Even the Menu Du Jour at Claridges will only cost you £35 per head for three courses but service charges and drinks will bump the price up but make these lovely establishments well worth a visit for a special occasion.
4. Check out restaurant/hotel websites before booking to see what is on offer and for any special deals. My local and beloved Indian restaurant has a set menu banquet night on a Wednesday and Sunday where you get to choose from one starter, one main, one side dish and either rice or naan bread for only £10.95 per head. Thursday night is buffet night for £12.95 per head.
5. Walk, car share or jump in a cab with friends to cut transport costs as these all go towards making your night out even more expensive.
6. Never leave home without a contingency fund in cash, in your purse in case you get separated from friends and can’t get home.
7. Put aside a set amount each month for socialising, no matter how small.
8. Mobile phone companies often offer cheap cinema tickets on set nights, check with your provider.
9. Sweets, drinks and popcorn cost a fortune at the cinema, so never go on an empty stomach, but if you do enjoy a sweet treat whilst watching a film, buy your goodies from the supermarket and take a large handbag.
10. Cut the cost of babysitting by getting the kids to stay over at the Grandparents or start a babysitting circle with a group of like minded friends who have children of a similar age.
11. If you really can’t afford to go out, invite friends over either for a glass of wine or something to eat. Use tried and tested tasty frugal recipes like soup to start, a one pot meal for main course and a simple but impressive pudding like Gordon Ramsey’s Pear and Ginger Galette which can be found in his Home Cooking book or on the Channel 4 website here.
12. Make use of reduced late night supermarket purchases to prepare meals for your guests. Cheap vegetables to create soup, which can be frozen for later use. Create stunning salads by searching google for recipes. or turning to trusty cookbooks. Use reduced meat for main courses that can either be cooked upon purchase and frozen or just freeze the meat for later use.
13. Most guests bring wine and if your lucky, flowers also, but don’t count on it. Aldi do great wines at reasonable prices or check out what’s on offer at your local supermarket.
14. If you plan on home entertaining cut costs by organising an event every 6 to 8 weeks and buy everything you require gradually over one or two pay dates making use of reduced supermarket buys as above.
15. Check out local Pound Shops for candles, tealights and table decorations. Flat sheets in neutral colours can be used as table cloths. For a sophisticated table setting make sure you always use matching plates, cutlery and serving dishes. A mis match of crockery oddments from the local charity shop might look like shabby chic to you, to others they may just look shabby. Fabric napkins create an impression paper ones never can but pick these up in Department Store sales or places like TK Maxx. Look out for reduced bouquets for the table or use a few single stem flowers as per the picture above. If you can’t get reduced flowers, Aldi full price flowers are reasonably priced and seem to have a good life span. Prolong the life of any flowers by trimming the stems before you put them in water.