I’m taking a more practical approach to balancing my personal want of having a few drinks versus my need of saving money. So, I’d like to offer you a few simple ways to get (and keep) your buzz going without suddenly waking up to find yourself in a financial tight spot.
The first, most obvious way to save a little money is: Don’t spend the money at a bar or restaurant. I know this doesn’t do too much for your local economy, but if your money is tight, it’s tight. What choice do you have? Head over to your local liquor store (Hey, look at that! Supporting the local economy after all!). Pick up something that you won’t mind drinking over and over again. A flexible liquor like vodka mixes well with just about anything, so you can give yourself a little variety any time. Personally, when I’m in a pinch, I won’t go looking at the top shelf brands, nor the bottom shelf… something mid-range that suits my budget and won’t taste like gasoline. When it comes down to it, whatever I spend on a full bottle in a liquor store isn’t going to compare to the same quantity (or even quality) I would get if I had gone to my local watering hole with a wallet full of cash.
Stay home. Throw on your best "should-have-been-thrown-out-years-ago" jogging pants (you know, the ones with the big gaping hole in that certain place that you wouldn’t caught dead wearing out in public even if your house was on fire); then, kick back, queue up some Netflix, TiVo, HULU or some of those DVDs you haven’t watched in a while and just chill. I know this may be hard to do, especially for those of us with a touch of cabin fever, but if you don’t go out and drink, you won’t spend all the extra cash. Invite a friend or two or three to bring their drinks over to join you. Make a night of it.
If staying at home isn’t your thing – or if you just *have* to get out (and who would blame you after having been cooped up all winter), then be on the lookout for Happy Hour deals. Some deals are going to be just too sweet to pass up – ranging from dollar drinks to BOGOs to twofers. Remember that cheaper prices or freebies are going to loosen up your head and your wallet – and it won’t necessarily be the best quality stuff, so just be aware that you’ll likely end up indulging a bit more than you probably planned-for.
On the flip side of the discount coin, be aware of what constitutes a real discount. Many chain restaurants are going to try to lure you in with "discounted pricing" for their Happy Hours. Some are even establishing Happy Hours where previously there were none. Many of these establishments are offering prices starting at $5 – down from $8. (I’m sorry, but FIVE dollars for a well drink is not a discount. …And eight dollars is outright theft. It’s a good thing they’re looking out for you, huh? *cough*) Other established restaurants are taking this idea a bit further by offering you a price range of $3-$6 for their Happy Hour – which, oddly enough, coincides with dinner time! Surprise, surprise! Of course, they’re counting on the fact that while you’re sitting there sipping or chugging your drink, you’re going to smell that big, juicy burger wafting from the kitchen. Next thing you know you’ve wolfed-down a quarter-pound Swiss and mushroom and a basket of fries and now you’ve gone and blown your budget. How much was that drink worth?
Tipping. We all know that tipping isn’t a city in China, but if you find yourself out on the town, remember that you don’t have to tip after every… single… drink. For some strange reason people feel absolutely compelled to tip after every order. I’m here to tell you, big spender, that is bunk. Plain and simple. Tip as tips were meant to be: to insure prompt service. If I get lousy service, I don’t tip. I’m not shy about that. However, when my bartender is friendly, prompt and courteous, I acknowledge and reward their skills accordingly. The bottom line about tipping on a budget is this: Reward good service and be totally honest with yourself about your money situation. Don’t try to impress anyone with your generosity, we both know you’re on a budget. [grin] Not only that but, chances are good that others in the bar are doing the same thing. Have a look around.
One last suggestion – and sadly, this really only applies to people living near the US borders. Cross the border for an hour or two to, you know, do some "sightseeing" (I hear Niagara Falls is beautiful this time of year. [wink wink]), then hit the Duty Free Store on your way back home. There are some amazing price deals going on right now and what better way to save yourself a little extra cash than by getting a discounted price AND not paying tax! (Limitations do apply, of course.)
Cheers and happy savings!
[techtags:BUDGET, DRINKING, DIVERSIONS]