Budgeting

5 Ways to be Social Without Spending More Than $15

party on a budget

Joanne Poh

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Trying to save money doesn’t mean you have to hide your face in shame and cut off contact with everyone who ever knew you.

Granted, your days of chartering yachts for parties and comparing Prada bags with the girls might be over. And sure, some people might fall off the map completely, especially if you’ve only ever met them at Pangaea or they use the word “plebian” un-ironically in everyday speech.

But that doesn’t mean you need to say goodbye to your social life.

When you don’t want to spend much money, you need to open your mouth and suggest cheap things to do.

If you don’t, nobody is going to come save you when you’re sitting in front of a $50 plate of pasta and wondering how the hell you got there.

Here are some of the most common social activities people partake in without thinking about the costs—and how you can deflect them by suggesting cheap alternatives.

 

1. Watching Movies

Weekend movie tickets aren’t cheap, and if you factor in popcorn, Coke and the risk of being dragged to another romantic comedy in which Richard Gere gets it on with a girl dying of cancer, the dangers are clear.

How to deflect: Announce that you’ve already obtained a copy of the movie on the Internet or in Malaysia, and invite everyone over to watch it for free.

If they insist: Check the promotions pages on the Cathay Cineplexes, Golden Village and Shaw Theatres websites and then suggest taking advantage of one of the deals. Some of the best are:

  • Shaw Theatres offers SAFRA members 1-for-1 weekend movie tickets, as well as $1 to $3 off from Mondays to Thursdays.
  • Cathay Cineplexes offers M1 mobile subscribers 1-for-1 movie tickets on Sundays if they book early enough.
  • Golden Village enables you to buy two tickets and bring along a child under 12 for free. Useful if you have a kid or are under 12 yourself.

 

2. Boozing

If going out for a couple of bottles of beer sounds like an inviting way to end the week, you might change your mind upon discovering that one bottle actually costs $25 and contains craft beer brewed by virgins in the Himalayas.

How to deflect: With a cheap picnic mat from Daiso you can drink anywhere. Suggest getting a few beers at 7-11 and hanging out under the stars on the pier at Marina Bay Sands, under the super trees at Gardens by the Bay, on the famous Read Bridge at Clarke Quay or whatever other location you’re resourceful enough to ferret out.

 If they insist: Check out the list of cheap places to drink elsewhere on Moneysmart and steer your friends in the appropriate direction.

 

3. Eating Out

Sure, there are times when you get tired of subsisting on bread and water. But if your friends eat out every day at restaurants where the waiters earn more than you, it’s time to take matters into your own hands.

How to deflect: If you pull a long face and insist on eating economy rice, very soon nobody will want to hang out with you. Instead, start raving about the incredible Whitley Road Big Prawn Noodles at Novena or the fried carrot cake at Chomp Chomp and you’ll get a better response.

If they insist: If your friends balk at the thought of sweating it out at a hawker centre, there are cheap restaurants you can suggest. The more enthusiasm you muster the higher your chances of success. Some examples include:

  • Saveur (5 Purvis Street), where you can get French food for about $10-15.
  • Yayoiken (Liang Court), where you can enjoy Japanese set meals for about $10-15.
  • Jaggi’s Northern Indian Cuisine (34 Race Course Road), where you can sample a wide selection of North Indian dishes for under $10-$15.
  • Ivins (21 Binjai Park), where tasty Peranakan food can be had for less than $13 per head.

 

4. Clubbing

Paying above $35 to enter a club that’s so packed you need to lose weight just to make it in is rather painful, especially when you factor in the amount you will blow on drinks once you’re filled with alcohol-fuelled generosity.

How to deflect: There are so many ways to get into clubs for free.  Ku De Ta is free before 9pm and all night from Mondays to Thursdays, while Butter Factory is just one of many clubs with Ladies Night on Wednesdays. Subscribe to the newsletters of all the big clubs and often they will send you emails asking you to sign up to be on their guest lists.

If they insist: Imbibe if you must before you hit the club and you’re all set. If your friends really want to party on a particular night, persuade them to go to a café-bar-club hybrid without cover charge such as Cuba Libre at Clarke Quay or Blu Jaz Café (where certain events are free) at 11 Bali Lane. There’ll be music and people will be dancing, although you might not find the moneyed yuppies who frequent the more upscale clubs, if that’s your thing.

 

5. Shopping

This is a tough one. There’s nothing more excruciating than being dragged kicking and screaming through every clothing store at ION Orchard, waiting for your friends to try on outfit after outfit, when you’re on a strict no-shopping budget.

How to deflect: Certain areas are less painful to shop in than others, so persuade your friends to pick those. For instance, Haji Lane doesn’t have all that many shops and you get to walk around the Kampong Glam neighbourhood afterwards. So, shopping there even if you buy nothing is actually a fairly pleasant experience. On the other hand, Orchard Road sucker punches you with a sensory assault of blaring music and bright lights, and the whole area is so massive you might never make it out alive.

If they insist: If your friends are going shopping, chances are they’ll have to stop to refuel at some point after their rampage through the shopping malls. Offer to meet them for a coffee when they’re done. Then, congratulate yourself, as you’ve just saved yourself from having to offer your opinion on eight thousand different outfits.

How do you socialise on the cheap? Share your ideas in the comments!

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Joanne Poh

In my previous life, I was a property lawyer who spent most of my time struggling to get out of bed or stuck in peak hour traffic. These days, as a freelance commercial writer, I work in bed, on the beach, in parks and at cafes, all while being really frugal. I like helping other people save money so they can stop living lives they don't like.