It’s an age-old question: can you still have an exciting social life while still growing your savings? Can you still treat yourself to days and nights out with others — or even events to enjoy on your own — all while still setting aside some of your work funds?
The answer, according to Gerry Incollingo, Managing Partner of LCI Partners, a firm specialising in accounting, lending and legal advisory, is yes.
“Absolutely, it is,” says Incollingo. “There are so many cheap and cheerful places to go in Australia, and ways to be social without breaking the bank. In most cases, they will be more fun, too.”
Incollingo says, though, that when people attempt to save, while still having a social life, they can go wrong in one of two ways. “They either have no entertaining budget in mind, spend all their money and then stress about it for weeks,” he says. “Or, they just won’t go out and see their friends at all until they have money, which isn’t great for mental health, especially if you’re someone who gets lonely or feels ‘FOMO’.”
“The reality is that you can easily see your friends and not spend a tonne on the occasion. Having a budget in mind is key and having some ideas that aren’t expensive is a good idea.”
So, how do you go about doing it? Ahead, Incollingo shares his tips for having an active social life, all while still saving.
Have a Savings Goal and Learn to Budget
Start by having a savings goal in mind, whether that be to buy a house or save for a holiday, Incollingo says. “It’s a good way to keep you motivated to say on track with saving money,” he says.
Learning to budget, though, is equally important, too, he says. “There are many ways to do this. An easy example is the 50/30/20 ratio. 50% of your wage after tax goes towards the non-negotiable such as rent, mortgage, utilities, electricity, internet, groceries, etc. 30% goes towards entertainment and wants, and 20% goes towards savings or paying off debt.”
“If you are saving, or if you have entertainment money left over at the end of the week, save it, put it in a high-interest account, look into ETFs or blue-chip shares. Find a way to make the most out of it. For many people it’s a lot easier to save money than it is to make money, so get in the habit of saving all the money that you can.”
Save on Alcohol
So, if it’s easier to save money than it is to make money, what are some ways you can save? For many of us, a hefty chunk of our paycheque goes to alcohol, so if that’s the case for you, that’s one easy place to save.
“At a restaurant, look to drink less,” says Incollingo. “Often alcohol is the part that blows out the bill as there is always a make-up on alcohol. Plus, minimising your drinking is also good for your health.”
If you do choose to drink at dinner, consider going to a BYO or, if that’s not possible, order more affordable drinks, like a glass of wine instead of a cocktail, which is often double the price of a glass of wine. Also, be sure to look out for deals like happy hour or offers like on the app Eat Club.
Save at Restaurants
Another area to save is on eating out, which, when dining at nice restaurants, can cause a significant dip in your monthly funds. To combat this dip, Incollingo suggests seeing if any of those you’re meeting are up for a picnic instead.
“If there’s one thing Aussies were reminded of last year, it was how much fun and creative picnics can be,” he says. “Whether you do it locally or go for a hike or paddleboard to a destination, this is a fun and affordable way to be social. Best of all, you aren’t paying restaurant prices for food and alcohol.”
Another option is to welcome your friends into your home. If you aren’t keen to cook for everyone, get them to bring a plate and their own drinks. It’s likely they’ll then invite you ‘round next time, again avoiding going to an expensive restaurant. “You’ll have a lot more freedom at home than you do at a restaurant, anyway,” says Incollingo.
If you do want to dine at a restaurant, Incollingo says to try to find a venue that’s more affordable or has a ‘deal night’ on. “After all, it’s not about how much money you spend, but who you are with,” he says.
While you’re there, also be sure not to order extra just because everyone else is – if you aren’t that hungry, don’t order an appetiser. And if you don’t like dessert, don’t feel obliged to get that, too. Keen to try several things on the menu? Order share plates with your friends.
“If you are somewhere expensive, I would bring cash so you don’t get stuck splitting the bill,” Incollingo says. “If everyone else is ordering more than you, you only want to pay what you owe if you are tight on cash.”
Save on Activities
And, finally, Incollingo shares some easy ways to save big on activities, starting with looking for deals and offers. “If you’re someone who likes to go to plays, musicals and concerts, try to get in on the early-bird sales,” he says.
“Do your research online to find the best offers. For instance, on TodayTix, you can win $10 lottery ticks to musical Hamilton at the Sydney Lyric Theatre,” he says.
Hiking and visiting beaches or parks are also fun activities to do outside of dining hours – and, other than petrol and car permit or parking fees, may not cost a cent.