As we slowly creep into the depths of the colder months, many of us are apt to retreat and go into full-fledged hibernation. However, as wonderfully satisfying as it is to stay under a blanket, and hang out with Netflix, I don’t want to miss out on spending time with friends, because I still want to solidify the new friendships I’m (hopefully) making. When you’re in a new city, and don’t know a lot of people, you have to go out of your way to make friends, and build relationships beyond the acquaintance level.
Having recently left the comfort of having my best friends five to ten minutes away in college, I still struggle to establish close relationships, because my friends are far away, and I’m confined to a 9-to-5 schedule (plus my dreaded commute). Going through the motions of making friends is challenging, but it’s also expensive. When you want to become closer to a girlfriend, you invite her to dinner, brunch, or out for a drink, all of which likely cost $15 at the very least. With close friends, you can choose to have a wine night (with Trader Joe’s $3 wine), but when you barely know someone, and are trying to establish a friendship, you might not necessarily want to invite them to get drunk on your futon. (Though, no judgement if that’s what you choose to do.)
For the most part, making friends requires doing things. And doing things requires some cash. So, here are a few solutions that might help you say “yes” to every proposal that your new friend suggests, without overspending.
1. Take it black
I know that some of us have been waiting all year for a grande skim pumpkin spice latte, but you don’t need to spend $5.25 to have a ~new friend date~. If you’re meeting up during the work day at a cafe, cut those extra flavors from your coffee order. Cutting all the hoopla out of the coffee can shave an easy $3.50 off of any order. Another way to save on a coffee date? BYOTB — Bring your own tea bag, and ask the barista for a cup of hot water. Try to meet up for coffee during lunch hour, but eat lunch at your desk before, so you’re taking advantage of your time, but aren’t going out for an expensive lunch.
2. Volunteer at local events
As TFD has mentioned in recent posts, fall is the time for boots, cider and local community events. In most major cities, and many small towns, there are plenty of opportunities to grab a friend and volunteer at a festival or Halloween event. Sites like VolunteerMatch.org, Idealist.org and many more can help you find fun volunteer opportunities in your local area. The event, people and good-hearted nature of the experience will give you an easy (and free) way to bond with your new bestie.
3. Offer to split the check
Eating out is one of the easiest (and often most expensive) ways to bond with a potential new friend. After a meal full of laughs — and maybe a drink, offer to divide the check for the table. Splitting a dinner evenly can be a risky game, especially when you’re watching your finances, but are sitting next to your friend who ordered the filet mignon, two martinis and an appetizer. The main reason people agree to split checks evenly is because they’re lazy (at least, I know I am). If you offer to tackle the problem, your new friends will be more apt to agree to split according to what was ordered.
4. Drink beer
If you’re in the #yesnewfriends mindset and are looking to have some fun, drinking beer while you go out will help save some money at the bar. Your average cocktail can run up to $11 (without tip) at a bar in a city like New York, D.C. or Los Angeles. (How does some Costco Brand cranberry cocktail and bottom shelf vodka add up to $11? I don’t know, but I’m not trying to challenge the all-powerful bartender.) A pint of whatever-is-on-draft, or a bottle, will cost you about $6. So opt to shave that extra $5 from your bill. Also, if you’re drinking from a bottle, you might save yourself embarrassment and money by cutting down on spills and stained clothing while ~bumpin and grindin~ (aka navigating the massive crowds) at the bar.
Finally, if you’re trying to do drinks on a weeknight, but can’t make the typical 4PM-7PM happy hour, look for all night happy hours. Typically, bars offer them at the beginning of the week (because that’s when business is slower).
5. Join forces with your roommates, and host a semi-collegiate party
Solo cups: $10. Limes: $3. Leftover alcohol people leave behind: priceless.
6. Start researching, and finding deals online
There are a multitude of outings that can cost very little money, if you put in a little Internet time and do your research. As fall descends upon the east coast, everyone and their second cousin will be looking to go apple picking, pumpkin patch hunting, hay riding and more. Turn to the handy-dandy deal sites like Groupon, LivingSocial and Travelzoo to get good activity ideas, and even better discounts.
7. Find a series
Chances are that either you, or one of your new friends, has a cable bill they are already paying. Have a get together where you and a friend or two gather to watch a show, and cook together. Pro tip: ours was “The Bachelor” franchise shows — you can’t yell at the television alone during those shows (though I have), so it pays to have company. Head to the nearest grocery store (or refer to TFD’s $3 treasure hunts) and pick up the cheapest, tastiest snack options. Turn on the show, light some candles and welcome your new friends to your home. Similar to aforementioned wine and blanket night? Yes, but having a television distraction, and a general purpose to the evening, will help ease any awkward jitters.
It’s not easy (or cheap) to put yourself out there. Making friends in a new environment is frightening and difficult, and the fear of rejection is so real. Making smart choices while you go to the bar, on a coffee date, or pick an adventure will help save some extra cash for when it really counts, and you’ll have one less thing to worry about as you take risks and establish some new relationships. It’s a little easier to save some money once you feel comfortable around your existing friends, but it is in fact possible to say “yes” to new experiences, and plan outings, while you watch your budget.
Lizzie is a communications professional based in Washington, DC. When she isn’t at work, you can find her at dance rehearsal or eating – but probably eating. Follow the frolic on Instagram.
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