Sometimes finding ideas for budget friendly fun feels more like a mythical quest than a realistic goal. As an adult, it’s already hard to make new friends and maintain a social life—and it can feel almost impossible when you’re trying to spend less. But your budget and your weekend plans don’t have to be enemies—what if I told you that, through the power of the Internet, you could make new friends, pursue your hobbies and do it all without making your wallet cry?
Ideas for Budget-Friendly Fun with Friends
PSA: The same Internet that serves up eerily-targeted ads can also help you find fun, free ways to spend time with your friends and make some new ones while you’re at it!
All it takes is a little time and a dose of social courage (I know, because I’ve done it!). To get your engines started, here are a few cheap things to do with friends.
Swap Out ‘Bored’ for ‘Board’
Board gamers, unite! For a super social, very free activity, consider starting a board game club near you. (Even better: make it a potluck, and you’ve got yourself a super cheap night MADE.)
About a year ago, a couple friends and I decided to start a board game club in my city. And when I say board game, I’m not just talking about Sorry! or Monopoly. I mean the big dogs. The complex (read: super fun), competitive board games that only the nerdiest and best people love to play.
In the past, I’d had a ton of friends in town who loved a good game night, but, as is a common hazard of living in a college town, many of those good friends eventually moved away. We always bemoaned that there were so few people to play with until we realized our town was full of folks who felt the same way. We just needed to connect.
Our powers combined, our board game night has become a standing, free activity we look forward to every two weeks.
Connect Four (Or More People)
To connect to our community, my wife and I hopped on Meetup, paid ten dollars a month to start a group, and we were off to the races. Anyone who found our group was invited to our home (looking back, a dubious idea that luckily worked out fine for us, but you may want to meet new friends in the safety of public spaces).
Our group now assembles every other Thursday to hang out and do cheap activities together. We’re talking movie marathons, themed cooking adventures, Chopped faceoffs, open mic nights, living room picnics, trivia nights, and scavenger hunts. Now that our group has grown, we take turns planning — so it’s always a surprise!
In the beginning, I only expected a few people to join us. Boy, was I wrong! Our inaugural meetup saw no less than fifteen people, most of whom I’d never met before. People were hungry for this kind of thing.
We’ve been going strong ever since. There’s a core group that comes to every meeting (we’ve become great friends). Plus, most weeks, we meet a few new faces. Some of us get along so well that we meet outside of the group to, well, do more fun things together that don’t require spending money.
When the ol’ budget allows, we’ll also get out into the world to eat and go to movies. And, when the Star Wars premiere landed on our biweekly game night, of course we went to see that instead—together.
Find Your People!
Now that the group is more established and growing by word-of-mouth, we moved it from Meetup over to a Facebook group to avoid that ten-dollar fee, and we enjoy a regularly occurring, fun night with friends that doesn’t cost us a dime.
Proof positive that, if you want to build new friendships without blowing your entertainment budget, all you need is a common interest and a willingness to put yourself out there.
Think Outside the Spending Money Box
Maybe you’re not as into board games as we are, but surely there are tons of low-cost hobbies you can do with other people. Here are a few additional ideas for budget friendly fun:
- Hike a local trail
- Play frisbee golf
- Meet for a coffee chat (or a hot water with lemon chat — money saved!)
- Start a book club
- Find a chess Meetup
- Attend bar trivia
- Discover free concerts
- Pick up juggling
- Explore historic neighborhoods on foot
- Bike together
- Plan a pet play date
- Join a political discussion group (political play dates?)
- Learn a new language together
- Go dancing
- Scout out open houses
- Plan a yard sale scavenger hunt
- Volunteer together (think: YMCA, pet shelter, or a senior center)
- Bring back hacky sack!
The list is endless! In fact, I just browsed the Meetups available in my town of 80,000 people, and these suggestions popped up in about ten seconds.
If you don’t spot the kind of group you’re looking for, consider starting one yourself. You may just make a new friend… or 20!
Budget for “Being Social!”
It took 2020 (and 2021… and 2022) for most of us to realize just how crucial it is for our overall wellness to flex those social muscles. On top of that worldwide aha moment, the Age of Remote Work has spurred even more evidence supporting the idea that friends are good for your health.
Friends can be a healthy part of financial life, too—and setting up a budget can help make sure of it! Having enough money for fun outings with friends is all about priorities. If you want to move friends up on your list of priorities, you can easily shuffle money around to reflect your more social self.
Wait… did budgeting for my social life just become a thing? Yes! You! Can!
Amped to see how having a budget can take you from remote-work cocoon to social butterfly? Sign up for a free trial of YNAB for 34 days to explore the art of making room for fun activities with friends.