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25 May 2018

Frugal Fun with Meetups

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by Ben Barlowe

How I made new friends without overspending from my 'Entertainment' category ...

As an adult, it can be hard to make new friends and maintain a social life, especially 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?

Well, you can. In fact, the same Internet that serves up ads that are targeted at your latest retail desires can also help you find fun, free ways to spend time with your friends and make some new friends, to boot!

Swapping ‘Bored’ for ‘Board’

I’m talking about Meetup, Facebook Events, Eventbrite, CitySocializer … you get the point. There are a ton of avenues out there to connect you with other people for an event or a common interest. All it takes is a little time and a dose of social courage (I know, because I’ve done it!). Let me tell you how …

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 surely full of folks that felt the same way. We just needed to connect.

Connect Four (Or More People)

To find our people, my wife and I hopped on Meetup, paid ten dollars a month to start a group, and we were off to the races. Er, games. Anyone who found our group was invited to our home (a dubious idea that actually worked out fine for us, but you may want to meet in the safety of public spaces).

Our group assembles every other Thursday to hang out and play games. In the beginning, I only expected a few people to join us. Boy, was I wrong! Our inaugural game night 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, play more games. We’ll also go out to eat and go to movies when the budget allows. And, when the Star Wars premiere landed on our biweekly game night, of course we went out and saw it, together, instead.

Find Your Friends!

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 a little.

Maybe you’re not into board games, but surely there’s another low-cost hobby you can do with other people. Consider hiking, coffee, books, music, juggling, biking, pets, makeup, politics or dancing—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.

And, if you don’t spot the kind of group you’re looking for, make one yourself! You may just make a new friend.

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Remember, budgeting is not restrictive. You won’t be spending less, you’ll be spending right. You can do this! Today. Right now. What do you have to lose? Except all that debt and stress. (Ok, so kind of a lot.)

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