Finding ways to hang out with friends can be one of the biggest budget-busters in your life. If you’re constantly feeling obligated to go to expensive dinners, events, clubs, etc., well . . . don’t. Instead, try proposing one of these free things to do with friends. Your friends may even be thankful for the opportunity to save some money.
1. Game Night
Put out a call among your friends to see who has what games. This doesn’t have to be your parent’s Uno or Yahtzee night. Pick fun games like Exploding Kittens or Cards Against Humanity. I have a weekly Dungeons & Dragons gaming session with my friends, and it’s great! If someone has a video game console, games like You Don’t Know Jack, Rock Band, and Mario Kart are fun, too.
2. Movie Night
Maybe games aren’t so much your thing. That’s okay.
There’s a TV show or movie out there for everyone. Host movie nights and rotate among your friends’ houses.
You can set up recurring weekly installments of TV series or vote on the next movie to watch each week. Plus, the bigger your group, the more likely someone will have access to premium TV and movie services like HBO GO. Game of Thrones night, anyone?
3. Potluck Dinner
A great way to meet friends-of-friends (aka new friends) is by hosting potluck dinners. Have people sign up for different food categories (drinks, entrées, appetizers, sides, desserts, etc.) so that you have all your bases covered.
Camping is the definition of frugal fun with friends. Just like with the potluck dinners, make sure everyone signs up to cover at least one meal. Then cook it over the campfire!
For even more fun when camping (or even if you’re not camping), check out local hikes with friends. Most trails aren’t laid out in loops, so bring two cars. Drop one off at the end of the trail, then carpool to the trailhead. You can even do things like geocaching while on the trail. Websites like AllTrails and Trails.com have great comprehensive guides to trails all over North America.
What better way to make an impact in your community than bringing an army of volunteers along with you to have a good time? I’ve had a lot of fun volunteering with friends as a gift wrapper for Toys For Tots or collecting scientific data on blueberries. Check out sites like VolunteerMatch, or scope out citizen science volunteer projects at SciStarter.
7. Be a Tourist in Your Own Town
Even if you’ve lived in your town all your life, I bet there are things about it you didn’t know. Most medium to large towns and cities have a historical society, a tourism bureau, or even a city government department. My town of Fort Collins, for example, has an awesome walking tour that I’ll be doing this summer. Even if your town doesn’t have one, there’s probably a sufficiently large town nearby that has it. Playing tourist can be a great, cheap way to hang out with friends. You can even make a staycation out of it!
8. Check Out Free Museum, Zoo, and Aquarium Days
Most of these public attractions will offer a free day once a year — or even once a week, in some cities. If there are any cool places you want to hit up, check out their website to see when these days are, then carpool there with your friends. Make sure to get there early, though. The one downside is that it’s likely to get crowded as the day wears on.
9. Start a Knitting Circle
Knitting isn’t just for grannies anymore. It’s seeing a huge revival among young people, and more cool patterns by indie designers are coming out every day. If one of your friends knows how to knit, then maybe they can teach the others. If not, it’s easy to learn. I taught myself using a combination of YouTube videos and printed tutorials. It’s a great way to relax and hang out with friends.
10. Start A Book Club
What’s more fun than reading books with your friends and getting together to discuss them on a regular basis? Check with your local library — they sometimes have resources for people who are starting book clubs.