They say sharing is caring, and it’s even better when that means keeping cash in your wallet and fun in your life. We’ve compiled a list of the best ways to save money with your friends. You don’t have to pass on hanging out — just make it a truly shared experience.
1. A Potluck
As soon as you decide to eat in rather than eat out, you’re financially winning. Restaurants mark up food — especially booze — so much that you could be saving half the cost of a restaurant dinner by making a similar meal at home.
Not to mention, there are health benefits of knowing exactly what is being put in your food and in what quantity.
There are countless ways to turn this from a boring, tedious chore into a fun group activity. One of the easiest is to have a potluck in which everyone contributes a dinner item — an appetizer, a few bottles of wine, a side dish, or dessert. Or you could take turns cooking meals for one another, switching off every other week.
Encourage your friends to invite their friends, and you’ll increase the food variety available.
Perhaps you’ll make a new buddy in the process. You could even add themed-cooking ideas, depending on the time of year.
“Everyone loves a party where friends meet other friends, or strangers meet other strangers to build connections,” says certified financial planner Sanchit Taksali. “Inviting friends and guests together while using a potluck system saves on the cost of a party with a guarantee of fun times.”
If you really want to take saving money to the next level, look at ways in which you and your friends can buy groceries together. This strategy works particularly well if you happen to live with one or more of your homies.
Buying certain items in bulk — namely pasta, rice, and other dry and canned goods — can save you a pretty penny in the long run while providing you with nourishing, starchy meals for weeks.
Of course, it may be smart to hold off on the potluck until after the COVID-19 pandemic has ended. Thankfully, while you wait, there are still other options for saving.
2. Referrals for Credit Card Points
This is a little bit sneaky and indirect, but referring friends for a credit card can often lead to big rewards for both of you later. For instance, I have the Chase Sapphire, and I try to refer my friends every chance I get because both of us get 10,000 points through this process.
This may not be a direct way to earn money, but it ends up accumulating in credit card points, which can be redeemed for things like travel, dining, or cashback. Plus, neither of you have to spend any money to do this.
“Referrals are a great source of earning extra money,” says Taksali. “Let’s understand with an example: If a user refers 100 users, out of which 20 users opt for the same credit cards, they would be getting up to $500 per user as a reward — which means $10,000 in total earnings.”
“That not only helps your friend in getting good things but also increases your points with smart spending,” Taksali adds.
A caveat if you take this route: Don’t let it turn into some zany movie plot by applying for credit cards just to get the points.
Be sure to pick a card that has no (or low) annual fees. If the credit card requires you to carry a certain balance on the card for the first few months, ensure you aren’t using the points as a justification for getting further in debt.
This type of thing is more of a one-and-done idea. Additionally, if you do purchase something with a one-off credit card, make sure you pay back the balance in full the next month.
3. Group Discounts
This is a great way to save money for those who tend to go out with lots of friends at once. If you’re in a big enough group, you can usually find a way to get discounts for various activities.
You can often find offers online, but if that isn’t an option, you can also call places directly and ask them if they’d be willing to give you a group discount.
For example, I went to a magic show in Boston to celebrate a friend’s birthday, and we reached out to the coordinator for the show to ask if we could get a discounted price. We ended up slashing 20 percent off our ticket prices, which amounted to about $10 saved.
Likewise, if you skip the potluck and decide to go out for a meal together, phoning the restaurant ahead to ask about a prix fixe menu can help you all save money.
Plus, businesses may be open to lowering their per-person rates if more people get in on the reservation, giving you a greater incentive to loop in more friends. Check out sites like LivingSocial and Groupon for deals in your area.
This is another option best held off until after the pandemic has passed, but it can still be a great way to celebrate with friends when it does end.
4. Sharing Subscriptions
Another sneaky trick to save money with friends? Share online services like Netflix and Spotify. Netflix, for example, costs around $8 a month if you want to purchase a “family” plan, which allows you to create multiple accounts. Spotify also offers a similar plan.
I share my Netflix account with some friends from college, though we don’t technically “split” the bill. (I pay for it — you’re welcome, guys!) Still, it’s definitely a great way to lower costs with your pals.
Alternatively, you could share services that allow for guests — for example, some gyms allow you to bring a friend to each workout. If you coordinate ahead of time (and split the bill evenly each month), you could half the cost of staying fit. Plus you’ll push each other to stay in shape — a win-win.
5. A Budget-Off
Okay, okay — I know. But before you roll your eyes, let me just say: This could actually be awesome. Challenging friends to see who can save the most in a fixed period is not only a lighthearted way to create financial momentum, but it also makes saving easier.
Alternatively, if you’re the type of group that enjoys a weekly outing, see who can find the cheapest happy hour at a bar, the best meal deal, or half-price movie ticket — perhaps sweeten the pot by promising a free drink to whoever finds the winning deal.
The Bottom Line
Sometimes the hardest aspect of saving money is the feeling of being socially excluded by friends who don’t have the same financial concerns.
But if you’re all on the same page and are looking to save money, then it’ll be easier to coordinate free hangout sessions and inexpensive meal plans.
Consider fun ways to incentivize yourselves. You could even use half of whatever money you all saved during the budget-off to pay for something nice you can all share.
Creating incentives — while having fun — can ensure that you and your friends remain financially responsible.
Additional reporting by Connor Beckett McInerney.