Thursday, August 20, 2009

Dear Danielle,

I love going out to trendy bars and restaurants and going to hip concerts. I work as a stylist, so I get a lot of designer clothes for free, but my biggest splurge is on entertainment and food as I usually eat out 5 days a week. I have been trying to cut back on spending in order to start saving more but I worry that being on a budget will mean an end to my social life. How can I be financially savvy while still enjoying the indulgences that I love?

"Dining Out Obsessed"

Dear "Dining Out Obsessed,"

It may actually be a blessing in disguise that you are cutting back from your lavish dining out lifestyle. It will force you to explore other activities and modes of socializing that cost less, and actually may be more fulfilling. Here are my suggestions for how to fill the void as you go out to restaurants and bars less:

-We all have hobbies that we have always wanted to pursue, and maybe started at some point but then stopped. I am not referring to the expensive ones, like golf or sky diving. Pull out the tennis racket you have had buried in your closet for ages and go with a friend to a public court in your neighborhood. Or, pick up knitting or sketching. The options are endless. Take some of the free time you'll have in the evenings when you are no longer going out to eat to devote yourself to creating something for your home, or strengthening your physique.

-Suggest to a group of your friends that you want to re-instate the practice of dinner parties, that have been largely abandoned by our generation. This doesn't have to mean 8 courses including fillet Mignon. Every weekend another friend will host a dinner party. This gives everyone a reason to "go out" without spending money. When you're the host, no need to spend a lot. Cranberry spritzers and Lasagna would be fine...and if you're not a big cook order in some pizza. Dinner parties don't need to be formal, they just need some good food, good conversation and good company.

-It is summer time and no better way to spend it then a picnic or a BBQ on the beach. Get a bunch of friends together and do it pot-luck style. Choose a local park or beach, bring a Frisbee and spend a fraction of what you would for a night on that town without sacrificing on the fun.

-This suggestion may sound nerdy, but: join your local library. I believe no one reads as much as we could and libraries are the best venue for free entertainment. Pick up a few good books, and spend an evening curled up with some tea and a steamy novel.

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