Friendship is one of the most important things you can include in your life, and if you’ve found good friends with the characteristics of a good person, it’s important to continue to foster that relationship.
Unfortunately, friendship can also be expensive. If one of your goals for this year is to save money, pay off debt, or just stop spending so much, you may find yourself turning down your friends’ requests to spend a lot of time together.
Instead of avoiding your friends, build healthy friendships and social connections with these 8 ways to spend time with friends for free (or cheap).
After all, by the time you pay for a babysitter, buy dinner and drinks at happy hour, and then spend a night on the town, who can afford friends? And who are we kidding? Even lunch dates add up.
The first day of my spending freeze, I went shopping with my friends. I felt guilty the whole time because I wanted to enjoy my day, but I didn’t want to blow my “spend zero” budget, either.
But I couldn’t back out because I was the one who had planned the shopping trip (Oops! Note to self: don’t plan a shopping trip if you’re also planning a spending freeze)!
You don’t have to cancel your plans with friends or subject yourself to social isolation just to save money.
In hindsight, I should’ve suggested another activity and explained to my friends that I was trying to save money that month. After all, shopping isn’t the only activity in the world.
If you’re trying to plan fun, free or cheap activities to spend time with your friends, look no further!
Free activities to do with friends
1. Have a mommy morning
Invite one (or two) best friends over for brunch, coffee (or mimosas – no judgment here!), snacks, or even a backyard picnic. Especially if you have little ones, mommy mornings are the best way to stay connected with your closest friends and get emotional support through the different stages of your life without blowing your budget.
Be careful that you don’t go overboard or spend too much time with your preparations, though. The object is to spend quality time and foster strong friendships with old friends, not spend all morning preparing a gourmet brunch (or, worse, running to Panera Bread to get coffee and bagels for everyone).
2. Host a game night
Break out the cards, dust off a board game, or plan a simple charades evening.
Keep things super simple and focus on laughing and enjoying your friends’ company.
3. Watch a sporting event (or create your own)
For the next sporting event, like the Superbowl, Olympics, or March Madness, plan a little get-together.
If there aren’t any upcoming events, create your own.
Don’t be afraid to include the entire family. Growing up, some of my best memories were when my parents invited their friends over and the younger children would create their own fun times, while the older kids started a backyard baseball game.
4. Plan a potluck dinner party
A great way to spend time with friends without spending a lot of money is having a potluck. Bonus points if you cook together.
Some of my favorite meals are when my sister-in-law and I bring the ingredients to each other’s house and cook together. Not only are you sharing the cost of dinner, but you can also have the best time learning new recipes and cooking techniques.
5. Go for a walk
Depending on the weather, meet a friend to go for a walk. Walking is a great way to get some physical activity and boost both your mental health and physical health.
You can either walk outside, weather permitting, or try mall walking. Just be careful that you’re window shopping as you’re walking and not actually shopping. 😉
6. Attend a free local event
You can find free local events year-round. These events are a great opportunity to meet new friends with similar interests, as well as try new things with your existing social network.
Look for events at local small businesses, like a soap-making course at a local gift shop, a sewing course at a craft store, a movie night in the park, or even a wine tasting event at a local restaurant or winery.
You could also attend events at your local library to meet different people.
Another great idea is to work with your library and start your own book club with a group of friends if they don’t have one organized.
7. Have a mani/pedi day
My cousins and I used to have mani/pedi days all the time when we were in high school. My sister-in-law brought this idea back when she bought me nail polish for my birthday this year. I can’t paint my own nails without slopping nail polish all over my entire finger, so her new task is painting my nails every time she comes to visit! 😉
Pampering yourself is often one of the first things to go when you’re following a strict budget, but there are free and fun ways to feel pretty.
Have everyone bring their favorite colors (as well as any exotic colors, if they have any), and swap colors. Try one of these sets to get multiple colors to share. Cut out some interesting designs on tape, and use it as a template for additional colors and nail art.
You can also have a nail party on social media with a company like Color Street.
8. Create crafts together
I am not creative. at. all. If you’re like me, pair up with a more creative friend and create something wonderful.
When my sister-in-law was getting married, the bridesmaids were all supposed to create a scrapbook page for the bridal shower. I knew mine would look like a kindergartener had designed it unless I had help. I paired up with my cousins, who were avid scrapbookers, and we ended up creating beautiful pages.
You can take a free class on Craftsy, or go in together and purchase a paid class and build meaningful connections with a group of friends in a creative way.
Spending time with friends is a wonderful way to relax and have fun, and it doesn’t have to be expensive. It’s possible to spend time with your friends (and have a good time) without breaking the bank.
How to spend time at home
While some of the above activities can be done at home, if you’re stuck at home and feelings of social isolation are creeping up, there are ways that you can still interact with friends and feel connection.
Try hosting a Zoom call. You can even sign up for a game subscription and play games with your friends who live far away all from the comfort of your home.
What are some fun (free) things that you do with your friends?