As mentioned in Living on One Income: One Family’s Process I talked about how hard it was for my husband and I to give up our social life to save money. Before we had kids we were always out spending money and doing fun expensive things with our friends. But one of the decisions we had to make was to cut out that major expense, and let me tell you that first year? It wasn’t an easy one.
Now, however, we are 13 years in with our living on one income strategy, and do you think that we’re still the anti-social stay-at-homebodies we were that first year? Nope. Instead what we did was develop some cost-effective social strategies so that we could still enjoy our time with our friends. Here are a few of them that anyone can use as well.
1. Set up a babysitting exchange. We found several couples in our area that all had young children, and couldn’t afford the constant expense of babysitters (which were anywhere from $7-$10 an hour in my area). So we set up a calendar and rotated babysitting around. There were 4 couples and one night a month each couple was in charge of watching everyone else’s kids (who were similarly aged). Now if you’re not one that enjoys a bunch of kids at your house all at once, this strategy might night work for you. For me, however, the noise of one night a month was totally worth the other 3 weekends of free babysitting that I would accrue.
2. Share a babysitter. Some nights (like New Years Eve), no one wanted to be the one couple left at home. So we would hire a couple of babysitters, negotiate a group rate, and leave all of the kids at one house. Most of the time you can get a big discount per couple because babysitters love the big wad of money that ultimately came from a multiple family sitting job.
3. Pick your neighborhood carefully. About 4 years into our living on one income experiment we outgrew our home and decided that we weren’t too happy with what our current neighborhood was turning into. So we decided to move. Knowing we had two little ones we looked for a neighborhood that would not only give us what we wanted in a home, but that would also give us what we needed socially. We found the neighborhood that fit the bill in one that had a park, a neighborhood pool, and 8 gazillion children running around. And picking the right neighborhood really helped our budget.
For example in the summers, normally a time where people can spend a lot of money trying to entertain their children, we spend very little money. We hang out at the pool incessantly, have cookouts at each other’s houses, and sit in our drive ways with our neighbors enjoying a cocktail and watching watching the kids ride their bikes in the evenings. Very little extra money is spent and yet we are always busy enjoying time with our friends.
4. Find like minded friends. The other night my group of friends decided that we were all going out to dinner together as families. Now you might ask how is this an inexpensive proposition? Well the reason why we decided to go out was because one of the group had found a big money saving coupon for each of the families in our group (6 in all), and we ended up getting a big discount. Later in thinking about the fun night I found it really funny that we have all are so much alike in the way we value our money and our time. It was only natural that one of us had found coupons for the whole group, and nobody was offended by the proposition. Finding friends who have similar financial values as your family is really helpful when you are trying to live a certain life style.
5. Look for group activities that cost nothing but offer high quality experiences. Almost one year ago some friends and I took up running. And although with this hobby we have done things together that cost money like participating in local races, for the most part training to run has cost us nothing more than the price of our shoes. We spend hours together every week enjoying quality time, and we love our group therapy sessions to the fullest.
6. Start a blog and become well known locally. OK. This one took some time and work, and not everyone is up for the task. But in back 2006 I started a blog in which I talked a lot about my local life. Eventually I had a large local following, and what followed were invites from locals to try various local activities. We’ve gone to basketball games, local charitable events, visited local touristy type places, tried local restaurants that we normally wouldn’t have tried, and a couple of times I even got to sit in as Kansas City Barbecue Society (KCBS) guest judge at a KCBS barbecue cook off, one of my favorite experiences ever. I’m not doing it as much as I was in the past as I’ve stopped writing as much about local events, but those years were some good ones filled with wonderful inexpensive social experiences.
7. Volunteer. This idea is also not for the faint of heart. After all everyone knows that volunteers are not always treated well, however, I have found some great friends and have had great fun volunteering locally in my area. And it usually costs me nothing more than my time.
8. Enjoy the simple pleasures. A couple of years ago my neighborhood was snowed in for 5 days in a row. The kids were out of school, no one in my neighborhood could get to work, and the situation could have very easily gone bad. However, that’s not what happened. The men got outside and socialized by helping the older neighbors shovel their driveways. We pooled our resources and had pot luck at one of the neighbor’s houses. The kids got together and put the crazy musical plays for the parents over, and over, and over again. The 5 days flew by (OK 4 days flew by. We were ready for the kids to go by day 5.), and we were busy the entire time having spent very little money. Sometimes when we’re forced to go simple or old school as some people call it, we have the best time socially.
What do you do to save money, but still have an active social life?