Yes, socialising on a budget is possible! Here’s how

On a tight budget and worried you might not be able to join in end-of-year festivities? Experts offer advice on budget-friendly socialising.

The cost of living crisis is widening the gap between the haves and have-nots, with over 50 per cent of Australians saying they’ll struggle to pay an essential bill over the next three months.

End-of-year festivities can cost a packet so when you’re organising social events or special celebrations with family and friends, it’s important to be mindful that many people are feeling the pinch.

Here, experts share their advice on budget-friendly socialising, how to be sensitive at a time when many are tightening their belts, as well as ideas for fun but economical get-togethers.

Why budget-friendly socialising is important among friends

Relationships Australia NSW CEO Elisabeth Shaw says money is a common issue driving a wedge in relationships – and friendships are no different.

As cost of living pressures bite, friendships are being tested.

“I speak to people regularly who feel that sometimes friends can become quite insensitive to their financial circumstances,” Elisabeth says.

“They could be in a better financial position, or have a different relationship with money; and there can be a real sense that if you don’t keep up, you might not be invited to places.”

Elisabeth says some people don’t feel comfortable broaching the topic for fear of being judged.

And while offering to pay for friends on occasion is generous, it can backfire unless they’re comfortable accepting your help.

“You can solve the problem by taking everybody into account when planning an event, and taking cost into routine consideration,” she suggests.

So, how do you broach the budget conversation with friends?

Financial planner Canna Campbell advises those on a tight budget to “own it” – and to be open and honest about why you can’t splash cash on expensive outings.

“Most Australian households are struggling … it’s quite possible your friends are too; they just may not have admitted it yet,” Canna says.

“Simply explain that you’re trying to be careful with your money right now.”

She says your social circle may appreciate a safe space to share money woes, and together devise budget-friendly ways to catch-up.

Great ideas for budget-friendly socialising

Find a meal deal

There’s no need to be a social recluse just because you’re pinching the pennies.

Canna, of SugarMamma TV, says apps such as EatClub and First Table can dig up discounts at your favourite restaurants.

“Take the initiative and put some social spending boundaries in place, and offer financially friendly ideas or activities,” Canna suggests.

Host a potluck dinner party, organise a picnic in the park, or enjoy a free activity such as bushwalking together.

Throw a progressive dinner party

Why not dig out a ’70s recipe book and stage a progressive dinner?

My Millennial Money podcast host Glen James says the moving feasts, where each course is served at a different house, are a great way to socialise on a shoestring.

“It’s good to get creative when finances are tight, and revolving dinner parties are a fun way to do something different,” Glen, a former financial adviser, says.

“You might have to use a bit of mental energy to organise (it), but at least you’re not paying $18 per cocktail at the bar.”

Get ahead of the Christmas splurge

Before the family WhatsApp chat explodes with extravagant Christmas wish lists, Glen suggests setting budget expectations for get-togethers and for gifts.

“Try to control the narrative before it’s too late and say, “It’s been tight this year, how about we do something a little low cost?,” Glen says.

“There’s a lot of freedom in honesty.”

The same approach can be applied for any social occasion, or when buying group presents.

In the office, consider rallying colleagues for an upcycled Kris Kringle; or show loved ones how much you care with creative DIY gift ideas.

More ways to save money:

Written by Elissa Doherty.