Budgeting in a social life

A night out can be affordable if you plan ahead


Illustration: Cosette Puckett

As the chaotic highs of Freshers’ Week come back down to a healthier reality with first semester classes, the next big social event of the season is just around the corner. However some students, especially freshers, might not realise that these social events don’t come cheaply. So, how can you plan accordingly, saving yourself from the pain of an empty bank account?

A night out on the town can be a fantastic way to hang out with old and new friends through various events put on throughout the year. Whether it’s the Student Union, the VIC, or the various pubs open around town, enjoying a night out socialising in St Andrews can seem greatly preferable to staying holed up in your room.

So, before you set out for the evening, here are a few things to consider:

It is always a smart idea to prepare a few pieces of loose change, in addition to cash, for small fees or transactions where cards or large bills may not be accepted. For example, if you bring a coat to Club 601 and don’t want to lug it around all night, there’s the one-pound fee for each hanger in the cloak room. Prepping ahead of time will help you avoid the scramble for coinage in the crowd.

Also, it’s best to leave your credit and debit cards behind at home. It’s not difficult to see that when alcohol starts flowing, people’s wallets open more easily too. It can also help you avoid becoming too drunk by accounting for the cost of how many drinks you’ll buy ahead of time. By not going out without prepping, you won’t wake up with as bad of a hangover or as depleted a bank account the next morning.

Moving on, if you look to the roster of University events, you’ll quickly see the mass of formal evenings quickly coming up. When considering the cost of such events, it’s important not only to take into account the ticket price, but also side purchases.

Consider the total cost of both the ticket and all the other purchases you might anticipate making. Before the big day arrives, take a few minutes to consider: will I need to purchase any additional attire or makeup? Do I plan to take a cab to or from the event? While there is typically some free food and drinks available at many balls and formal evenings, will I be eating dinner before out with friends?

As tickets can be quite pricey for entrance (within the ballpark of £30 each per event) and side-costs can add up quickly, creating a budget for day-to-day spending can be quite beneficial when saving up funds for special events. To manage this, try setting aside a budget with a ceiling cap of how much you anticipate on spending weekly. Even by limiting small purchases — such as by making your coffee at home instead of buying it in town — any extra unspent funds for the week can be distributed to tickets, drinks, and all necessary finery.

Another activity which might take a small dip into your pocket are the little side-events going on throughout the week. Whether you’re going to catch a movie at the New Picture House with some friends, dancing at a local ceilidh, or even stopping into Costa for your regular coffee, all these minor charges can sneak up on a credit card bill later down the line.

In general, try to use cash more often so transactions feel more “concrete,” versus the quick swipe of a card. Also, remember to check your card balance at regular intervals as bank maintenance fees can take small amounts (of about £5) out every month, leaving your account emptier than anticipated. Finally, by viewing your charge history online or via your paper statements, you can see where your money is spent most frequently.

Finally, if you can help it, try to cook your own meals. While lugging a bag of groceries back from Tesco and spending precious time cooking isn’t always appealing, it will ultimately be both healthier and cheaper than the regular order from Dominos. While there is nothing wrong with the special night out, on the regular you can get more for your pound by eating at home before you leave, rather than filling up at a restaurant in town.

If you’re on a meal plan, of course, make the most of it.

The key is knowing it is possible to have a great time with your friends, while also keeping your spending under control. So, when prepping for your night out, remember to prep your spending budget too.


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