How to catch up with friends, without it costing an arm & a leg.

By Natasha Culzac
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Catching with friends doesn't have to cost the earth. Read our guide for fun and cheap things to do with your mates.

“Fancy meeting up for dinner and a pint?” is a feared question when you’re teetering at the edge of your overdraft and when payday is practically decades away.

Socialising with friends doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg (or half your pay packet). We’ve compiled a list of eight free or cheap ways to meet your mates and have fun without it putting the wrecking ball to your bank account.

DIY Come Dine With Me

It’s scientifically proven that 101% of the population loves the Channel 4 cooking show Come Dine With Me. That’s not entirely true, but a hell of a lot of people do love it and all in all likelihood at least half of your mates would. That’s why you should put on a version of your own Come Dine with three friends.

The premise, if you’ve been living under a rock in the Highlands for the past 10 years, is that each person takes it in turn to host a three-course meal for everyone else. Guests secretly rate their night out of 10 (you may need to get a non-player involved to adjudicate the scores), with the overall winner walking away with absolute glee and pride.

Become board games geeks

Over the last 20 years there’s been a wave of new and exciting games gracing the shelves of countless homes. We’re not talking Monopoly or Trivial Pursuit – though they are fantastic – but the emergence of beautifully-designed tabletop games that have an emphasis on teamwork, tactics and politics. In fact, over the last year there’s been a 20 per cent rise in the sales of tabletop games according to The Guardian, and that’s all thanks to games like Settlers of Catan, Pandemic, Carcassonne, and Camel Up. If you live in a shared house do a whip-round to purchase a game to share, otherwise buy one yourself and know that it will be a worthy investment!

Walks of life

Don’t let the frosty winter days get the better of you – wrap up like Santa and go on a walk with friends through the local woods or to sites of interest. For example, Googling “local walks Solihull” brings up suggested walks by the borough council. Try it for your area and see what comes up. Also, it might sound a bit too sobering but the Victorian cemeteries in London are stunning and eerie at the same time, especially during winter with a flask of tea. Read this guide to historical cemeteries in the capital.

Themed nights, no wait, listen….

Sod going clubbing! Who does that any more? Save yourself a bucket and host a murder mystery or poker night. Fancy dress is obviously optional, but you can get some decent clobber in a charity shop if you wanted to go the whole hog. Get your mates to chip in for ‘tickets’ to the event, which should hopefully go some way in covering the cost of the frozen canapes from Iceland and finger sandwiches. Get cheap booze from Lidl or Aldi and you’re set!

“Sexy football”

That’s actually a chant from my local football team, Dulwich Hamlet FC. Have you thought about supporting a local sports team? Forget the Premier League; grassroots football, rugby, hockey, roller derby etc is where it’s at. Games are fairly cheap to attend when you get to the lower leagues and it can get quite rowdy but in a fun way. You’ll also be a lot closer to the action and not miles away in the height of the stands.

Get crafty

This works well if you’re trying to save pennies on birthday and Christmas presents. Get a couple of friends together and a DIY set to create items with your own bare fingers such as scented candles, knitted gloves or jewellery.

 

Food, glorious food

If you do want to head out to eat, find discounts in some of the most unusual places. For example, if you have a roadside assistance with the AA, they give you member benefits which includes money off your food bill in a local restaurant – see their app. So, check for any benefits you may get with a membership of some sort, including an NUS card. Wowcher and Groupon are also great places to get food deals. And if you’re in London, bag yourself a Tastecard and get 50% off or 2-4-1 in a long-list of restaurants and bars - use the app for finding the local deals wherever you are.

Free events and attractions

Don’t forget that your area should have a plethora of free stuff to do throughout the year. Whether it’s summer festivals or Christmas markets your local authority should have on its website a list of things going on. If it doesn’t, then have a stern word with them. For London, monitor Skint London’s Twitter feed for daily cheap events or read VisitLondon’s ‘101 Free Things to do in London’ article.

Top takeaway

Having a chinwag with the besties doesn’t have to come at a hefty price. There are tonnes of low cost fun places to visit, or you can manufacture cheap fun at home with a bit of organisation.

 

By Natasha Culzac

Thanks to a journalistic career history and a childhood at Sylvia Young Theatre School, Natasha has her fingers in a few professional pies, doing her best impression of a model and actor as well as personal finance writer. Outside of work she compulsively watches BBC period dramas and constantly lies to herself that this year will be the year she learns French, once and for all.

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