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Night Out Alternatives: 8 Unique Ideas for Frugal Home Get-Togethers

We all want to save money, but not by skimping on fun times with good friends…especially as the last warm days of summer tick away. But lets’ face it: Going out for dinner and drinks is hardly budget-friendly. That’s why these days, staying in is the new going out.

You don’t need a birthday or holiday to throw a small soiree; here are some creative ways to enjoy staying in with friends without busting your budget.

Wine Night

If you’re like me, you find a type of wine that you really like and you never look back. Instead, try some new flavors – that are endorsed by your friends – by inviting some guests over for wine night.

Have everyone bring their favorite bottle of red and take sips of every kind. It’s a cheap, fun activity and a good conversation starter. Not to mention a lot cheaper than trying every wine on the menu at your favorite restaurant. If wine isn’t your thing, have everyone make their favorite fun cocktail or bring their favorite unique beer.

Wii Night

If you own a Wii or know someone that does, it’s time you set up a Wii game night.

The concept is simple, but can provide hours of free fun. Plus, you can transfer your player profiles over the Internet to other people’s consoles, so you can still use your profile at your friend’s house (or vice versa). Plus, if you only have two or three games of your own, you’ll instantly have a new collection to choose from if you host a party or go to a Wii party at your friend’s house.

TV Show Marathon

Since many TV shows are offered on network Websites or on other digital entertainment Websites, more and more people are watching shows online. How many times have you and your friend excitedly talked about what happened on your favorite show last week?

If you and several of your friends love the same show, consider setting up a watch night and have everyone over to watch the last two or three episodes. Sometimes it’s that much better when you’re watching it fellow followers.

Backyard Olympics

I have to admit that I’m almost embarrassed to suggest this topic. But here goes: recruit the biggest sports fan in your group of friends and convince them to create a bracket for a backyard game tournament. Then set up fun outdoor games like the bean bag toss, Frisbee, or washers and get to playing.

Yes, my friends and I do this every year, and, yes, it’s as fun as it sounds. Use the bracket to track the winners until you can crown the backyard Olympics gold medalist!

Pool Party

This party is self-explanatory but often over-looked. Pools aren’t just for sunbathing or for kids to splash around in all day; no, in fact, they’re perfect for evening cookouts and pool parties. If you have a pool in your neighborhood, check to see if you could reserve it for a night and invite friends over for some fun.

Bring along a Frisbee or a football and just add water!

Fondue Night

Fondue night can be a fun and inexpensive twist on the conventional dinner parties. Fondue pots can be under $15 at your local home or discount store. Mix up cheese and chocolate dishes with simple recipes that you can find online. Round up some veggies and bread for the cheese dish and fruit and desserts for the chocolate dish and you’re good to go! Or you could even have your friends bring their favorite dippers to switch things up.

Craft/Scrapbooking Night

This one’s for the girls: rally up your gal pals and invite everyone over to spend hours on your favorite crafts. Whether it’s scrapbooking or painting, have your girls bring all their supplies for a night of fun, crafts and girl talk. Offer some fun drinks and cheap snacks and you’ll have an affordable night at home without much effort!

Clothing Swap Party

Another one for the girls! Wanna go shopping, but it’s not in your budget? No problem. Host a clothing swap party. Designate a “shopping room” and have all your girlfriends bring their clothes that they’ve grown tired of, but that are still in good condition. That old saying – one person’s trash is another person’s treasure – rings true at these types of parties. More than likely, you’ll come away with some new threads while also cleaning out your closet at the same time. Can’t beat that!

Or Just Hang Out For No Reason At All…

Of course, you can always just invite some friends over just to hang out for no reason at all. You’ll be saving money and having fun all at once. In either case, staying in has definitely become more popular over the past year. If you’re bored with traditional dinner parties or poker night, get a little creative with your social planning. It’s sure to be fun no matter what.

What are some of your ideas for staying in and having fun with friends?

Published or updated on September 3, 2010

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About Amber Gilstrap

Amber is a twenty-something CPA from Kansas City, Missouri who loves writing, working out, and---of course---finding fresh ideas for saving money. Follow her on twitter @amberinks.


We invite readers to respond with questions or comments. Comments may be held for moderation and will be published according to our comment policy. Comments are the opinions of their authors; they do not represent the views or opinions of Money Under 30.

  1. Julie says:

    I bought a decent 7ft pool table off craig’s list a year ago for dirt cheap. My fiance and our other recently graduated college friends have “DIY bar nights” all the time. We can play pool and talk for hours. gives us a great excuse to not waste $$ at a bar. If you have space in your apt. or home, I highly suggest looking for a used pool table!

  2. Anisha says:

    Wii Game Night idea is awesome. I think my husband and I are going to plan one soon. It will save a lot seeing how we usually go bowling with friends and end up eating out.

    • Ryan says:

      Wii night (or day) is great with the middle school aged kids too, if you’re a little older, like me. You can reconnect with them as they whip up on you in tennis or bowling or any number of Wii activities. Not plugging Wii over any others, but they do make more of the less violent games than some of the others.

  3. Sarah Davis says:

    I like the TV show marathon idea! Especially if it’s something awesome like Dexter :)

    • Amber says:

      The TV Show Marathon is probably my favorite night-in, too! We’re loving Mad Men, Breaking Bad, and True Blood right now. Definitely beats going out and spending tons of money!

  4. Matt says:

    I definitely like doing cheaper things at home. I generally enjoy spending time at my place or someone else’s a lot more than going out to a bar or restaurant. It’s general more relaxed, quieter, less crowded and nobody is pushing you to eat or drink more or hurry up and leave. The fact that it’s cheaper is an added bonus.

  5. Neil says:

    My wife and I just recently started doing this with some friends. We started a game night, last week was “Minute To Win It” night. I would be lieing to say that I didn’t like the fact that we are saving money two nights a week. Plus, great fellowship with friends.

  6. Becky says:

    I absolutely agree with Johanna–why the need to qualify certain ideas as “for girls only”? I’ve also known several men who knit, and lots of yarn stores even have men’s groups now.

  7. Johanna says:

    Great list, but rather sexist. I’m an avid knitter, and I know plenty of men who knit. The idea that only women would be interested in craft night is insulting.

    • Ryan says:

      Seeing as how this site is geared to “under 30” individuals, I would suspect the men you know that knit for pleasure, probably don’t read this blog very often. No offense to those knitting males out there, but they are probably a very small minority of the population. No insult intended, but perhaps the author was not gearing their suggestions to them.

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