8 Alternative Ways to be Social (Instead of Going Out for Dinner/Drinks)


I think a majority of the New Year’s Resolutions and overall year-long goals tend to revolve around wanting better health and finances. Two of the biggest ways to sabotage progress on both of these goals: Meeting friends for drinks and socializing with restaurant dinners… on a weekly basis.

Let me preface this entire post by stating that I am not saying, “Never go out for dinner and drinks!”  I enjoy a nice meal out and a cocktail as much as the next person, but I save it for special occasions every other month or so… not every Friday and Saturday night.

Here’s why making those social plans that often can be detrimental to your goals:

{Exhibits A-D}



Most meals in restaurants tend to cost you way more money than if you were to make them yourself. (And if they happen to be cheaper than making them yourself, chances are… you’re not buying real food.)

>>> Look at your bank statement for last month and total up all the money you spent at restaurants and bars. For most people, it’s a couple hundred dollars, at least.



It’s ridiculous to pay $9 for a beer when you can buy an entire 6-pack at the grocery for the same price. The same goes for cocktails…

>>> I love to have a couple drinks, but spending $25 – $30 (2 cocktails plus tip, depending on the city) on alcohol that I’m going to piss out a couple hours later is something I’m only willing to do every now and then, for a special occasion.



Most people sit all day at work already. Sitting down for a couple more hours to socialize makes it worse for your body.

>>> There are so many other ways you can hang with your friends that don’t involve sitting.



Most meals in restaurants contain hundreds (and sometimes thousands) of calories that you wouldn’t normally consume in one sitting. One colleague of mine recently joined his family for a meal at The Cheesecake Factory. Afterwards he looked up the calorie content. His appetizer, entree, and dessert totaled 4,000 calories! That’s a little less than double the amount of food he consumes in an entire DAY… in one meal.

>>> You’re not likely to die if you’re eating like that sporadically, but if this is your normal weekend activity… your body is going to feel it.


Now don’t get me wrong. This post is NOT me telling you to never eat food or drink alcohol with your friends. You HAVE to eat (duh) and drinking alcohol is certainly one of my jams,

it’s just that there are ways to socialize that aren’t as detrimental to your waistline… or your wallet. 


Instead of you and your buds spending your hard-earned money on restaurant and bar tabs, spend it on some new activity, class, or gear for a new hobby. Here are some free and low-cost suggestions on ish you can do with your pals that still gives you the social time you want AND helps with your health/financial goals:

{No cost}


1. Walking/Running/Hiking Outside. 

Walking every day is one of the simplest and free-est things you can do for your body, and a great way to catch up with your buds. I literally spent no money last weekend because I went on a 2 hour {flat} hike with one girlfriend on Saturday morning and walked a paved 5 mile loop around a lake with another girlfriend on Sunday. I was getting over being sick and couldn’t do anything too intense, so walking was perfect for me. We didn’t spend money, we got caught up, and we burned a few calories while spending time in the fresh air. See if you have a friend that works or lives near you and try to make a walking (or running) date in the neighborhood or park. Would it work weekly or monthly as a standing date for catching up?

2. Making meals. 

This one is especially great for single people, those who are broke, or those who hate to cook. Most people go out to eat because they don’t want to cook a big meal just for themselves. If you invite a friend over though, you can split the cost of the ingredients and make a meal. You can both have a great dinner together and then split the leftovers to eat the next day. You can even spend a whole Sunday making several meals that you can package and take home to freeze for the rest of the week. Cooking is way more fun when you have somebody with you. Plus, trying out new recipes is way less daunting when you have help (and moral support << raise your hand if cooking something new for the first time stresses you out).

3. Volunteering together. 

Have you been meaning to do some sort of community service? Maybe pick a Saturday next month where you and your buddy can go serve meals at a shelter, pick up trash at a local park, or drive around picking up clothes and items for a charity donation. Habitat for Humanity is also a good one. You’ll be saving money, moving your body, and helping out your community: Triple whammy.


{$- Low Cost}


4. Exercise Together. 

If you’ve both got gym memberships, go take a fitness class together. If you don’t have a gym membership, pick a new studio (Yoga! Cycling! Bootcamp!) and go do a drop-in class. Most studios charge anywhere from $15 – $25 for a class, depending on where you live. You can spend just a little bit and get fit at the same time. And instead of hitting up Starbucks afterwards, go for a walk.

**Keep in mind that fitness class etiquette doesn’t involve carrying on long conversations in class, so do your workout together but save the chatter fest for the walk you’ll go on right after!  ; )

5. Try Something New Together. 

Try out an indoor rock climbing gym. Drop in rate + shoe rental will probably be around $20. Ask a staff member to show you the bouldering wall. You can stay low to the ground and just work on traversing side to side, or only going up 10ft. For another full body fun sesh, circus-style gyms are popping up all over the place. If you’ve ever wanted to swing on a trapeze or twirl around on silks, they always have beginner classes. Similarly, social dance classes like ballroom or swing dancing lessons can be a blast! Even if your buddy isn’t in to going with you, this is a great opportunity to go alone. You can make new friends and burn some serious calories.

6. Join A League

Get back to your kid roots and go play with your friends! Most likely you were involved in some sort of sport when you were a kid. Even if you weren’t, there are adult leagues popping up for all kinds of sports/activities. Paying $50 – $70 to join a six week kickball or sand volleyball league with your friends is a small price to pay for having fun every Thursday night. You’ll get to socialize, you’ll get to be active, and you can bring your own beer to drink (for a fraction of the cost of going to a bar).

7. Learn A New Skill

Take a series of self-defense classes or sign up for a weekend clinic of some sort. REI offers lots of group trips and skills workshops. Find a local bike store and see if they do bike maintenance or skills workshops. Whatever it is, get a buddy that’s also a newbie and you can learn together.



{$$$ – Higher Cost}

8. Purchase Gear for A Free Hobby

I’ll admit that buying new gear (for things like rock climbing, surfing, camping, biking, or backcountry/cross-country skiing)  might seem expensive and counter intuitive for saving money, but once you have your gear, the activity itself is free! I got into climbing in college. Since I was really broke back then, I literally had to buy one piece of gear every couple months when I could afford it. It was the same story for buying all my camping gear. Years later, I saved up for my mountain bike, but now I have everything I need to go outside and climb or bike whenever I feel like it… for free. Bringing my friends along just makes it that much better.


Moral of the story: Try to implement a little change in your social habits.

As with most goals, working towards something different (better fitness, bigger bank account) almost always begins with a litte behavior change. The next time your and your buds make plans to hang out, suggest something different than going to a restaurant or bar. Try one of the things on this list. Hell, try ’em all if you want to get wild. Just be open to something new!


Do you have other free or low cost alternatives? I’d love to hear them!

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  1. This is a great list for not only your friends but for your partner as well! Thanks for sharing, Ami!

  2. Running outside with partner is great idea for losing stress and getting positive emotions, best fitness relaxation!
    Thanks for sharing Ami!

  3. 2. Making meals – one of the best tips for me)) I am unsocial person, however I suppose that cooking can help me))

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