budget living

Budget Cuts: Going Out For Drinks Just Got the Boot

This is the first post in which I’ll refer to my fiancé by his new name – G.  He was formerly known as Lloyd but now that I’m a “public” blogger, I feel pretty silly calling him a weird name like Lloyd.  So, now he’s G.

I attended a 30th birthday bash at a trendy bar on Saturday night for one of G’s good friends.  When the night came to a close (around 11:30, which is way past my bedtime) a shocking $50 tab appeared before us.  When did going out for drinks get so expensive? 106-art-nathan-cocktail_300

Here’s how the tab shook out for G and me:

  • 2 Cherry Limeades for me (the spiked version).  Nine bucks a pop!  They were delicious though.
  • 3 beers for G.  I’m not 100% sure on the price.
  • 1 beer for the birthday boy .

Going Out Budget Fail #1: Girly Limeade Drinks

If I’d known they were so expensive, I would’ve gotten just one and drank water the rest of the night.   I should’ve known, too: Cute specialty drinks are always way over-priced.  And even though they were so delicious, I swear the components were just sprite, flavored vodka, cherry flavoring, and maybe some club soda?  Their profit margin had to have been like 90%.

Going Out Budget Fail #2: Too Many Drinks

This is hard to avoid when you’re out for an extended time like we were (about 4.5 hours), but if you want to avoid a $50 tab, you gotta switch to water, soda, drinks on special, or really crappy beer (which is usually conveniently absent from the menu).

Going Out Budget Fail #3: Micro Brews/ High Quality Beer

The beers that G ordered were those fancy beers like Hoegaarden or Stella Artois.  While these beers are tasty and superior to light beers, they’re also $2 or $3 more expensive.  Since these brews come with such a ridiculous mark-up, we usually try to buy them in 6-pack form at the liquor store.

Going Out Budget Fail #4: Tipping

I don’t know what the going tip rate for a cocktail waitress is (considering all they do is walk to and from the bar that is 5 feet away from our table), but we usually aim for that 20% range (which is low for G – he has ridiculous tipping habits).  Of course, tipping is a direct result of how much you wasted on liquid entertainment, so if we’d just lightened our load on the drinks, we could have tipped much less.

Going Out Budget Fail #5: Trendy Bars

Ugh.  How is one supposed to remain cool and hip when trendy bars and restaurants are so expensive?  I really love this particular bar, too.  Luckily, it’s a good 30 minute drive from my apartment, so I don’t make it there often.  I’ve even been to their happy hour and it’s expensive!  Note to trendy bar: Five dollars for a drink does not a good happy hour make!  I prefer those $1.50-$2.00 happy hour prices.  Long story short: being trendy isn’t frugal – whether you’re talking fashion or bar-hopping.

I’m guess I shouldn’t get too worked up over it.  G and I have converted to a much more calm and conservative lifestyle over the past several years.  We’re in bed way too early most weekends and consider dinner and a movie the perfect Friday night out.  Still, $50 for liquid entertainment over the course of 4.5 hours is expensive.  After that tab, I couldn’t be more happy that we hardly ever go out anymore, but next time we do, we’re gonna think twice before we place our order.

Do you go out a lot?  Do you find it expensive?  What are your tips and tricks for staying on budget when you’re out on the town?

source: Real Simple


  • Yeah, we’re not big drinkers which I’m grateful for. Nor do we tend to go to bars much. Mixers run around 10, cocktails 15-20. Beers I don’t think you can find for under 8 now a days in town unless you find somewhere icky with $5 jugs!

  • I went out for a friend’s birthday party a few weeks ago. My situation was exactly like yours…4-5 hours at the piano bar with a big, fun group of people. My tab for myself at the end of the night? $41! For 2 drinks, 1 shot and a small appetizer. Ouch! But you know what? I had a BLAST, made new friends and kept old friendships going. My friends are completely worth the occasional $$ night out! 🙂 Suze Orman says it best: People first! (Also, I love specialty cocktails!)

  • I pretty much refuse to do the trendy going out to bars/clubs downtown thing because of the prices. No way no how will I spend even $7 on a drink. If it’s dinner or special occasion I’ll go along with the program and usually just get one. My normal spot is this awesome middle of the road/dive bar where you don’t have to pay for parking, happy hour wine is $2.50 and they even have free veggies and cheese. I go there and walk out spending $5-$10 plus tips and had a fun night out too!!

  • BF and I just had a similar night to yours – we went out to see an NHL game with my cousin and her BF. Not even including the tickets to the game ($52 each for an exhibition game!!!), we spent $60 for pre-game beers & dinner, plus another $20 for snacks during the game. Not cool at all. Good thing we only go to 1 or 2 games a year!!!

  • I’m a huge townie: I always go to the dive bars, get my stoli & sprite/gin & tonic and happily pay theh v $20 bill. Me and my boyfriend are really bad about going out to dinner though. We do it one to two times per weekend and our bill sometimes tops $75 including tip! I should start cutting back on my girly drinks….le sigh.

  • Going out anywhere is expenisve and I find Las Vegas to be expensive as well. I usually drink at a Fat Tuesdays before I go into a club or piano bar so I’m already tipsy yet not tempted to spend more money on booze ( Fat Tuesday drinks are pretty reasonable.)

    • So true! I just came back from Vegas and was none too sad to leave behind those $13 cocktails. The first time I got the bill I was in shock, and then I decided that rather than toss $100 into the slot machines I would just throw away my money in this more tangible way.

  • I definately know how this can get expensive fast. Usually for me, its dinner out, then on to a bar or something where you just pay more for drinks. Luckily, no one in my state would pay $9 for a drink, so the most expensive ones we get are about $7 or so.
    I dont go out near as much as I used to, but when I do, I try not to spend too much. Usually this means going to a cheap bar (you can still get beers for a dollar here) and not to over do it (most important).

  • Wow.. that’s cheap compared to where I live! you’d be lucky to get away with a cocktail here in London for £9, let alone 9 dollars! If I’m feeling broke I usually drink wine, as splitting a bottle with a friend works out about £15 each, which is cheaper than the amount of shorts or cocktails you’d drink in the same time period.

  • As much fun as it is to enjoy actual alcohol, I’ve found that if you’re just going out for drinks, you can pretend! I love vodka tonics, but I’m uber cheap these days, I just get order tonic with lime. Most of the time it’s free, and I still get to enjoy the fizzy deliciousness, but no alcohol!

  • I’ve found that I go out a lot more now that I’m single. I’m inclined to be a homebody, but well, I don’t meet people when I sit on my couch. (That’s what I have to tell myself…) I definitely think it’s expensive- normally, we’ll go out to dinner beforehand and then spend another 4 hours or so drinking and dancing. In Atlanta, specialty cocktails/wine are $8-$12 each- expensive for my wallet and waistline! I stay on budget by avoiding cover charges, not buying rounds for everyone for no reason, and splitting the cost of a cab.

  • I don’t really like going out to bars. I love spending time with my friends, but I’m not a big drinker. So I usually end up just getting one beer and slowly drinking it throughout the time we spend at a bar.

    Fun fact: the blue laws here in Boston prevent bars from having “Happy Hours”. Instead, the drinks remain the full price, but you can get cheap or half priced appetizers or meals.

  • Their profit margin had to have been like 90%.
    – It is a hell of a lot higher than 90%. Club soda is NOTHING and the vodka they bought was at wholesale. The whole bottle probably cost les than the $9 bucks.

    $50 bucks for 4.5 hours of entertainment with good friends isn’t that bad…but I am a boozer lol

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