10 (Almost) Free Ways to Have a Social Life On a Budget

Hello Lovely,

Can you believe we're already in April? Are you sticking to your New Year's Resolutions and commitments so far? I know one of my resolutions is to have more of a social life. Now that I've finished paying for school and I now drive a car I'm not ashamed to be seen in, I feel like the world is my oyster! I started doing more things last year for my birthday, and since then I've been slowly filling up my social calendar with a variety of events; but I had to get really creative with it, because some days I just couldn't. I'm sure you've been there before: “Can’t hang this weekend, I’m broke,” is probably one of the most tragic texts that you’ve probably sent before. You stay home on a Friday night, covered in Dorito crumbs scrolling through Instagram stories with hard-core FOMO; reminiscing on the days when you could afford to do things like ‘socialising’, or ‘leaving the house’.

If you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen some photos of me sipping champagne and jet-setting. Would you believe me if I told you I almost never paid for most of those nights? You probably think having a social life can be really expensive, right? Well, it doesn't have to be. Remember when I told you how I saved for my European trip? Well now I'm back with 10 (almost) free ways to get creative with your social life so you too can be "balling on a budget".

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1. Eat Cheap at Restaurants

People were surprised when I took my BFF on a bestie date to Baha Mar for only $30 (both of us). How? When eating out, choose appetisers or desserts. Or you can even fill up on sides. They're the cheapest things on the menu that can leave you feeling just as full as a main entree.

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2. Happy Hour

I was so happy when Senor Frogs offered a Ladies Night, where ladies can drink 3 house drinks FOR FREE! If you choose to do this, try to go early as the bar fills up pretty quickly with women who all demand the bartenders attention. Find happy hours and hop between them. The good thing about happy hour is BOGO or discounted drinks and foods. Once you've had the cheaper drinks, you're fuelled for a night of partying or at least liquored up enough to feel like you did something fun, without the late night struggles. Besides, 6 PM is totally the new 11 PM.

3. Movie Night

Do you and your friends like to watch movies? Whether it's Wonder Woman, Black Panther or Star Wars, there's been a lot of blockbusters hitting the big screen recently; so of course you're going to want to watch them in a comfy environment with your favourite snacks. So what's the best way to so this? Throw a movie night at home, complete with “stadium seating” (bar chairs behind a couch behind a layer of pillow seats) and popcorn. You can serve frozen pizzas, hot dogs or your other favourite appetiser. Save money by screening movies you already own, or use an Android Box, Chromecast or Amazon Fire Stick.

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4. Get Your Kicks as a Volunteer

Instead of paying full price to attend major events and festivals, look into group volunteer activities such as Hands for Hunger or the Rotary Club. No matter how expensive the face value of the ticket, it’s very likely that the event management team is looking for volunteers to help with the day-of celebration. So if you volunteer with an organisation for an event, you're able to attend it for free and still enjoy it as if you paid for a ticket.

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5. Dinner Parties are my Best Friend

I love when my friend's have a "potluck" because it's the easiest way to get fed with minimal effort. Dinner parties are one of the best ways to see mates without spending too much money. If you encourage everyone to bring a plate or some wine, you’ll have a whole table of food without that awkward “are we splitting it or just paying for what we had?” conversation at the end.

Themed nights (Mexican night, breakfast foods, a meal starting with the first letter of your name), or as cheesy as it sounds, playing some dinner party games can be ridiculously fun. And if there's leftovers, don't be ashamed to tote (I've recently upped my toting game by bringing my own lunch container).

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6. Let's Go to The Beach!

One of the best perks of living in The Bahamas is the fact that we don't have to pay a dime to go to the beach. A lot of cities charge parking for beaches or entrance and I think that's ridiculous. So if you didn't know that, I suggest you grab a friend, a towel and a beer and head on down to the beach to catch some FREE sun, sand and waves!

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7. Wine Tasting Events

I LOVE wine tasting events. Even if I don't like the wine served, it's still FREE wine! Are you kidding me? Of course I'm going! Every month Young's Fine Wine and Mahogany House each host a wine tasting event where you can sample at least 6 different wines for FREE. And the wines offered are always discounted for that night only. Young's Fine Wine is always themed so all the wines will be from a particular region or similar in other areas; whereas Mahogany House usually has 6 white wines and 6 red wines. Follow them on Facebook to stay up to date so that you can know when the next wine tasting is.

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8. Sip and Shop

Here's the thing, most stores know that at least 90% of the people at their sip and shop event are only there to sip. Don't worry about offending them. Sip and shop's are great ways to sip expensive champagne while marvelling over who in their right mind would actually buy those expensive items.

9. Salsa and Latin Dancing

If you don't know, now you know. You can learn how to dance Salsa, Meringue and Bachata for FREE if you go to VIA Cafe on Thursdays and Melia Hotel Lobby on Saturdays. It's SOOOOO much fun! Everyone there has been dancing for quite some time but don't let that intimidate you. There's often a few choreographed group dances (similar to Zumba) that you can easily join. So put on your flats or kitten heels and get ready to sweat!

10. Start a Fitness Group

Speaking of sweating, why not get together with your girlfriends and start a fitness group. Not only is it easier to work out in front of your peers because there's less judgement, but you'll have a support system that will keep you motivated and excited about meeting your goal. In fact that's how I got closer to the ladies in my church. We didn't really know what we were doing but we had a good time laughing and helping each other. So work hard or hardly work; as long as you're together. you're bound to have some fun with it!

*This post originally appeared on Life By Olivia*

Going out with your friends to enjoy fine dining, drinking and entertainment doesn’t have to traumatise your budget. Just plan it out in advance and get creative with your choices and your wallet and reputation will both thank you! What's your favourite way to "Ball on a Budget"? Share your tips and reactions to this post in the comment section below!

How I Saved For My European Trip (and you can too!)

Hello Lovely,

Imagine your dream vacation. Maybe you see yourself trekking in Australia’s Outback, relaxing in a hammock on a beach in Bora Bora or taking a six-month cruise around the world.

But here’s the thing: Your dream vacation will remain a dream unless you begin saving for it. I recently travelled to London, Amsterdam and Switzerland this summer. The entire trip (transportation only) cost me just under $1300. And it would've cost me a lot less if I had purchased my tickets further in advance. There are a lot of ways you can save for a European getaway. Here's how I did it!

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1. I Opened a Dedicated Vacation Bank Account

One easy way to save for a special trip is to open a dedicated vacation savings account. You can set up automatic payments into the account, and, with a little restraint, leave that money there until it’s time for your trip. If you choose an interest-bearing account, your money might even grow while you’re looking forward to your trip.

I opened a Christmas Club account with Commonwealth Bank and it's one of the best decisions I ever made. I would deposit anywhere between $50-200 every month. I have been able to withdraw from this account twice since opening it (the first time was to pay for my trip to St. Croix). The beauty of a Christmas Club account is you are allowed to withdraw once per year any time of the year for free. This month also gains interest, so the more I have on it, the more interest I get.

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2. I Cut Back on My Monthly Food Budget

The biggest waste of money is eating out. By limiting fast food and restaurant expenses, in favour of cooking and eating at home, I was able to have money to put in savings. Sure I still treated myself occasionally (I didn't eliminate just cut back). This teaches important resources on how to make groceries stretch and how to enjoy leftovers. Truthfully, there were many days that I ate ramen noodles, so once I was on vacation, I ate well!

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3. Cutting Back on Entertainment

I already had to limit my outings because I was paying for school out of pocket, but I had to be extra wise because of my savings. I'm not saying I didn't go out at all. I'm sure if you follow me on Instagram, you could see I still found time (although very little) to socialise. I became the master of finding free entertainment. I paid attention to Facebook events. I found free wine tastings, started having dinner parties with friends at home and went to almost every free event I could find. Check Facebook events and other social media outlets for local events that are cheap or free if you're looking for a good time on a budget.

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4. Plan ahead and pre-pay as much as possible

Stretch your vacation savings a little further by finding deep discounts on trips using websites such as LivingSocial and Groupon. I used Expedia to book all of my tours and realised that I saved a lot of money when I looked at individual entrance fees to the tourist sites and how much landed I would never have been able to cover on my own.

5. Pay attention to the time of year you book

Had I booked my trip earlier, I could have saved about $200! My round trip ticket to London, connecting through Toronto cost just north of $1,100. Had I purchased my ticket in March instead of May I would have only paid about $980 round trip. Obviously the closer to your trip, the more you'll pay. And the more you monitor prices, the more the price will actually increase. Try to book on particular days during low demand hours. Naturally some places will cost more to travel to depending on the time of year. Certain festivals or national holidays can make your ticket much more expensive so pay attention to these little details when booking.

Saving up for a big trip isn’t easy, but these strategies should help you save a little bit faster and have your trip already paid for before you leave home.

Your Turn: How do you pay for your vacations?

DIY Brown Paper Bag Gift Wrap

This holiday season, it's easy to get discouraged by overpriced presents, and sometimes, after buying those overpriced presents, the department store you bought it from, charges extra for gift wrapping. And I'm sure you'd do it yourself, if you were any good at it.

Well put down the generic wrapping paper, and gift boxes. As I wrap my godchild's Christmas present, I'm going to show you in four easy steps, how to make super cool and attractive wrapping paper out of a brown paper bag. It may seem boring to the untrained eye, but brown paper bags make a cheap alternative to traditional wrapping paper that allows you to add character and pizzazz to your gift wrapping this holiday season. The best part? It's completely recycled and will save you money!

Step One:

Insert present into brown paper bag

Insert present into brown paper bag

Step Two:

Fold edges inwards. 

Fold edges inwards. 

Step Three:

Hold edges together with glue dots. I orginally tried to use tape, but it didn't hold. Glue dots are cleaner and easier to use because your hands won't get sticky and it doesn't leave any residue.

Hold edges together with glue dots. I orginally tried to use tape, but it didn't hold. Glue dots are cleaner and easier to use because your hands won't get sticky and it doesn't leave any residue.

tep Four:

f using ribbon to decorate your present, measure your ribbon so that it fits nice and tight around the present before cutting. Use the glue dots to hold it in place along the length of the gift. When you get to the edge, whether your edge is on the long or the short, fold the edges of your ribbon inward and hold it together with your glue dots. (Since I was using medium sized glue dots, to save glue dots, I ripped them apart to make smaller dots)

f using ribbon to decorate your present, measure your ribbon so that it fits nice and tight around the present before cutting. Use the glue dots to hold it in place along the length of the gift. When you get to the edge, whether your edge is on the long or the short, fold the edges of your ribbon inward and hold it together with your glue dots. (Since I was using medium sized glue dots, to save glue dots, I ripped them apart to make smaller dots)

And you're done! It really is that simple! You can get fanicer and use any kind of ribbon you want, you can write or draw on your brown paper as well. Get creative! And are you stumped for a gift tag? Tomorrow, I will show you how to make a super cute gift tag out of buttons and scrapbooking paper!


Until then,

XoX

Olivia