Lifestyle & Culture

Self-dates and Budget Nights Out

Can you still go out on a budget? Georgia Mueck finds out.

Being a university student often means living week to week, or even day to day for some. Text books, fees, bills, rent, food, petrol; the list goes on and the figures keep stacking up. It doesn’t matter if you’re fresh outta high school and still living at home, or if you’re a mature age student who’s juggling study and kids, sometimes sacrifices have to be made to make those dollars stretch as far as they will go. Unfortunately, the first sacrifice that is usually made is your social life. Going out for dinner, drinks, or even to the movies can seem expensive when you’re trying to be frugal. I feel like most people have, on at least one occasion, checked their bank balance the morning after a night out and let out many groans of despair at their suddenly depleted funds. Often it’s far safer to stay at home where there are less gelato shops and alcoholic beverages begging for you to purchase them. However, sometimes you just need to get out of the house for a bit of fun, so I set myself the task of going out on a budget, to see if I could have a social life that doesn’t break the bank.

I should clarify to start with that I am a huge self-date advocate. That’s where you go to the movies or to dinner, or something similar alone and just enjoy your own company. It’s not for everyone, but it does make budgeting easier because there’s no pressure to make decisions for others, or to buy something that you don’t necessarily want but the other person might. So my first two attempts at Budget Night Out went rather well, as I was happily self-dating and had no temptations to go over my limit.


I went to dinner for my very first attempt. I had $17 in notes and change in my wallet, and I decided to see if I could limit myself to that for the night. I was craving sushi, and where I would usually just hang around at my local shop and wait for the cheap happy hour, I decided to treat myself this time and go to a sushi train. Sushi train was a good choice, as waiting for what I wanted to come past on the line meant that I ate slower and thus felt fuller faster. I would also recommend getting a Miso Soup as it’s very cheap ($2.50), very delicious and very filling. Perhaps the best thing about a sushi train is that you can keep track of your spending with the various coloured plates.

I ended up spending $14 on sushi for dinner, plus the $2.50 for the soup, so $16.50 in total. Personally, I think that’s not too bad for a little splurge while saving.


I won’t lie, self-dates at the movies are one of my favourite things to do, because it’s super cheap and I get some awesome alone time without feeling bored or lazy. Newcastle is lucky in that two of it’s most popular cinemas (Reading and Hoyts) in the city charge less than $10 for an adult ticket, so even if you get drinks and snacks it usually doesn’t cost more than $20-$25 dollars. I would recommend doing the ol’ sneak-food-and-drinks-into-movies-in-your-bag trick, because honestly, $7 for a Coke is ridiculous.

I paid $9 for my movie ticket and $10 for my sneaky snacks (I couldn’t decide between Pringles and chocolate so I got both) making that expedition come under the $20 mark again. This is definitely my favourite way of treating myself when I’m trying to be frugal.


I failed. I tried to be good, I used Ubers and drank cheap predrinks, but I still went WAY over the $40 budget I set for myself for a night out drinking. To be fair, it is ridiculously expensive to drink out in pubs and bars in Australia; we are the third most expensive country in the world when it come to alcohol pricing due to the various taxes we place on alcoholic beverages (see link for more info). I mean, just consider the fact that a cider at my favourite pub costs almost as much as a movie ticket and more than a ride home in an Uber! Speaking of, I would definitely recommend Uber for those of the budgeting mind, it definitely kept my overspending less ridiculous than it could have been! The lesson here is that I have no self-control and I love cider too much, so I should probably stay home next time.

So in the end I spent $40+ on a night out drinking. I’m not going to tell you how much I actually spent because I’m in denial about it. I would say that, ultimately, going out to bars and pubs is most definitely not conducive to saving money. But hey, two out of three ain’t bad!

Image: Save Money, Flickr, no changes made

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