In the Red: For a thriving social life on the cheap, there's no place like home
Saturday 23 August 2008
Looking over my bank statements, I couldn't quite figure out what had happened. Where had my money gone? I'd been so well behaved, what with limiting my cash withdrawals, taking my own lunch in to work and buying things second-hand. But still I was broke. Again.
It wasn't as though I'd spent all my salary in one go – it had just sort of, well, trickled away. And not on café lunches or expensive birthday presents. No, the problem was my social life.
Funny, really, because it isn't even all that active. Sure, I've got friends – but I also have a job, a family and particular talent for lying on my sofa. I'll go out twice – occasionally three times – a week, hardly enough to warrant a cash crisis.
The thing is, there are very few ways to avoid spending when going out. A night at the pub means, at very least, covering the cost of my own drink and, all too often, the cost of others'. The cinema isn't any better with its £7 tickets and extravagantly priced snacks – and neither are most night clubs with their £10 cover charges. The worst, of course, is going out for dinner. A main course usually reaches at least £10, and then there's a tip to be paid – not to mention all those tempting appetisers, desserts and bottles of wine.
Clearly, I'll have to tone things down. But there's no way I'm prepared to chuck out my social life wholesale. What would I do then? Get up, work, go to bed... and never have any fun (not that the office isn't a thrilling place of permanent joy)?
The answer, I suppose, is to socialise at home. It doesn't take a genius to work out that staying in with friends is cheaper than going out with them.
Dinner parties, for instance, aren't the most economical option – when shopping for six friends, it's easy to forget that they've done the same to you – but so long as the entertaining is reciprocal then in the long term it'll work out cheaper than heading to a restaurant. It would be easy to become that one person who never invites anyone back. But then that would be mean – not to mention boring. And I for one don't have any friends who would tolerate it for long.
Cheaper still are drinks parties – if only because people tend to bring their own bottle, meaning that by the end of the evening you're left with almost as many drinks as you started out with. And they can be so fun – dressed up as cocktail parties, or down as a few beers in front of the TV.
In fact, there are plenty of activities which share the financial burden among the group. I'd always hated the idea of a pot-luck supper, with each guest bringing a different dish for everyone to share – it conjured up rather dubious images of 1970s fondue sets and bowls of carrot and raisin salad. But then I went to a friend's and it was brilliant: a bit like having dim sum except, instead of the char siu buns, there were three different types of chocolate cake and several plates of samosas. Afternoon teas, picnics or breakfasts share much the same concept. With each person bringing a small contribution, there's always more than enough food at minimal individual cost.
Apart from the money saved, staying in has a whole host of advantages. Smokers can smoke if they want, so the party stays where it's meant to be, instead of dividing and recongregating in a drafty doorway. There's usually a choice of music, something anyone who has been forced to tolerate the local bartender-cum-DJ would be glad of.
And, of course, it's invitation only. Everyone there knows one another – or at least knows someone in common – so there's much less jostling for a spot at the bar, ignoring the loud table in the corner or tolerating the lecherous stranger, and much more actual socialising. Real, enjoyable, genuine socialising.
Interest-only mortgages return to give more flexibility to borrowers
Dirty tricks in a divorce can cause some nasty surprises
Five Questions On: GB Energy's new tariff
Bargain Hunter: Take your children on Eurostar on a £1 ticket
Simon Read: You're guilty until proven innocent when HMRC sends in the tax credit detectives
- 1 Michael Douglas regrets 'embarrassing' Catherine Zeta-Jones with oral sex comments
- 2 Tunisia hotel attack: Locals form 'human shield' to protect hotel from gunman Seifeddine Rezgui
- 3 Tunisian builder has been hailed a hero after knocking gunman to the ground with roof tiles
- 4 German ethics council calls for incest between siblings to be legalised by Government
- 5 E.L James's #AskELJames Twitter Q&A didn't go exactly as planned
The moment a Queen's Guard soldier lost it and drew his gun at annoying tourist
Greece crisis: The wider lesson is that it’s time to abandon this failed experiment in currencies
'I wish the BBC would stop calling it Islamic State' – David Cameron unleashes frustration at broadcaster
Extend Right To Buy to tenants of private landlords, Labour's Jeremy Corbyn says
David Cameron struck double blow in his hopes to win Britain a new EU deal
Pentagon accuses Russia of 'playing with fire' over nuclear threats towards Nato
iJobs Money & Business
£22500 - £27000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: Since our inception in 1986, STh...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This extremely successful and well-established...
Competitive with monthly bonus: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced FX...
Competitive (Freelance) : Guru Careers: An Investment Writer / Stock Picker is...
Day In a Page
Previously two semi-detached properties, this five-bedroom home is spread over three floors with a large breakfast kitchen, orangery, office and gym on the second floor.
This five-bedroom home enjoys countryside views over the Blyth estuary to Southwold, offering flexible living space with a ground-floor annexe - ideal for use as a holiday let.
Just outside of Cambridge, this single-storey home offers three double bedrooms, a living room with vaulted timber ceiling and ladder steps that lead to a mezzanine study area.
This six-bedroom Georgian home is on three floors with open fireplaces, a two oven Aga, an annexe, and cottage gardens with outbuildings and a car barn.
A former coach house, Glebe Farm Stable is now a three-bedroom cottage with a double car barn, an attached office, kennels and an outbuilding that's currently used as a gym.
Located beside an impressive Victorian viaduct, this four-bedroom home has an open-plan living area that is glazed on two sides, with skylights and high ceilings.
A former furniture workshop, this three-bedroom home has high ceilings and painted brick walls, in a village setting only fifteen miles from the coast.
This five-bedroom stone townhouse features a pine staircase and an Inglenuk fireplace, double doors from the lounge give access to an enclosed courtyard.
This five-bedroom, detached home blends traditional and modern design; the sleek kitchen features a gas hob and oven set within an exposed chimney breast.
Moored in Chelsea's Cheyne Walk, this houseboat offers two double bedrooms and a teak deck that's ideal for al-fresco dining.
Surrounded by woodland, this five-bedroom manor house has plenty of outdoor storage space in the form of three converted loose boxes, two smaller outhouses and a woodstore.
This six-bedroom home is set amongst three acres of grounds. Currently a large family home, Clift Hill has potential to make a B&B or countryside retreat, subject to change of use permissions.
This Grade II-listed three-bedroom home is situated on a private road, just a short walk from the sandy beaches of Frinton-on-Sea.
Less than five miles from Malmesbury, this four-bedroom cottage comes with equestrian facilities and gardens that extend to approximately three acres.
Spanning three storeys, this late-Victorian five-bedroom farmhouse is a spacious family home with a modern interior and B&B potential.
With an original church arch, this triplex one-bedroom church conversion has a light, spacious, feel and comes with a secure off-street parking space.
This recently-refurbished three-bedroom home has bi-folding doors that lead out to a decked seating area - ideal for alfresco dining this summer.
Well-located for coastal walks and popular restaurants, this detached four-bedroom home offers views over farmland, to the Solent, the Purbecks and Bournemouth.
If you love high ceilings, school conversions like this one are bang on the money. This two-bedroom flat is minutes from Burgess Park and the foodie haven at Borough Market.
Set within a church conversion in Bermondsey, this two-bedroom maisonette combines existing features, such as original arches and brickwork, with a contemporary finish.
In the pretty market town of Bungay, this grade II-listed Mill House is arranged over four floors, offering four bedrooms and three reception areas.
This four-bedroom Edwardian home offers a combination of original features and contemporary design after a renovation by the current owners.
This four-bedroom home offers a vaulted ceiling in a breakfast room that's ideal for summer entertaining with doors that open to the patio and garden.
On the market for the first time in more than 50 years, this six-bedroom home is a project with vast potential - spread over three floors of living space.
This five-bedroom home comes with a range of outbuildings including a large barn which could be converted into a self-contained granny-flat or rental.
Surrounded by rolling countryside, this four-bedroom barn conversion comes with a self-contained, one-bedroom annexe that could serve as an office or a holiday let.
Located near Harrogate town centre, this five-bedroom Victorian terrace is arranged over three storeys while a current study serves as an optional sixth bedroom.
A ground-floor flat in a country house, located a mile from Sway; this two-bedroom home would make an ideal weekend retreat on the edge of the New Forest.
On a popular residential lane in Caterham on the Hill, this four-bedroom family home offers a secluded garden and a convenient location for local schools and public transport.
Just a short walk from Westerham green, this three-bedroom cottage has a light kitchen with exposed brickwork and double doors that lead to a south-facing garden.
In a prime spot opposite the River Thames, this one-bedroom flat has an 18sq ft reception room with glass doors that open out to a private terrace.
Set in the hills above Llanwrda Village, west Wales, this 18th-century three-bedroom farmhouse has holiday-let potential from a separate barn conversion and annexe.
This charming end-of-terrace townhouse is arranged over three floors, with two double bedrooms and a private courtyard garden located at the rear of the property.
Located in the University area, this semi-detached five-bedroom home is arranged over three floors - there's even a rear garden and off-road parking too.
Only a few minutes' drive from the charming town of Marlow, this two-bedroom home sits on the private riverside estate of Harleyford.
This detached four-bedroom home in Middleyard is arranged over two floors, with features that include a wood-burning stove and bespoke oak staircase.
In a row of eight detached Georgian residences, this five-bedroom home offers views of The Sound, Mount Edgcumbe and Cornwall from its impressive veranda and full-length balcony.
If you love cooking for friends this two-bedroom flat - complete with views of the iconic Battersea Power Station and an open-plan kitchen/dining area - will go down a treat.
Located above Grasmere village, this five-bedroom home is arranged over three floors and offers countryside views across Grasmere Lake towards Silver Howe.
This four-bedroom detached home comes with a double carport, useful workshop, garden and two walkways that offer views of the adjacent countryside.
With space for an equestrian business, a greenhouse for growing your own veg, a wine store and a gym; this five-bedroom home has all the ingredients for a country retreat.
The decked roof terrace of this two-bedroom flat is perfect for summer drinks while large windows and ample storage space make for a light and spacious interior.
Set sail for this four-bedroom farmhouse in Cowes. With five acres of land and an indoor pool, this home oozes character. There is even potential to let a one-bedroom annexe.
Surrounded by approximately 15 acres of grounds, this six-bedroom grade II-listed home has been extensively refurbished yet retains many period features.
This four-bedroom home comes with a two-bedroom cottage and commercial office, with planning to extend, in a stunning courtyard setting.
In a pretty Norfolk village, this four-bedroom family home is surrounded by landscaped gardens, with even a self-contained annex for guests.
A few miles from the seaside at Perranporth, this four-bedroom farmhouse sits amongst nine acres of idyllic grounds - including a lake and two barns used as holiday lets.
This five-bedroom home is arranged over three floors of a converted Victorian hospital, offering spectacular views of the Pentland Hills - only three miles from the city centre.
This four-bedroom detached home comes with grounds that span to approximately 2.5 acres, as well as two large patio areas and a double garage.
This four-bedroom cottage is a Grade II-listed town house, well-located for the thriving market town of Nailsworth.