When the talk turns to weekend plans, usually ideas that involve spending come to mind. Dinner out. A movie. A night out at the clubs. A sports event. These things are fun and fine to do in moderation. However, they can get expensive if you do them every weekend or if you are on a limited budget. Enter the frugal Saturday night with friends. This is something that is fun to do, very easy to put together, and something I’ve been doing with my friends for years.
First, choose the location and the theme. When the weather is cold and wet, we usually choose someone’s house. If it’s nicer out, we may go to a park or to the nearby lake. All of these locations are free and, unlike clubs, have no cover charge. Sometimes we theme the night, as well, just to add some variety. We’ve done Monte Carlo night, Oscar night, sports night, Jimmy Buffet night (great for the summer), a variety of ethnic nights and more. If you choose a theme then the food and entertainment should reflect that theme. To add to the fun, everyone can dress up to reflect the theme, as well.
Second, arrange the food and drinks. Instead of going out to eat, have everyone sign up in advance to bring a dish or drink. Having a sign up is necessary so that you don’t end up with ten drinks and no food. If you’ve decided to theme the night, have people bring food that reflects the theme. For example, on Oscar night we had people bring in slightly more elegant foods and champagne. For Jimmy Buffet night, there was lots of fruit and things like coconut shrimp. For easier clean up, you can also assign someone to bring paper plates, cups and disposable cutlery. That way no one is stuck doing the dishes. You can go with all finger foods, or main courses, or mix it up and have some of each. If you want alcohol, try to spread that expense amongst several people. What people bring doesn’t have to be homemade, either. It’s fine if someone wants to stop at BJ’s and buy a sheet cake or get a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store. The point is that no one person is responsible for the entire food and drink bill and that what is bought will be significantly less expensive than a $25 bill at Applebees.
Third, choose the entertainment. If you’ve chosen a theme, the entertainment is a little easier to coordinate. For Monte Carlo night you might play cards. For Oscar night you’d probably watch Oscar winning movies, or the Oscar broadcast itself. For an ethnic night you might want to find a game or movie that’s representative of the culture.
If you’re just hosting a regular get together, decide in advance what you want to be the main entertainment. If you want to play board games, have everyone bring in a favorite and choose among them. If it’s movie night, do the same with DVD’s. You can even have video game night. If the host doesn’t have a console, have someone who does bring it over along with a selection of games.
In the summer, maybe a member of your group has a pool, access to a lake, or someone probably has a volleyball net or some other lawn games. We have a member who has an inflatable outdoor projector, allowing us to watch movies under the stars in nice weather. Choosing the entertainment in advance avoids confusion and the, “What are we going to do now?” problems that plague many parties.
A big plus of hosting this kind of Saturday night is that you don’t have to find childcare, unless you want to. Children can be welcome at these events and either put to sleep while the grown-ups play, or included in the gathering. Just be sure to agree in advance whether children will be allowed or not to prevent confusion and hurt feelings.
A frugal Saturday night doesn’t have to be boring. You can arrange a fun party that includes food, drinks and entertainment for a very low cost to each individual. You are limited only by your creativity and your group’s willingness to approach having fun differently. If you have a group of five to ten people, that provides a lot of entertainment choices. When you get to share everyone’s DVD’s, games, and video games, it opens up a lot of possibilities for doing things that most people in the group haven’t tried. Lots of people bringing food makes for a variety you can’t get at a restaurant and may open you to some new recipes.
Personally, I don’t know of any commercial entertainment that can compare to watching a great comedy under the stars on my friend’s outdoor projector, with a cold drink in one hand, a bowl of tasty appetizers in front of me, and my best friends around me to laugh with. If you think your friends wouldn’t be interested in such “lame” entertainment, ask them. You might be surprised to learn that they don’t want to spend a fortune on Saturday night, either.