12 Ways To Save Money When Going To A Bar

bar drinks

Going out on a regular basis with friends to the local bar can get expensive quite fast (see the beer calculator to just see how much). While there are some expenses that can’t be avoided when hitting the bar, there are quite a few things that you can do which will reduce the overall cost of the night out at a bar. Here are a few ideas that can help keep your bar visit costs to a minimum while still having a great time:

Designated Driver

When people think about ways to save money when going to a bar, they mainly focus on the money that will be spent at the bar. This is a huge mistake. The first thought should be about transportation to and from the bar. If you go with a group of friends and everyone drinks enough that it is not safe for anyone to drive, that can mean an expensive taxi ride home. If someone drives when they shouldn’t, that can result in expensive traffic violations, or even worse, someone’s death. Figuring out the best transportation option (whether that is to go on foot, designate a driver, have someone come to pick you up or take public transportation) to and from the bar before you even get there can save a ton of money on your night out.

Drink Before

Anyone who frequently visits bars knows that a night out can get pretty expensive. If you’re on a budget, one of the best ways to save money at a bar is to pregame before you go to the bar. Drink the beers or liquor you have at home. You already bought it, and it’ll be cheaper than anything you buy at the bar. Pregaming before a night out will save you a lot of money.

Avoid Bars With Covers

There are a couple of types of bars: bars with covers, bars that have covers after a certain time, and bars with no covers. “Cheap” covers can range from $5 to $25 – and of course, there are bars that will charge upwards of $50. Many of the bars with covers do so to make extra money, but sometimes the bar isn’t worth it. If you’re looking to save money, try to avoid a bar with a cover. Why should you have to pay additional money just to go inside to drink?

Buy a Pitcher, Not Shots

So, you get to the bar and everyone is wondering what to get. Someone suggests doing rounds – and, as usual, someone suggests rounds of shots. Shots can be pretty expensive. If you have ten friends and shots are $5 apiece, that’s $50. Buy a pitcher or two instead. Pitchers are notoriously cheap. If one pitcher is $5 and you buy two for everyone, you’re saving a lot of money. Let someone else buy the shots.

Buy Beer on Tap

If you’re drinking beer, it’s almost always cheaper to buy the beer that’s on tap than bottles. Bars usually add an extra dollar or two onto the price of bottled beer. And guess what you’re paying for? That’s right, the glass bottle. Tap beer is the cheaper alternative and if you’re in a decent bar, they’ll have good options to choose from.

Order the House Alcohol

If you’re worried about money and don’t have a strong preference for brand names or specific tastes, order the house alcohol for your mixed drinks. Some bars will charge more money for specific alcohols. For instance, a Jack and Coke might cost $7 whereas a whiskey and Coke might cost $6. Just make sure that when you order the house alcohol, the bartender isn’t sneaking brand name liquor into the drink and charging you more.

Eat Before You Go

Many people suffer from the drunk munchies, which is why many bars serve food until last call. It’s obviously cheaper to eat at home instead of at the bar. If you know you’re going to be hungry, have a decent sized meal before you head out to the bar. If you’re full, you’re less likely to order food.

Split the Food Order

If you absolutely must order food, split the order with a bunch of people. If food’s on the table, people are bound to eat it, even if they claim they’re not hungry. Order a couple of appetizers – some French fries or nachos – and have everyone chip in a couple of dollars. You won’t be paying for it all by yourself and you’ll still get to indulge in your cravings.

Set a Budget

Setting a budget for a night at the bar is a great way to save money. First, take all your debit or credit cards out of your wallet or purse. Second, bring along a set amount of cash. If you only want to spend $40 or $50 and that’s all you have in cash, that’s all you’re going to be able to spend. It’s easy to hand over a card and open a tab, but you don’t want to wake up the next morning with a ridiculously large bill.

Know Your Drinks

If you enjoy the taste of good beer or good liquor, you should obviously indulge when you’re at the bar because life is far too short to drink cheap beer. Why wouldn’t you want to drink something you enjoy? There’s no harm in starting off with a higher priced alcohol. But as you get further into the night, switch to something cheaper. At a certain point, you won’t be able to taste the difference between alcohols – and at that point, why pay more for something you’re not going to enjoy?

Happy Hour Specials

Some states have Happy Hour – and some unfortunately don’t – so if you live in one that does, take the bar up on those offers! Whether it’s a “50% off” or “buy one, get one free” offer, you should definitely consider taking advantage. However, you should also be aware of what you’re ordering. A Happy Hour special of $2 pitchers is completely different from a Happy Hour special of 50% off an expensive liquor drink. If the special ends up being more expensive than what you would normally order, don’t get it.

Don’t Go

It’s important to understand why you are going to the bar. If the main reason is to hang out with friends, can the same thing be accomplished without actually going to the bar? If it is just a quick stop before heading off to some other form of entertainment, is there an equally good place to meet that won’t be quite as expensive? There are certainly many reasons that a bar is the only logical choice to meet, but there also may be good reasons to choose an alternative venue. By knowing exactly what the main objectives are for the evening, you may be able to skip the bar all together.

(Photo courtesy of Revolweb)

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8 Responses to 12 Ways To Save Money When Going To A Bar

  1. michael says:

    I think the first point is very important and one that people often forget. Having a safe way to get home in advance can save you a ton of money. I don’t know how many times I have ended up taking a taxi home because I didn’t think I was going to drink as much as I ended up drinking.

    I have never received a DUI, but my friend has and it ended up costing him thousands of dollars. Taking time to get transportation set before you go just makes a lot of sense.

  2. ms06880 says:

    How about volunteering to be the designated driver? If you’re in it for the socializing aspect rather than getting sloshed, sticking to soda/seltzer/non-alcoholic beer is definitely less expensive.

  3. spjlc says:

    I’ve never understood the attraction of people wanting to go out to bars. I guess that I tend to be introverted in this way. I would much rather spend an evening with my close friends drinking beer at somebody’s house that I would spending that time in a crowded, loud bar. The whole bar scene just has never made a whole lot of sense to me. I guess the good news is that this saves me a lot of money since I don’t go there to buy overpriced drinks.

  4. david says:

    This is exactly my way of thinking. When I go out, I usually go out for the company, not to get wasted. I can usually spend the entire evening without spending any money when I volunteer to be a designated driver, because those who I drink with will usually chip in and pay for whatever I do drink and eat as a “thank you.” There’s no reason to let them know that I would have done it anyway.

  5. Jonathan says:

    That’s funny, you do a lot of the things I do when my friends want to spend a Saturday night at a bar. Drinking beer at home is so much cheaper, I’m into the micro-brewers anyway and most of the bars in my area don’t carry the brands that I like. Why pay $9.00 for a single beer when you can buy a six pack for virtually the same price?

  6. leslie says:

    I enjoy going out for a drink from time to time as a social event. Sometimes with my friends and sometimes just alone to meet new people. I don’t tend to drink a lot and can make whatever I have in front of me last at least an hour. When you look at it from that perspective, it can be pretty inexpensive entertainment.

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  8. Bob says:

    Great column. The last suggestion being the best naturally. How about keeping track of your drinks? A friend always keeps a napkin in front of him and marks every drink. Most bartenders and waiters are honest but I’ve been overcharged now and then.

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