penniesIn early 2014, I left my salaried copywriting job to become a freelance writer and a student. This means I must be much more fiscally responsible than I have been since I completed my undergrad schooling.

But I still like to have a good time.

Every month, I’ll be writing about ways I’ve found to help save your money without sacrificing the fun lifestyle of a young dude.

This month, we’ll tackle going out drinking on the cheap.

***

I’m a 26-year-old single guy who lives in New York City.

This means that the majority of social events I attend include alcoholic beverages. More often than not, my social plans are initially made via a Gchat or series of text messages with somebody where one of us suggests that we should “get a few dranks someplace and talk about some stuff.” (I’m paraphrasing, of course. I’m also not proud that I still say “dranks,” but, come to think of it, I’m not proud of most of the things I do on a day-to-day basis.)

Thing is, drinking is not cheap, and doing so at bars in this metropolis is not cost-effective by any means. Quite honestly, the prices are absurd. The mark-up on alcohol is one of the most bewildering things I have ever had to think about. It makes my head hurt worse than too many shots of Fireball.

The following are a few tips I’ve culled from my binging experiences that will allow you to get sufficiently weird without breaking your strict budget.

  • Always pregame before you go out. This isn’t something exclusively for college kids. It makes perfect financial sense to purchase some booze that you can drink at home while you’re relaxing or taking a shower before you go out. (Seriously—a beer in the shower makes the cleansing process so much more fun.) If you want to, you can get good and soused before donning your “Going Out Duds” and venturing into the night. Then you will, of course, spend less money on drinks at the bar. Well, you will if you’re careful. There’s also a chance you’ll just drink as much as you normally would at the bar and end up twice as drunk. If you’re worried about this, I can’t help you. I don’t have tips for self-control and actually handling your liquor.
  • If you’re going to need to eat at some point, load up on food before you go out so that you’ll be less likely to get hammered and drop a bunch of cash on jalapeno poppers and mozzarella sticks at 1:30 a.m. Don’t be afraid to bring an energy bar or a baggy full of peanuts with you, too, or to ensure you go to a bar that has free snacks for you to munch on.
  • Flask it. Since I started drinking, I have advocated for flask use in most situations where one is not operating heavy machinery. (I haven’t been to a wedding without one, and that’s never going to change.) Instead of buying shots, sneak a few nips here and there. Hell, pretend you’re not drinking, order a pop, and dump some hooch in there. Then tip the bartender, so that way you’re not screwing them over by drinking your own stash in their establishment.
  • Choose your drinks responsibly. By that I mean pick beers with high alcohol content. Doing a shot? Go with something above 80 proof. This way you will get drunker for your buck, and will also grow some more chest hair.
  • Research the deals where you’re going, or if it’s up to you choose a place that has a great happy hour or other drink special. My favorite is to go to a place where you can get a beer and a shot combo for a decent price. Cheap Boilermakers are a definite key to happiness, I’ll tell you that much. The Internet exists for many reasons, and one of them is that you can look up information and prices before heading to a place. That way there are no unpleasantly expensive surprises.
  • If your friends are open to it, go to a dive bar. You’re not going to meet anybody interesting at some yuppie place anyway.
  • Stay close to your female friends, especially if they are good looking. You may get to benefit from the abundance of drinks sleazy and awkward guys are buying for them. Who knows? You might even get drugged. For free!
  • Don’t buy rounds for people unless it’s for something really special. You don’t need to toss cash and free drinks around to seem like a baller. Everybody is out there trying to hustle in their own way. They don’t expect you to buy stuff for them. You’re an adult!
  • Take the cheapest (while still safe) mode of transportation back home that does not include you driving a vehicle. The price difference between a subway ride and a cab home is staggering. Pledge to yourself before the night begins that you will not get drunk-lazy and hail a cab or use Uber. Just make sure you don’t pass out on the train. That’s not fun and a huge inconvenience. Trust me.