Could your always-broke mate, splitting the bill with top-dollar menu selectors, or your tendency to shout everyone be part of the issue?

How much cash did I spend last night? How many rounds did I buy? Why did I give so-and-so another $50 when they never pay me back? I have no money... Oh score – some leftover chicken nuggets!

If this sounds like a familiar scenario and soon you’ll be scrounging for loose change under the couch or on the floor of your car, you’re not alone.

Research shows, Aussies spent upward of $30 billion on restaurant dinners, drinks at the bar, smokes and gambling in just a 12-month period1. And, while what each of us spends on a night out will differ depending on where we live and what we like to do, there are ways to cut back on spending without cutting back on life.

Where does the money go?

Debit, AMEX, Visa or MasterCard

You tap it, don’t see it, lose track of it, and if it’s on credit, it’s probably not even yours. It’s the most obvious one but leaving your cards at home and taking only what cash you want to spend could be a game changer when it comes to not spending more than what you can afford. Try it. See how you go.

Meanwhile, if you’re worried about the potential of a financial emergency arising, take a card that gives you access to a limited (not endless) amount of cash.

Your always-broke mate

There’s always one in the group - they forgot their wallet, they brought just enough for themselves (and when that runs out, they’ll turn to you), they’ll pay you back next week (promise!).

No doubt this mate has their redeeming qualities, which is why you still hang out with them, but if you can’t or are struggling to cover your own bills and day-to-day expenses because they’re always putting their hand out, it might be time to say, no. If that’s difficult to verbalise, see point one.

Lobster when you just wanted a small entree

A group of you go for dinner and you’re thinking you’ll just have a few arancini balls, but your fancy friend (polar opposites to your always-broke mate), orders the three-tier seafood platter for the table (which you don’t want) and a couple of $98 bottles of wine (which you don’t drink).

If you know you’re going to be splitting the bill, say upfront what you’re willing to spend, and want to eat and drink, or maybe opt to catch up with this friend when you’re in a setting where you can order and pay for yourself. Sites like Groupon can also alert you to restaurant specials all year round.

Another idea is to suggest a catch up at the park, beach, or someone’s house and everyone bring their own food and beverages. If your fancy friend wants to rock up with smoked salmon appetizers – they can. And, if you’d prefer to bring party pies, you can.

Drinks for everyone, just because

If you’re that person that gets carried away and always buys the whole group a round (particularly if cocktails are involved), this is a sure way to spend money fast and lose track of it, which is why it might be easier if everyone sticks to buying their own drinks (give your always-broke mate the heads up).

Some other ways you could cut back on the drinks bill is to host something at your place, go somewhere that has BYO or get on to sites like TheHappiestHour, which lists a range of food and beverage happy hours and two-for-one deals.

Overpriced venues where the bouncers play fashion police

Have you ever waited half an hour in a line to get into a place where you’re paying cover charge (even though you’ll have to wrestle and side step even to get a water from the bar) only for the bouncer to say they don’t like your friend’s shoes or haircut, so they’re not coming in?

These venues can be fun, if all goes to plan, but if you’re main priority is really to just catch up with friends, a laid-back venue without the entry fee and jacked-up prices may be the way to go.

Even if you consider what you and a mate would pay to see a movie at the cinema, making your own spread and catching something on Netflix this Saturday might be cheaper than what you’ll fork out for just the smarty on top of your choc top.

The kebab, Maccas run or servo sausage roll on the way home

Admittedly, this can be one of the hardest things to avoid on a night out, with this common ritual an easy way to drop another $10, $20, $30 or more before you head home.

One possible way to cut back on midnight-snack spending is to stock up on some cheaper munchies that you know will be waiting for you when you get home. It might be leftover pasta (you made extra), something as simple as cheese on toast, Doritos in a roll, or a piece of fruit (haha, said no one ever).

One last detour because the night’s still young

Often the excitement of going out and catching up with friends can get the adrenalin pumping so when it is time to call it a night, you start to think, that place on the corner is still open, or even better – let’s grab a few things from the local and kick on back at so-and-so’s place (the night is still young).

This is often the point you’ll look back on in the morning and say – I should have left then. Again, this is why point one could really help keep you in check because when the cash is gone, it’s gone.

Your umpteenth Uber and taxi fare for the month

The later the night gets, the more likely you may be to schedule a driver, so while you’re still in fine form (before the sun goes down anyway), consider leaving a bit earlier and catching a bus, train or ferry to your destination, so you’re not forking out as much there, as you are on the way back.

If you know someone who lives near to where you’re going, you might also be able to drive to theirs and stay the night. Or, if you have a couple of mates who are reliable designated drivers, thank your lucky stars (there aren’t heaps of them around).

Final thoughts

Remember, while you might have FOMO (fear of missing out), you don’t have to go to everything. And, while the tips above may seem obvious – put them into action and see how much you can save.

Meanwhile here are some other articles that may be of interest:

1 Mozo - Australians eating away savings, spending a whopping $4 billion on food and drink per month table 1

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