Big budget month day 18: cheap nights out
Have no money but still want a life? Read on for cracking nights out that won't break the bank.
If you’re scrimping and saving at the moment, you’ve probably cut back on socialising. A big night out can certainly cost an arm and a leg, and most of us can’t afford to lose either right now.
However, it doesn’t have to be that way. Here are eight affordable ways you can meet up with friends, make new ones and generally have a cracking night out.
1. Cheap cinema
If you want to see free films, websites such as See Film First and Momentum Pictures offer regular preview screenings for free. All you have to do is sign up and wait for an email telling you when the next preview is! But you'll have to be quick if you want to secure a seat.
Odeon now runs a loyalty scheme called Premiere Club, where you earn 10 points for every £1 you spend in the cinema or online which you can redeem against its (hideously expensive) food and drink. And Vue runs a Cheap Day scheme, where you can save up to 40% at selected cinemas.
Several cinema chains also run discounted screenings for both children and senior citizens.
If you can, it's also cheaper to go to pretty much any cinema before 5pm on weekdays.
If you have a mobile phone or broadband from Orange you can get two tickets for the price of one on Wednesdays at most cinemas.
If you’re not an Orange customer, just sign up for a free pay as you go SIM card, stick it in your mobile, top it up with credit (minimum £5), and you can still get 2 for 1 on tickets.
Better still, you can also currently get 2 for 1 on main courses at Pizza Express (plus free doughballs/garlic bread) when you take advantage of the cinema offer! Just show your Orange Wednesdays text ticket when you order.
If you're a Nectar card holder, you can save £2.50 for every 500 points you redeem at Vue cinemas.
If you're a really big film fan and regularly pay a visit to the cinema, one option worth considering is applying for an unlimited access pass. Cineworld cinemas offer such a thing, giving you access to unlimited movies, any time, any day. It costs £14.99 a month outside London for at least 12 months.
2. Cheap and free theatre
There are some great discount websites out there that are well worth a look when it comes to booking theatre tickets. These include:
Daily deals sites such as Groupon, Living Social and KGB Deals are also worth signing up to as they sometimes have deals.
If you're not fussed about being massively comfortable, some venues will charge a lot less for standing tickets. Shakespeare's Globe Theatre in London, for example, offers standing tickets for just £5 and, as an added bonus, you'll get the best view of the stage!
Some theatres, such as the Lowry in Salford, offer free and discounted tickets to local residents.
If you're a big theatregoer, you might want to invest in an ATG Theatre Card. It costs £30 a year and gets you half-price tickets to many productions at 39 UK theatres, plus 10% off your drinks at the bar.
If you can’t afford a big show, hunt down your local fringe venue and see what’s on. Fringe theatres are where the stars of the future start out - and you’ll get to see them for next to nothing!
I remember paying just a couple of quid to watch Spooks star Rupert Penry-Jones act at the tiny Warehouse Theatre in Croydon. You’re a lot closer to the actors, too - so they’re not just dots on an enormous stage.
The Government has now ended its funding of a free theatre ticket scheme for young people. However, some individual theatres still offer free or cheap tickets to 16- to 25-year-olds.
If you live in or around London, the Barbican has its freeb membership club, the Donmar runs Donmar Discovery and the National Theatre offers £5 tickets if you join its Entry Pass scheme. Elsewhere, the Royal Shakespeare Company runs the RSC Key scheme, with tickets for £5, and Manchester's Royal Exchange has its Cheep deals.
3. Free concerts and club nights
If you're into your music, believe it or not, it's possible to attend a whole range of music concerts for free (or very cheaply).
There aren't many record shops left on our high streets now, but some of those that are still standing put on free events, including signings and gigs. Nationally there's HMV, while in London there are the famous Rough Trade shops. Have a look at your local shop's website to see if it's hosting anyone.
If you live in London, you can enjoy free concerts - such as jazz and Irish songs - every Monday to Saturday at the National Theatre. Alternatively, if you're a fan of the Proms, why not attend a Proms Plus event - an introductory event before each evening Prom - absolutely free of charge? Check out the Proms Plus website for details.
There are a host of free music festivals on throughout the year - the biggest is arguably London's iTunes Festival, held during July and featuring big names each night. You can win tickets to the shows via the website. For other free and cheap festivals going on around the nation check out this list from efestivals.com.
If you like clubbing, many clubs offer free or reduced price entry earlier in the week or earlier in the evening. Check out listings websites such as The List or Time Out in London to see what's going on where you live.
4. Free TV and radio shows
You can see a top TV or radio show being recorded for absolutely nothing. Several websites regularly give away free tickets to all sorts of shows, from Strictly Come Dancing and Top Gear to Mock The Week and The News Quiz.
Bear in mind that competition is cut-throat to nab a place at the most popular shows. Adding yourself to a site’s mailing list will give you a better chance, as they’ll then alert you as soon as tickets are released. Good luck!
5. Free gallery and museum events
If you’re a bit of a culture vulture, get down to your local art gallery or museum. You could have a highly civilised, enjoyable evening (and even grab some free grub) for next to nothing.
Many galleries host exhibition launches during the evenings. Turn up and you’ll get the chance to view some exciting new work with nibbles in one hand a glass of something in the other.
If you’re not keen on mingling, just look at the pictures instead. Several bigger galleries open late on certain days of the week.
For example, the National Gallery in London is open until 9pm every Friday.
To find the gallery launches near you (and for everything else art related) visit the ArtInfo website.
6. Free readings
Many bookshops across the UK hold author readings, often with Q&A sessions afterwards, so you can ask all those burning questions and possibly get your book signed. Waterstones has a list of events across its bookshops on its website and The List has nationwide listings of events.
7. Free lectures
Colleges and universities all over the UK host free evening lectures on every topic you could possibly imagine. Check the websites of your local ones to find out what’s coming up.
Gresham College in Central London doesn’t award degrees or teach courses, but is dedicated to putting on free lectures.
You may even get free wine and nibbles at the evening events - and it’s a great way to learn about something new and meet people.
8. Free drinks
From time to time, particularly when there's a big celebration like a national day, the bigger pubs and bars offer free drinks vouchers. When we spot them, we'll put them on our Facebook page.
Track your spending
You can track the money you spend on nights out by signing up for lovemoney's free MoneyTrack tool. This safe service allows you to see all your bank accounts and credit cards in one place and tag your spending by category. So you can see at a glance what you're spending on.
Big budget month so far:
Big budget month day one: how to plan a budget
Big budget month day two: looking at your spending
Big budget month day three: setting your goals
Big budget month day four: make sure you're not missing out on money
Big budget month day five: cut your transport costs
Big budget month day six: save money on food
Big budget month day seven: save money on your energy
Big budget month day eight: cut your utilities spending
Big budget month day nine: have a posh packed lunch on a budget!
Big budget month day ten: how to eat out for less
Big budget month day 11: cancel subscriptions and memberships
Big budget month day 12: how direct debits can save you money
Big budget month day 13: save on music, TV, movies and games
Big budget month day 14: save money by stopping smoking
Big budget month day 15: how to have a holiday for less
Big budget month day 16: where to find cheap clothes
Big budget month day 17: the best places to find freebies