Staying In Is The New Going Out
Fed up of pubs, clubs and how much they cost? So is Laura Starkey! Here are her tips for enjoying fun and Foolish nights in.
It might be the onset of colder, wintrier weather; perhaps it's something to do with my age. It's definitely something to do with the credit crunch, and the pressing need to stick to a tighter budget.
Lately, I have had no inclination to go out.
I know, I'm only in my mid-twenties! But really, once you've been to one nightclub with a sticky floor, you might as well have been to them all.
For me, even restaurants and pubs have rather lost their appeal recently. Call me a Scrooge if you will, but there's something hugely depressing about paying £16 for a bottle of wine you know you could have bought for £6 at the supermarket.
The small-spend trend
Thankfully, I'm not alone in this desire to hibernate through the economic downturn. In fact, it seems I'm simply in tune with the zeitgeist.
Since the credit crunch first hit last year, many people have fought to curb their spending by cutting down on nights out. As a result, staying in is `in' -- and everyone seems to be doing it.
Although this trend is the result of financial pressures, that doesn't mean it's depressing. When I asked my Foolish colleagues how they felt about this new fashion, I was bowled over by their enthusiasm for it.
We might all be staying in more, but that doesn't mean we're going to sit at home, miserable and bored.
With a bit of creativity and a smidge of effort, a night in can actually be more enjoyable -- yet cost considerably less -- than a night out.
As most Fools are well aware, watching a DVD at home can be a wonderful way to have a cheap and easy night in. But did you know it can also be a brilliant way to socialise?
Recently, I've started selecting a show I love and then inviting friends to watch with me. For example, my sister and I have recently begun hosting `X Factor Saturdays'. A bunch of close friends and I get together for food, drinks and debate on which contestant's performance has been the best/worst/most embarrassing of the night.
If you're more of a film fan, putting together a movie evening can also be rewarding. Thanks to the almost permanent presence of special offers at stores such as HMV and Zavvi, the cost of buying a new film on DVD is often less than the price of a single cinema ticket.
Having said that, if there's a specific film you're looking for, don't forget to price check it before you buy. My favourite shopbot for DVDs is www.find-dvd.co.uk.
Alternatively, for those who'd prefer to rent their DVDs, a service such as LOVEFiLM could come in handy. Users put together a list of movies they'd like to watch, and the discs are sent out through the post. Then, once they're finished with, all you need to do is pop them into a pre-paid envelope and send them back. LOVEFiLM plans start at £3.99 for two movies per month -- and tellingly, the company reports a 40% increase in memberships since the credit crunch began.
According to my Foolish friend Anna Powell, the average Brit now spends a whopping £1,250 a year on eating out. During tough times, that seems a hefty sum to splurge -- but, luckily, supermarkets and food retailers seem to have caught on.
M&S's two dine in for £10 offer, running again this weekend, has been a huge success. At £5 per person, its offer of a good quality main meal, side dish and dessert -- plus that all-important bottle of wine -- manages to feel both special and sensible.
Elsewhere, supermarkets seem more determined than ever to swipe one another's customers. As I recently discovered, even `upmarket' Ocado has decided to try giving Tesco a run for its money.
If you're planning a food-focused night in, I'd suggest using MySupermarket.co.uk to price-check your goodies. In the current climate, you never know which retailer's deals will be cheapest.
Takeaways might be more expensive than home-cooked meals -- but they, too, are enjoying a surge in popularity thanks to the credit crunch. Across Domino's Pizza's 535 British and Irish outlets, sales have risen by around 20% since the start of 2008.
Also, why not indulge in the occasional bag of microwaveable popcorn? It costs around £2 for a 100g pack, tastes as good as the stuff you get at the cinema and makes movie nights feel that little bit more luxurious.
Games and getting together
Of course, making the most of time with loved ones is the key to enjoying nights in.
If you have a games console, setting up a mini tournament with friends can be great fun. I've recently spent several happy evenings at home playing Guitar Hero on the Xbox 360.
But you don't need tons of technology to get competitive: traditional games such as poker, Monopoly and Cluedo can be a great laugh if you add an unusual twist. Playing in teams or betting chips on the outcome can make an amusing change. One of my Foolish colleagues even suggests playing `strip' Trivial Pursuit! Not for the faint hearted.
Cooking together can also be a pleasure. I think trying out a new recipe with a friend or partner, then eating the fruit of your labours, is a lovely way to spend an evening.
Likewise, hosting a `pot luck' dinner party, where every guest brings a different dish, can provide cheap and cheerful fun.
Getting a group together to experiment with mixing your own cocktails could form the centre of another classy night -- as long as you don't make too many!
Ultimately, with recession looming and difficult days set to last a while longer, I think we all need to start thinking about how to spend less and enjoy ourselves more.
Hopefully, this article will have given my fellow Fools some ideas.
If you have any thoughts on how to spend super nights in, why not post them in the comments space below?