Savvy spending for good times on a budget

Anna-Kay Reeves

“I’m so broke right now.” As if there’s a time when you’re not.

Being broke doesn’t have to mean missing out if you play it smart. With technology at our fingertips and a bit of resourcefulness, it’s no paycheck, no problem when it comes to exploring Austin.

Central Market Saturdays

A short ride away from campus on the northbound 801, Central Market is in familiar territory. With its own bakery, cafe and gelateria, calling it a grocery store seems disrespectful. On Saturday mornings you can find sample stands posted throughout the space, all offering in part what you can’t afford to buy in whole.

Fresh-baked multigrain bread, pastries and sliced fine cheeses are weekend regulars. Coffee and tea samples, complete with cream and sugar, are available while supplies last. Week to week Central Market offers various and sundry tastes of cutting-edge kale, matcha and cocoa-based products. Make a day of it by taking your sample to-go, having a sample picnic in the lovely Central Park and hanging out until the live music, which Central Market offers every evening on the weekend, starts up. Day made and money saved.

Barton Creek

While the weather is still warm, take advantage of a free dip in cool water at Barton Creek. The only thing that keeps Barton Creek from being the actual Barton Springs Pool is that there’s no entrance fee. With the same water for no cost and plenty of room to picnic, Barton Creek is a great alternative when lines are long and you’re really, truly broke. The only downside to Barton Creek is its lack of steps or railing. You will be roughing it for an entry point into the water. But with trees lining the water, the creek is a great place to take a blanket or hammock and spend a day lazing in the shade.

Work the System

The buying power of your dollar directly correlates with how smart you are at spending it. There’s no shortage of really great food and coffee in Austin, which can make smart spending difficult. But with a little bit of craftiness, it’s not impossible to find quality cheap eats.

Many local coffee shops offer discounted drinks and refills if you bring in a reusable mug purchased from the shop. Even if that’s not an advertised offer, Austin’s obsession with sustainability means that many shops are more willing to accommodate that request. Quack’s 43rd Street Bakery is one shop with a reusable mug discount, and Bouldin Creek Cafe offers a free refill on select cafe drinks as well as $1 day-old pastries.

Social Savvy

Even if you don’t have money in your pocket, odds are you have social media in some form. When you can’t pay your way to fun, tools like Facebook and Instagram can pave your way.

Facebook is an excellent event platform, allowing you to explore events all around the city, many of which are free to the public or very cheap. Though Instagram doesn’t offer event planning, it does neatly organize locations by photos taken and tagged there. Exploring these geo-tags is a great way to find places not otherwise heavily advertised. From trails to scenic outlooks to art spaces, Instagram is a great way to find cheap or free activities.