Hanging out with friends doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg

Jason Ancheta

I was walking back to my dorm one Friday night when my phone buzzed. My face lit up as I read a message asking me, “Hey, wanna hang out?”

Once I replied, my friend suggested we try an upscale foodie joint in downtown Austin. My mind, preoccupied with thoughts about the scrumptious cuisine we were about to consume, didn’t think to check how much it was. 

As we finished our dishes, I got my wallet out to pay for our meal. I realized that this transaction would exhaust the remainder of my finances. Consecutive hangouts with my friends had gradually lowered my cash balance, leaving no evidence of the savings I had accumulated before the school year. At that moment, I had an epiphany.

While students aren’t obligated to eat out when spending time with each other, it is a social norm to meet at a restaurant and build camaraderie by spending money. While in college, it’s important to ignore this costly social standard and pursue a wallet-friendly alternative instead. 

When pursuing cheaper ways to hang out and eat food with friends, a great option is to eat in. While the ambiance of a restaurant can be fun, eating in with friends can be just as enjoyable. 

Nursing senior Hannah Ho is a proponent for this option. 

“Inviting friends over for a feast now and then helps make our potlucks both a social event as well as a celebratory one,” Ho said. “It’s really fun because we eat good food while hanging out.”

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not advocating for students to become hermits in the interest of saving money. It’s important for students to pursue the cost-effective middle ground between living under a rock and spending money on daily hangouts.

The benefits of eating in far outweigh the costs of eating out. First, you get to reduce expenditures while still hanging out with friends. Instead of a singular meeting, meal prep sessions and home-cooked meals give you access to leftovers that carry over past that particular meal. 

At the same time, cooking creates a special bond for you and your peers as you labor over shared cuisines and enjoy them together. This experience builds culture and intimacy that cannot be duplicated in the restaurant setting.

Although eating in will save you money, this doesn’t mean we should give up on restaurants completely. A bit of moderation is the perfect way to balance your eats as you dine in or go out. 

It’s definitely nice to meet up and just talk with friends, and it is understandable that college students hope to enjoy good food while they spend time with their peers. While this might be one of the incentives for eating out, the value of hanging out while you eat out goes out the window the moment it causes you to spend excessively. To save money and continue spending time with friends, it’s a safe bet to prep with peers.

Ancheta is a business freshman from Houston.