76% of Middle-Income Americans Are Cutting Back on Entertainment and Dining Out. Here’s How to Enjoy Life While Spending Less

A group of friends eating a meal around a backyard patio table.

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You don’t have to spend a lot to have fun and be social.

Key points

  • Inflation has forced many people to cut their spending.
  • If you’re looking to slash your leisure costs, it doesn’t mean you need to resign yourself to a world of boredom.
  • Consider spending time outside, starting a book club, or hosting potluck dinners at home.

If you’ve been forced to cut back on spending due to inflation, you’re not alone. A good 76% of middle-income earners are spending less than usual on things like restaurant meals and entertainment, according to a recent survey by Primerica. And the reason is that money has gotten tight, and their paychecks just aren’t going as far. 

Of course, if given the choice between dining out and attending social outings versus racking up credit card debt, you may be inclined to stay home and avoid digging yourself into a financial hole. But just because you’re short on funds for leisure purposes doesn’t mean you’re doomed to weeks of microwavable meals and solitude. Here are five ways you can eat well, stay busy, and socialize without spending a fortune.

1. Host potluck dinners

Dining at restaurants isn’t just about filling your stomach with great food. It’s also a great way to socialize. But you don’t have to give up on the latter aspect. Instead, invite friends to your place for a potluck meal where everyone contributes something. You’ll get to sample different dishes and catch up with your inner circle without having to worry about leaving an overworked waiter a tip.

2. Do a recipe challenge with your friends

Maybe there’s a recipe you’ve been wanting to try, only you’re intimidated by the different techniques and longer list of ingredients. In that case, why go it alone? Invite friends over for a recipe challenge. Tackle that meal together and enjoy it together. And if you so choose, take pictures or videos along the way to document the experience and have something fun to look back on.

3. Have a movie marathon

Going to the movies has become unbelievably expensive — especially if you have the gall to want popcorn and a soda, too. A better bet? Host a movie marathon. Microwave some popcorn, have friends bring candy and beverages to share, pick a theme, and indulge in several hours of cinematic thrills. 

4. Get outdoors

Spending time in nature can be good for the soul — and it doesn’t have to cost a penny. Find a new park and meet for a picnic, or round up some active friends and go for a hike. You might appreciate the change of scenery more than you anticipate.

5. Start a book club

If you have a form of ID and a pulse, you can generally qualify to get a library card. From there, you’ll have access to tons of books you can read when you want to escape reality. Better yet, turn your love of reading into a social activity by starting a book club with friends. It’ll give you yet another recurring activity to look forward to that doesn’t have to cost money.

Cutting back on leisure spending isn’t easy. But just because you’re looking to conserve funds doesn’t mean you’re doomed to a miserable existence. There are plenty of ways you can stay busy and enjoy your life without busting your budget or adding to a pile of debt you’re trying to make go away.

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