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Going out is expensive! How do people afford bars, clubs, and restaurants multiple times per week?
Buying just a few drinks can blow your budget on a single night out; it’s hard to understand how folks can go out every week without breaking the bank.
That all got me thinking – how much does a night out cost the average person?
We dove in to find the true costs of a night out and developed tips to help you save money while enjoying the nightlife.
Why is Going Out So Expensive?
There are many reasons why going out is expensive.
First and foremost, the establishments need to make money and have hundreds of business costs. Restaurants and bars must pay for labor, supplies, and overhead, including rent and utilities. Your final bill includes all of these costs.
Bars and restaurants are getting more expensive. Inflation is a crucial driver of price increases. The overall inflation rate is 7.1%, but the rate for food away from home is slightly higher, at 8.5%.
Consumers also see price increases at the grocery store, with a 12% increase for food at home.
How Much Does the Average Person Spend on a Night Out?
According to an Event Bright from 2019, the average person spends about eighty bucks on a single night out. That’s $160 a week in nights out, or $640 a month, before the rampant inflation of 2022.
If we apply just 2022’s inflation, we can estimate that Americans spend approximately $684 per month going out each month – though it’s likely more.
That’s more than the average car payment and a little less than half the average rent, based on the average cost of living in the US for 2022.
How Much Does a Night Out Drinking Cost?
The Event Bright study exclusively looked at nightlife events, such as nightclubs and music events. If you want to go to neighborhood bars, you can save a little money, but according to Vice, it won’t be much. They concluded that a night out costs $74 on average, slightly lower than the Event Bright study.
I’ve been to local dive bars that serve two-dollar drafts, but that’s the exception. Most beers cost between five and seven dollars, while mixed drinks are usually more. A couple enjoying a date night can spend thirty dollars on just a few drinks.
Of course, these costs are highly dependent on where you are. A night on the town in a big city like Los Angeles or Chicago will cost far more than a night out in a small town in Wisconsin.
Average Cover Charge
Although bars don’t generally charge cover, if you want to enjoy clubbing or live music, you will likely have to pay just to get in the door.
The cover charge varies widely by city, type of club, and even gender. Some clubs charge men to enter while letting women in for free, while others offer discounts for the ladies. Swanky nightclubs are more expensive than dives, and some bars only charge if there is live music.
Home to Go conducted a study in 2018 listing the average cost of cover charges for fifty of the top nightlife cities in the world. Although dated due to inflation and not covering every location, it’s a great place to start for an idea of average cover charges.
Why Do People Go Clubbing?
Learning the actual expense of a night out begs the question: Why do people spend money on clubbing?
Everyone likes different things and different environments. Some people don’t enjoy dancing or loud venues, but others do, and we can’t judge folks who enjoy different things.
Clubs are generally on the pricier end of the nightlife experience, though. They often charge a cover to get in and have inflated drink prices.
If clubbing is your style, you’re going to pay more.
How to Save Money on Clubbing
If you want to save money on clubbing, consider limiting your outings to once or twice a month or going to the clubs on special nights with free covers.
When I visited my sister in Florida ages ago, the Orlando nightclubs offered “Ladies Night,” allowing women free entry. Some of the clubs even gave us free drinks! We took advantage of that to make our night out affordable.
Obviously, that won’t work for everyone, but some clubs offer memberships, discount nights, special drink nights, cover-free nights, and other options to help patrons save money.
Check your favorite club to see what goodies they offer loyal customers!
How Can I Go Out with No Money?
Sometimes, we want to go out for the environment. We want to hang out with our friends and have a good time. The insane expense of going out can put a damper on that, but there are ways to go out with no money.
When I lived in Los Angeles, my colleagues always had happy hours. It was an excellent opportunity to get together and have fun outside the stuffy work environment. I loved going, but I didn’t want to spend money.
Fortunately, all my friends are fantastic, and nobody judged me for going and just ordering a glass of water. I enjoyed the pleasure of all my friends’ company but didn’t have to pay for it.
Abstaining at the bar is always an option if you want to enjoy some good company but don’t want to pay for drinks.
There are also tons of other ways to spend a night out that don’t include bars and dropping. You could watch movies, enjoy a park, or stargaze rather than hit the clubs.
Save Money by Staying Home
You don’t have to go out to enjoy a fantastic time with your friends. Once my friends started buying houses, we couldn’t afford to go out anymore. But we always invited each other over for dinners and karaoke nights.
Try hosting game nights or potlucks at home rather than heading out to the bars and clubs. The company is the most crucial part.
Eating Out is Expensive
Going out doesn’t just mean going out drinking. Most of my going out revolves around going out to eat.
Sometimes you just want a delicious meal you don’t have to cook or clean up after, right? And sometimes you want a specific meal that you just don’t know how to make – those cravings are killer. But going out is expensive, and eating out will cost you.
How Much Does the Average Person Spend on Eating Out?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average household spends $329 monthly eating out. That’s almost $4000 a year. And remember, the average includes families of one, so if you are in a partnership, you might be paying twice that amount.
It’s difficult to ascertain how much it costs to eat out on average due to the enormous variety in restaurant styles and prices. Fast food is on the cheap end of the scale, but even that is getting crazy expensive. A few years ago, you could get an entire meal for about five bucks, and now, unless you stick to the dollar menu, it’s closer to ten.
It cost my boyfriend and me nearly thirty bucks for one meal at Five Guys, which I consider a fast food restaurant. Full-service casual fine dining restaurants are even more expensive.
It costs over ten dollars for most meals, and when you add in drinks, tips, and taxes, you will generally be paying around thirty dollars for a single meal. You will spend even more if you order a drink from the bar.
Is Going Out to Eat a Waste of Money?
Many people review this data and conclude that eating out is a waste of money. Some financial gurus even have the gall to say things like:
“If you’re working on paying off debt, the only time you should see the inside of a restaurant is if you’re working there.” -DR
In reality, statements like this shame people for enjoying small pleasures.
Eating out is expensive, but sometimes it’s worth paying extra to enjoy a different type of food or to give yourself a break from cooking and cleaning.
Of course, the caveat is that you must budget for it, and if you’re struggling to pay your bills, you may want to limit how much you spend eating out.
How Much Money do You Save by Not Eating Out?
The truth is that eating at home is cheaper than eating out. If saving money is your top priority, you can save a lot by cooking at home.
Although everyone’s spending is different, if you fall in line with the average American, you can save approximately $4000 per year if you never eat out.
But I know that isn’t realistic. During my no-spend year, I tried to limit myself to only two nights per month, and I failed at even that multiple times. Sometimes you just need to go out.
The challenge did help me cut down on eating out. I managed to limit myself to eating out twice a month for a few of those months, and that’s much better than the twice-per-week average. I also only went out 4 or 5 times per month during my most significant fail months, which is slightly better than average.
How to Save Money on Eating Out
Eating out doesn’t have to be a budget buster. Here are some tips and tricks to help you enjoy a night out without breaking the bank.
When discussing how much a night out costs, the most significant expense is usually alcohol. Restaurants are notorious for charging inflated prices on bar drinks. It’s a top money maker for them.
Opt for water with your meal instead and buy a six-pack at the grocery store after dinner. Not only will this save you money, but it’s also the safer option, as you don’t have to worry about your blood alcohol levels while driving home.
Going out is often expensive because we order too much food. We don’t need an appetizer, main course, and dessert.
Instead, skip the appetizer altogether, or order it as a main course. Appetizers are generally cheaper than main courses and usually just as filling. You don’t need both.
Portion sizes at restaurants are outrageous and often big enough for two. You can save money and eat less by sharing an appetizer and main course.
Some restaurants frown on sharing, so check the policies before ordering.
Use the Leftovers
Taking leftovers home for the next day’s lunch won’t save money on your night out, but it will reduce your weekly food costs. Some restaurants give you enough food for two to three lunches!
Order from the Dollar Menu
A final, albeit unhealthy, way to save on eating out is to order from the dollar menu at your favorite fast food place.
Sometimes you are out and hungry and have to eat something, or you just don’t have the time for cooking and cleaning. It’s okay to opt for convenience every once in a while.
The best option, though, is to try to eat at home more often.
Easy Eat at Home Options
We spend so much money eating out because it’s so easy. You don’t have to worry about food prep or cleaning when you go out to eat.
All you have to do is show up, eat, and pay. With our insidious work culture that takes up the bulk of our time, that option is tough to resist.
One awesome thing that helped me eat at home more is the healthy meal planning ultimate bundle. It’s filled with easy recipes (some only require one pot!) that anyone can make (even me!). And they’ve all been delicious!
The only limitation with Ultimate Bundles is that they’re only available for a limited window each year. Head to their home page and subscribe, so you don’t miss their latest offerings!
If you don’t want to pay for a meal plan, you can always try to find fabulous recipes online. There are tons of them, but it’s hard to sort through them to find what you want. Making a weekly meal plan off online recipes sounds awful to me, but it might be worthwhile for you!
Going Out is Expensive
Going out is expensive, but there are ways to make it more affordable. Although we shouldn’t spend all of our money going out, it’s okay to budget a little bit each month to enjoy yourself.
It’s important to consider how much money you spend going out each month and ensure it aligns with both your financial goals and responsibilities.
However, if you’re doing that, there’s nothing wrong with budgeting yourself some fun money to enjoy your life.
Melanie launched Partners in Fire in 2017 to document her quest for financial independence with a mix of finance, fun, and solving the world’s problems. She’s self educated in personal finance and passionate about fighting systematic problems that prevent others from achieving their own financial goals. She also loves travel, anthropology, gaming and her cats.
2 thoughts on “Going Out is Expensive! The True Cost of a Night Out Revealed”
It really is expensive, most of my eating out is on an expense account so in effect, it is free to me. And generally my wife prefers cooking amazing meals at home. On the occasions where we do buy dinner out for our grown kids or other friends it is shocking how much a meal with drinks for six people costs. I think your numbers are right on, and maybe on the low side for extravagant people that do drinks, then wine, then big meals, then dessert, then after dinner drinks. Those bills can hit four figures for a table!
Where do I get an expense account like that?? I prefer cooking at home too, only because the other option is so expensive. And there aren’t that many good restaurants to chose from where I live now – which is actually nice because I’m not as tempted.
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