On a Budget: Girls’ Night Out
Julianne Maggiore and three of her closest female college friends began reuniting every year shortly after they graduated in 1988. It’s something they all look forward to.
“I think it’s really important; they’re people I can depend on. It’s the one time per year we get together and catch up on everything,” says Maggiore.
The women live in various cities within driving distance of their college town and usually meet up for one afternoon, attending a basketball game on campus and eating lunch or dinner together. This year they’re all turning 50, so they opted for something extra special: flying to Florida for a long weekend. While they’re excited to reconnect over a longer span of time, sticking to a budget is a concern. The women used frequent-flier miles for the airline tickets and are saving money on lodging and food by staying at a condo owned by the family of one of the women in the group.
Like Maggiore and her friends, many women feel a deep need to connect but also have to keep an eye on finances, especially if they’re planning a larger trip or longer time together. Cutting down on travel expenses is a great place to start, but also try these tips:
1. Take it inside your home. Host a good old-fashioned sleepover, or consider a book or clothing exchange, in which everyone brings something gently used and you all swap. Wine tastings, cooking lessons and crafting are all fun things to do at home as a group. Each woman can share a favorite bottle of wine or a recipe, and you could teach each other a new entree while catching up.
2. Shop cheaply. Outlet malls and window shopping are great ways to get in retail therapy without spending much. Or set a challenge by deciding on a certain amount you will all spend—it could be as little as $10—and see what you can buy.
3. Think off-peak and look for discounts. You’ll find airline and hotel deals if you travel when others don’t. Off-peak applies to restaurants, too: Eat out for breakfast or lunch instead of dinner. Prices will be much lower, and you can linger without bothering anyone. Check Groupon or other discount websites for deals that involve a group. There are travel and entertainment specials designed specifically for girls’ getaways, and some hotels and spas offer discounts if they know it’s for a girls’ weekend.
4. Hold a staycation. If all of you live in the same city or state, there’s no need to travel far. Many museums have free days (or a pass is typically under $30), and you can spend the entire day enjoying it. Look up free events. You might be surprised how many book talks, exhibits, outdoor movies or musical events are happening in your area that cost absolutely nothing at all. If your group would like to do a wine or beer tasting, you don’t need to pay big-ticket prices. Just meet at a local winery or brewery and take a tour—and then enjoy their samples, which are usually either free or nominally priced.
5. Arrange a cheap spa day. Who doesn’t love a little pampering? You can hire a masseuse, makeup artist or manicurist to come to your home. This costs typically less than it would cost all of you to attend a spa. Local massage schools also offer massages at vastly discounted prices in order for their students to get in some real-world practice, and many department stores and national makeup chains are available for free makeovers.
6. Go old-school. Think back to the things you enjoyed together when you were younger. For Maggiore and her friends, that usually means a basketball game, but other possibilities could include roller skating, ice skating, dancing or bowling, all of which are typically budget friendly.
7. Be creative. From pottery to glass blowing to woodworking, hands-on craft experiences are very popular and usually affordable, plus you’ll walk away with a permanent keepsake. Or consider buying some art supplies and having a painting or pottery party yourself.
Whatever you do, cherish the time together. Maggiore and her buddies have carved out a special niche every year. Their husbands and children know it’s on the calendar and respect it; and as Maggiore sums up, “I feel it’s important for my well-being. My friends and I have a special bond.”