12 NYC Women On How (And Why) They’re Skipping The Bar This Weekend

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Living in New York City, there is an almost-endless list of things to do that involve two things: booze, and lots of money. And I’m not here to judge anyone, because I enjoy the hell out of a good bar. My “going out” budget in NYC is significant, and even though I’ve found ways to change some of my worst city-spending habits — such as adopting home brunch as a way of life, and cooking most nights of the week — I know there are always better ways to be avoiding the crowds, the spending, and the general sense of “I’m going to do this activity because it is the Cool Person thing to do, and I am in New York, so I should be a Cool Person.”

For me, in addition to making this a minor-redecoration and deep-clean weekend, I’ve been binging with Marc on The People vs OJ Simpson, which I’m proud to say I turned Lauren on to (she’ll be starting tonight with Joe, Marc and I are already three episodes in). So both of us, inadvertently, have the same plans for our Friday at two different apartments: watch several episodes of that show, make some ~gourmet movie theatre snacks, and sip on some spritzer-type drinks.

And in case you’d like to recreate, my snacks will be pecorino popcorn, chips and guac, and these bacon/brussels skewers. Lauren’s will be pear, jam, and cheese crostinis, and veggies with homemade onion dip.

But when it comes to eschewing the typical bar scene for something more affordable and out of the ordinary, there are a lot of things more original than binge-watching a great show and making yourself some snacks. So I decided to ask around to 12 NYC women about their plans this week that involve anything but spending a bunch of money while trying to get the attention of an indifferent bartender.

“I do dog-walking on the weekend as a side hustle, and I have a friend who started doing it with me a few months ago. We usually meet up on our Saturday walks and go around Central Park, and we usually stop to get coffee at a kiosk. This means our exercise, some money made, and catching up with a friend all in one!” -Beth, 28

“Once a month, I give myself a $25 budget at Duane Reade and get a bunch of ‘treat yo self’ supplies to use that weekend, which usually means things like snacks, a face mask, a nail polish, bath salts, etc. Then I have all Sunday evening to just kind of relax and take care of myself, which makes me feel amazing come Monday morning.” -Stania, 31

“This weekend, I’m going to take care of my absolute trainwreck toenails. And okay, I admit that that is an incredibly clichéd ‘girls night in’ activity, but you know what? Some things are clichéd for a reason, and after a very long week, I would really just love to soak my feet in the tub, paint them properly, and possibly eat some ice cream straight out of a carton, because if you’re going to go full Bridget Jones, you have to commit.” -Emma, 24

“Last night, my good friend and I were planning to go to a brewery for an almost-done-with-the-work-week beer. Instead, we decided to cook dinner, pack it in tupperware, and take it to Astoria park because it was so nice out. It was such a treat to not spend much money, change it up, and be outside.” -Jen, 25

“This weekend I’m doing a museum day with my friend, where we’re going to do the Neue Galerie and The Met together, and our in-between activity is going to be tea and cake somewhere (haven’t decided where yet). It’s the perfect day.” -Hannah, 29

“This might sound lame AF, but cleaning out my cabinets, organizing my fridge, and going grocery shopping is the nicest way to spend a Saturday afternoon. I put on a podcast, make myself a homemade latte, and do a bit of organizing. Few things provide me with the deep satisfaction that comes from having a clean(er) and more organized fridge/cabinet situation. Don’t be fooled — I’m no Martha Stewart — cleaning falls by the wayside the rest of the week, but Saturday afternoons are like therapy for me. I enjoy it, and I’m happier because of it.” -Natalia, 28

“I bought a year-long membership pass to a museum in the city, which significantly reduces the cost of each visit. I plan on skipping out on Sunday brunch and heading to the museum with a thermos of homemade coffee and my headphones. I just wander around for an hour or two, and it’s nice to go alone because it helps me reset for the start of the work week.” – Cady, 26

“My cheap NYC activities depend on the season, but in winter, one of my favorite things to do is meet up with friends in a book store to hang out.” -Roxanne, 27

“I follow the local blog in my neighborhood to keep up with everything that’s happening every weekend. For me, that’s Harlem Bespoke, but pretty much every NYC neighborhood has one, and they are awesome for letting you know about free/cheap/not-bar/unusual things happening around you. It’s how I’ve found out about pretty much every festival and market in my area.” -Dee, 26

“Winter: book stores, cafes with board games (sometimes these are bars but there is decidedly less emphasis on drinking than elsewhere and theres a greater focus on communal activity). Bearable weather: Potuck picnics, a veritable cornucopia of free movies, concerts, and events at parks (like Brooklyn Bridge Park is one of my favs), rooftop dinner parties: sometimes someone brings an instrument and singing happens, stoop chilling and grilling.” -Roxanne, 27

“Four of my girlfriends and I have a rotating dinner party club, where we get together on Friday or Saturday nights every other weekend to do a dinner party at one of our houses. These are always the highlights of our weekend, and we get to enjoy wine ‘n’ conversation well into the night for a fraction of the cost of a restaurant. A few weeks ago, we got so caught up in our board game that we ended up not leaving til the sun was about to rise… it made for a funny ‘walk of shame.'” -Jane, 33

“Gallery hopping in Chelsea is the absolute best cheap/chic activity. They’re all basically free, so if you spend the day doing that and then go make dinner at someone’s house, you will have a classy and cultural New York day for under $20/person. It’s very Carrie Bradshaw, if Carrie Bradshaw were responsible.” -Tay, 23

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  • Mary Harman

    I’d love to hear TFD’s take on the love(hate?) triangle of Us:Money:Alcohol. I feel like I continually see—on here and in the lives of many of my friends—that alcohol is financially ruining people our age. An article earlier today suggested cutting back to 2-3 happy hours per week, and this whole post is about how to avoid a bar.

    Maybe this is more of psychological type question rather than a financial one, but I feel like so many 20-somethings are obsessed with alcohol. To be clear, I’m not trying to talk negatively about drinking. I love a good glass of wine like the next lady. But I continue to see SO many posts that revolve around/mention booze and I keep wondering about this. Is our generation any more alcohol obsessed than those before us? Is this effecting our financial situations? Or is our generation’s financial situation effecting our drinking habits?

    • Emily

      Thank you for putting your finger on something that’s been bugging me, too! And let’s get one thing out of the way: I dig drinking. My spouse and I are a bit older (32, 33) and we actually keep a really well-stocked home bar (spouse has expensive taste) and we live around the corner from a liquor store, so we pick up an $11 4-pack of Breakfast Stout on the regular. Yum.

      But why is everybody so obsessed with going out and dropping $50 per person on alcohol? Do younger Millennials feel more pressure to do that than I did when I was that age? Is it the crowd you run with? NYC, specifically?

      Is it the start-up costs of a home bar? Or is it because I’m partnered, and single people with a home bar are seen as raging alcoholics?

      I’m honestly curious. I have plenty of financial vices and spend lots of $ on derpy nonsense, so I can’t judge. But I don’t feel like alcohol was SUCH a thing when I was younger, and I attended a major party college and then a party grad school. Curious to hear where this discussion goes.

      • GemNoelle

        I also am someone who just does not get how people spend so much money on “going-out.” I literally know people who every weekend Uber both ways to bars a 20 minute walk from their apartment and then have 3 $11-15 drinks…I just can’t understand how anyone regardless of income does not see this as flushing money down the toilet.

        I liked that you mentioned setting up a home bar. I love cocktails and I am currently trying to make more at home. I would love to see a post about recommended basics for starting up a home bar.

        • Mary Harman

          Yeah, it’s just really interesting. I’m sure that everyone generally enjoys drinking as much as the generation before or after…but it feels like the social pressure to drink (or to be out, or to be seen drinking, or to be seen spending money on drinks?) is so much greater right now. I’m thankful for Emily’s comment on it from just a few years beyond the 20-something demographic. We’re not a generation of alcoholics, but we seem to put so much more value on it for some reason, and we rationalize habitual spending on alcohol—and the supporting components of alcohol, like excessive ubers and going-out clothes. I just don’t understand why the social pressure seems to be hitting this demographic so much harder.

          • Emily

            The last time we went out “for drinks,” it was with one other couple at a legitimately lovely, swanky bar. Husband and I managed to drop $90 and had two craft cocktails apiece. Yes, through the magic of luxury tax and tip, our drinks cost over $20 each. (Also of note on the menu: eight dollars for 1.5 eggs. 3 deviled halves. lol.)

            They were tasty drinks, and it didn’t kill our budget, but it didn’t stop me from being moderately horrified. However, I suppose I can easily understand how you can get hooked on the experience. The lighting was sexy and perfect, the glassware looked and felt fancy, and the menu was curated and hip.

            It’s different from standing shoulder to shoulder at a loud bar while running up a tab, something I’ve never personally enjoyed, but there must be something *else* about that particular experience that is very appealing. When I was single, it was the price I paid for that feeling of “oooh, who will I meet tonight? What’s going to happen tonight?” etc. It’s just a shame it has to cost SO much. And yes, it’s worth noting the extraneous costs tacked onto either end of the evening, i.e., Uber, subway, ruining suede heels in dirty puddles.

      • Summer

        My husband and I are 31 and operate along the same lines. We both love a good drink, but we aren’t obsessive about it to the point of alcohol dominating our budget. We might have an occasional mid-week beer or glass of wine with a home-cooked dinner, but mostly we just drink on weekends. We recently found and bought a vintage bar cart after over a year of looking for the ~perfect one~ and are very much looking forward to stocking our home bar.

        We do love going out to biergartens for a brew in the sun, and we love a really well-crafted cocktail. As such, when we go out for drinks, it’s deliberate and to places where we know we’ll be pleased. I’m beyond the days of ducking into a random bar and settling on a mediocre vodka soda just to have something in my hand and catch a buzz. I would rather spend €10 per cocktail at a place with a nice atmosphere, with bartenders who know what they’re doing, sipping on something creative and delicious, and know that the tab will be a little high but being okay with it because we’ve chosen to have that experience.

        That being said, at 31 my tolerance is not at all what it was when I was in my younger 20s, so I’m usually good after 2-3 drinks anyway and that alone helps to minimize financial damage. But yeah, so many articles about how to avoid dumping tons of money into weekend beveraging also makes me wonder how and why this is such a phenomenon. I get that it’s fun to be out and about, I get that there’s a different energy in a bar vs. one’s own living room—you can have the swankiest home bar imaginable and sometimes you just want to go OUT—but like anything else, it’s worth being choosy in order to maximize value.

    • My husband (33 yo, and I’m 29) is a huge beer nerd (we even started brewing our own), but I think if you are in your early to mid 20s, being able to buy and consume alcohol is still a novelty and a rite of passage. If you’re the only one in your group of 25 year-ish year olds not drinking, you may be scared that people will amuse you’re too young to drink and therefore “baby” of the group, still in university, not supporting yourself, etc

  • George Town

    I like the whole potluck idea, although I have to work on my cooking skills.
    https://twentysomethinglawyer.wordpress.com/2015/10/08/why-20-somethings-should-start-learning-to-budget/

  • Lauren

    Great article. I’m a New Yorker at 24 and I do lead a pretty active social life, but it doesn’t involve alcohol. This might sound bizarre, but I kind of don’t see the point of alcohol, Weird, I know, but I don’t. My social activities involve cafes, dinner in restaurants minus the booze, museums, and bookstores. And I tend to find friends with similar interests and and similar ideas of fun. I have nothing against people who enjoy drinking. It’s just not my thing.