How to Live a Champagne Lifestyle on a Beer Budget

By Melina Byrne

Don’t you hate it when your cash disappears during a night out? And no, you didn’t lose it, it was gobbled up by taxi fares, drinks, dinner, and then more drinks. Enter recessionista Melina Byrne, with her simple strategies for saving money without cutting back your social life.

When I was 16, it didn’t cost much to go out for the night. My friends and I had simple tastes; we dined on Maccas, shopped at Kmart (in the wrap-around mini skirt era), and attended underage events at Melbourne’s Metro Nightclub ($20 entry and all-you-can-drink soft drink). Those were the days… But now my tastes have matured; I prefer Japanese food over heartburn-causing Maccas, and want more substance (and material) in my skirts. So what’s a girl (or 30-something woman) supposed to do? Create a plan of attack. Here’s mine. Please feel free to thank me by sending me a big fat cheque!

1.  Go ‘buy’ the book

My secret weapon for downsizing my entertainment bills is the Entertainment Book.

With versions for most states, these books, which range from $50 to $65 in price, contain up to $10,000 in discounts, and are valid for a whole year.

I’ve been buying the Sydney version ($65) for years, saving thousands in restaurants, hotels, cinemas, tourist attractions and beauty salons. I’ve saved $30 off meals, received 2-for-1 monorail rides, had my nails done for 50% off and that’s just the start of my savings. To learn more, go to

2.  Check your mail

I know I’ve said it before, but it pays to be on the mailing lists for your favourite venues. Sometimes you’re sent free tickets, or told about great discounts.

Last month, I received an email from a clothing swap website, Swap My Style, offering a 2-for-1 ticket offer. So I saved $20 simply by reading my email.

3.  Be organised

I know it can be boring, but being organised can save you serious cash. Before you book a new restaurant, do some research:

  • Check for an online menu. So you can estimate the meal’s cost in advance.
  • Ask if it’s B.Y.O alcohol, and whether they allow splitting the bill (sometimes when they don’t, your costs can be increased as you have to pay extra for someone else’s rack of lamb.)
  • And on the night, always ask the serving staff how big the portions are; you might not need to order so much.

Short but sweet tips:

  • Avoid using non-bank ATMs. These fees add up.
  • Check the weather. Every time I haven’t done this, I find myself buying a $5 umbrella.
  • Book your tickets in advance. Buying tickets at the door is generally more expensive. Or you can go to Last Tix to be in first in line for last minute deals.

4. Don’t go overboard on preparation

It can be tempting to buy new clothes for a night out, but perhaps this is something you can cut back on? It doesn’t hurt to be seen in the same outfit twice. Alternatively, consider renting your clothing and accessories. See my earlier blog for recommendations.

Also, not going overboard relates to the actual night too. Try not to forget your budget. Consider the consequences – possibly a huge financial hangover and a purse full of shrapnel (what I call my silver coins).

For more hints:

Read Cleo Magazine’s article on ways to Live Large On A Small Budget.

And don’t hesitate to share your own cost-saving hints below.


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