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11 Ways to Save Money at the Bar

Meg Favreau

Whether you like dancing to pumping music or just chilling in a booth with board games, it can be fun to go to bars with your friends or on a date. But with some bars charging $15 for a basic drink, the costs of cocktails and snacks can add up quickly. Here are 11 ways to keep the costs down while still having a good night out.

1. Go to happy hour -- even if it's late. Most of us know going to a bar during happy hour -- when drinks are discounted -- can save money. But if you can't (or don't want to) meet up for drinks right after work, many bars also offer late-night happy hours on weeknights, usually starting at 10 p.m. or 11 p.m. Do a Web search for "late night happy hour" and the name of your city or town to see if any bars offer late-night specials near you. Work a graveyard shift job? Some bars even offer early morning happy hours for people who just get off work.

2. Drink beer. Cocktails and wine are both delicious, but they're also usually more expensive than beer -- sometimes twice as much per drink! If you like beer as much as you like wine and liquor, save cocktails and vino for when you're drinking at home, and stick with beer at the bar.

3. Eat before you go out. It happens -- you go out a little bit hungry, you drink and you suddenly can think of nothing better than french fries. Or a burger. Or both. Keep this from happening by eating before you leave the house.

4. If you do eat at the bar, do it right. If you think you might want to eat when you're out, factor that into your decision about where to go drink. Bars offer discount food and drinks during happy hour, but some even put out free food, like appetizers or pizza, during that time. Others offer nightly food specials like $5 burger nights. Splitting an entree with someone else is another great way to save money when dining out. Or check to see if you have any BYOF -- that's bring your own food -- bars in your area.

5. Use daily deals. Daily deal sites such as Groupon and LivingSocial frequently offer deals for bars. Just make sure to check reviews of the bar in question on a site like Yelp first so you don't buy a deal for a bar you'll actually hate.

6. Don't drink alcohol. If you really want to meet up with your friends at the bar, but don't want to spend a lot of money, stick to seltzer or club soda, which is much cheaper than alcoholic drinks. Plus, no one can tell if the drink doesn't have alcohol.

7. Buy in bulk. You'll usually pay less per drink if you order a pitcher of beer, a pitcher of margaritas or a bottle of wine to split with friends as opposed to buying individual glasses. But don't do this unless you're sure you'll want more than one drink -- you're not saving anything if you don't finish the pitcher or bottle.

8. Pay with cash. Instead of using your debit or credit card at the bar, set a budget ahead of time, and bring only that amount of cash. When the money is gone, you're done drinking.

9. Do tastings. If your goal while drinking is to try new beers or wines, go to a bar (or a winery or brewery) that offers tasting flights. These flights include small portions of several beers or wines, allowing you to try and compare. Share a flight with a friend or two to reduce the price.

10. Opt for cheap transit. This might be in the form of a friend who's a designated driver, walking or public transit -- whatever it is, form a plan before you go out. Taking a taxi, Uber or Lyft to and from a bar can make the evening much more expensive.

11. Win trivia. OK, this isn't the easiest method to save money on drinks. But if you like playing bar trivia with your friends, you'll most likely have the opportunity to win a gift card to the bar or a free round of drinks -- a nice bonus for hanging out with people you enjoy.

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