For many of us, college will be one of the most socially vibrant times in our lives. We are constantly meeting people, studying different subjects, going new places and trying new things.
However, in what could be seen as a cruel twist of fate, this exciting social life is all too often coupled with financial struggles and very little money to spend on extracurricular activities.
I know this dilemma all too well, and I have learned a few tricks to save cash, as well as found a few places to eat that are fairly friendly for minors and for people who are trying to have a meal without bankrupting themselves.
First, before I even discuss places to go, one of the best tips I can offer for having a frugal night out is leaving your debit card at home, or at least not swiping it like a madman who just won the lottery.
Prior to going out, hit an ATM and withdraw the amount of money you’ll feel comfortable spending. By setting a limit and using cash, you’ll be very conscious of how much you’re spending and how much you have left, and it’ll be easier to stay within that limit.
While this article is primarily centered on having a night out, another tip for eating cheap is starting your evening excursions a bit earlier in the day. Happy hours are a great way to avoid high prices and large, late-night crowds.
For long-time Portlanders, many of these restaurant recommendations will seem generic, but as someone who doesn’t like spending money, I have found these places to be a safe haven for the frugal.
For those in the downtown area, Luc Lac Vietnamese Kitchen, on Southwest 2nd Avenue and Taylor Street, is a fairly affordable place to eat and makes a great location for a date or a night out with friends. Their pho and small sandwiches are delicious and won’t break the bank.
If beer, pizza and sandwiches are more your speed, The Lucky Labrador Beer Hall up in Northwest is a great place to go. They have an outdoor patio for when it’s nice out and large, open seating areas inside, as well as darts.
The Bollywood Theatre has Indian food for around $6–7 with a great ambiance. The Bollywood Theater has two locations. One is on Southeast Division Street and 30th Avenue, and the other is at Northeast Alberta Street and 21st Avenue. Both locations make great date spots, and the Division Street location is rigth next to a Salt & Straw.
If you’re hunkering for some Middle East cuisine, Petra, located in Southwest Portland on 4th and Alder, has great authentic Mediterranean dishes for under $8.
At the risk of sounding too generic, Little Big Burger has always been one of my favorite places to go for a cheap burger and fries while still feeling like I’ve gone out. Its location next to Powell’s makes this a nice stop when exploring the downtown area.
If you want to get your money’s worth, Boxer Ramen, located in Southwest on Stark and 10th, has huge bowls of ramen that will leave you wishing you had a larger stomach in order to fill it with all the brothy, noddley goodness that’ll be left over.
Overall, I’d say to avoid fast food. While the prices are tantalizing, it’s not worth it unless you’re drunk, alone or just really craving fries. However, fast food joints make good last-minute stops to get a cheap desert. Do not hesitate to treat yourself to some delicious McDonald’s flurries or ice cream cones.
Here’s what you shouldn’t do to have a good night out at a reduced price: meet up with strangers on Craigslist who might buy your food, bring your own food to a restaurant, stroll through grocery stores and eat the leftover granola that’s in the bulk section Subway.
Trust me. No matter how tight your budget is, you’re better than that.