Going blotto on a budget

When the time comes to tighten belts and watch expenditures, one of the first things to disappear is entertainment. People stop going to the movie theater and start putting miles on the Blockbuster card. They stop hitting the horse track and start hanging out at the cockfights and bear baitings. They stop hanging out in bars and start drinking at home. Alone.

It doesn't have to be this way. While I can't offer any ideas for saving money on movies and the ponies, I can suggest a few ways to stretch your bar dollars. In addition to trying out some of the less expensive beer selections and learning to ask for a "rail" martini as opposed to one made with Bombay Sapphire, there are a few simple things that you can do to let your good times roll without crushing your wallet:

Pay As You Go: Tell me if this seems familiar: you start the evening by handing your bartender a card. You and a few of your buddies then guzzle tasty libations for a couple of hours. When closing time hits, the bartender hands you the tab and you sign your name with a flourish that would make John Hancock proud. The next morning, you find the receipt and discover that you've rung up a bill that is equal to the yearly military budget of a small Latin American country. You decide to hit up your friends for their expenses, only to find that they're all washing their hair or building houses for Habitat for Humanity. You suck it up and survive on ramen until your next payday.