I earn about a quarter of what most of my friends do. They're mostly couples and I'm single, and they're mostly in corporate 9-5 jobs and I'm a freelancer. Our earnings are different, and our lifestyles are different, yet we spend time together socially. I want to socialize with my friends, but I don't want to break the bank doing it. So how can a person manage to be frugal while entertaining with flair and elegance? Here are some tips:
1. Get generic goods and put them in pretty containers (or at least remove the labels). Hand soap, dish soap, candles, shampoo, food -- people judge the innards by the outer label. If you put some generic soap in a pretty container and stick it in your bathroom, no one will really know what they're washing their paws with.
2. Do potlucks or home dinners. I do not go out to eat anymore. I just can't justify the expense. I love to cook. I'm a vegetarian and non-drinker. I can make a lovely meal for six people for about $20. When my friends go out to eat, they split the bill and it costs way more than that per person, so I decline those invites.
3. If you must go out, make it a coffee. Sometimes friends or business colleagues really want to have a meeting over food. I never schedule lunch, instead I say "let's meet for coffee." This is much less expensive.
4. Freegan and 2nd hand everything. Where to get those elegant containers that disguise generic goods? The best place is free from Craigslist or Freecycle, the 2nd best is 2nd hand at a tag sale or thrift shop.
5. Don't overdo #4. Simple and streamlined are elegant. I've never understood why people live with a milkcrate and futon while saving thousands for brand-new furniture when they could get lovely things for next to nothing second-hand. But, just because something is cheap or free doesn't mean you should get it. I've overdone it frequently (especially with the free stuff), then have the hassle of too much clutter. Not elegant.
6. Thank you. When someone compliments furniture, dishes, or serving ware, I have to fight the temptation to say, "thanks -- I got it for free on the side of the road!". A simple "thank you" is much more elegant.
7. Keep a lookout for gifts. I love to give gifts. I like to have something to give when I visit someone, and I like to give my friends gifts for special occasions. So as I'm going to freegan places and tag sales and such, I often pick up things to give to others, and have a gift shelf, so I feel prepared, and never have to panic to come up with a gift. It's also nice to wrap a gift beautifully, and many elegant gift wraps can be found at tag sales.
8. Don't refuse a gift.I give gifts that I can afford, and I just have to assume that others do, too. If someone gives you a gift that cost $100, don't feel bad if you're giving them something you got for free. A gift is a beautiful act of love; be a gracious recipient (see #6 and #7).And if you hate it or can't use it, re-gift it to someone else in the future!