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Pre-drinking on a student budget

What's the secret to a cheap night out? It's all about a great pre-drinks, of course, and here's how you can nail it on a student budget.

friends at a house party with drink emojis

Credit: Jacob Lund – Shutterstock

Disclaimer: This guide is about saving money – we encourage all readers to drink responsibly!

No good night out is complete without good old pre-drinks. Getting a few beers or cocktails in at home before going out will not only get you warmed up for the dance floor, but it'll also save you a considerable amount of cash in the process. It's the perfect way to drink on a budget.

Pre's before a night out is a chance to have a few drinks, chat with your mates, play drinking games and listen to your favourite tunes, without the expensive prices of your local bar or club. Here are our pre-drinks ideas along with extra tips for saving money and having more fun.

You could ditch the night out altogether and opt for a house party instead – one of the many things on our university bucket list.

8 tips for the perfect pre-drinks

These are the best ways to have an amazing (and cheap) pre-drinks before a night out:

  1. Buy low-cost alcohol

    Get this bit right and you're sorted for the night. Pre-drinks mean that you can get yourself a little bit tipsy on cheap alcohol from the supermarket, so you can spend less on expensive drinks at the club.

    While a small glass of wine could set you back well over a fiver when out and about, you can buy an entire bottle for the same amount (or less) at your local supermarket. At about five glasses per bottle, this adds up to a £20 saving.

    Make sure you check out what deals are on offer (our food and drink deals are a good place to start), and always check exactly how much you're getting for your money, looking at the price per centilitres.

    Splashing out on brand name drinks can be costly, so don't be afraid to downgrade to supermarket own brands (pssst, you can't even taste the difference).

  2. Eat the right types of food before you drink

    Steamed salmon

    Credit: freeskyline – Shutterstock

    If you're drinking in the house, there's no excuse not to line your stomach with the right foods before you head out.

    Science shows that foods high in fat and protein take longer to digest, and are therefore best to slow down alcohol absorption over the course of the night.

    But that doesn't mean a big greasy burger (no matter how tempting it is). Things like salmon, avocado and mayonnaise are great choices, as are nuts that are full of vitamin B as this gets depleted when you drink. You can also check out our baked bean recipes for inspiration.

  3. Leave enough time to get changed

    Getting ready with your friends and housemates can be the most fun part of the night, but make sure you leave enough time to actually do it – especially if you know you're the kind of person to try on 100 different outfits.

    The last thing you want is to turn up to pre-drinks an hour late and have to 'catch up' with everyone else who is all well on their way to being drunk (it's always a recipe for disaster).

    We'd also recommend avoiding having too many drinks until your outfit (and your makeup) is complete. Wonky eyeliner and odd shoes are never a good look.

  4. Prepare the house for pre-drinks

    The combination of people, tunes, games and alcohol in your house will inevitably increase the risk of breakages and spillages tenfold. If you want to ensure you get your deposit back when you leave, spend some time hiding the breakable stuff before everyone arrives for pre-drinks.

    Also make sure to hide all of your valuables somewhere safe. This isn't because we think your mates are going to nick your stuff, but because doors and windows tend to be left open more often at pre-drinks, creating the perfect opportunity for burglars.

    Don't forget to wash enough glasses so people have something to drink out of, fill up the icecube trays and maybe set the mood with some fairy lights.

  5. Make a pre-drinks playlist

    The best thing about pre-drinks (apart from the cheap alcohol to get a little tipsy) is getting to be your own DJ. You can make sure that every single song that comes on is one that everyone loves – well, almost everyone.

    It's a good idea to have a playlist ready to go in advance, as you don't want to spend the night constantly changing tracks. You could even create a shared Spotify playlist with all your mates so everyone can add their own songs.

    And while you're at it, make sure you've got a music speaker all charged and ready to go!

  6. Play drinking games

    ring of fire drinking game

    We know that pre-drinks is all about quality conversation time with your mates, but drinking games are a good way to break the ice (if it needs breaking) or ensure everyone gets equally merry.

    If you're bored of Ring of Fire, we've got a whole list of drinking games for you to try out – Friends and Enemies is bound to get everyone in the mood.

  7. Book taxis in advance

    There's nothing worse than having to frantically count up a room full of moving people when you're tipsy, before calling a taxi firm or ordering a million different Ubers.

    Save yourself the hassle by booking taxis in advance. As soon as you know how many people are coming, get the call in or pre-book via your favourite ride-hailing app.

    But don't book it too early, or you'll end up with a room of hysterical people downing drinks and rummaging around for coats with an impatient taxi driver outside.

  8. Don't drink too quickly

    The art to master with pre-drinking is to have enough drinks so you don't have to spend so much in the club, but be sober enough that the bouncers will let you through the door.

    And it's harder than you think. As you're not having to buy each drink individually at pre-drinks, it's a little too tempting to keep filling up your glass without thinking about how much you're actually drinking.

    Everybody has their own personal limits and thresholds when it comes to this stuff, so don't try to keep up with everyone else!

    At the risk of sounding like your parents, getting drunk to oblivion never ends well, won't win you any friends (not any you want to keep anyway) and can be pretty dangerous. Know your limits, and if you do peak too early – don't go out, sleep it off!

    Also, check out our tips on how to protect your drinks from being spiked when you're out.

  9. Pay attention to the spirit and mixer ratio of your drink

    dog near bottle of whiskey

    A super important way to avoid drinking too much during pre-drinks is to stay mindful of how much spirit and mixer you have in your drink. You can also switch to a non-alcohol drink every now and then.

    Another great way to manage this is by making some punch beforehand with enough mixer to balance out the alcohol. Sticking to the punch can help you avoid opening too many bottles during the night and losing track of how much you've had to drink.

    How to make punch for pre-drinks

    To make the punch, simply mix a white spirit such as rum, gin, vodka or Schnapps in a bowl with plenty of fruit juice and lemonade.

    If you have any, you can also add some fresh fruit as this will add more flavour to the drink and help bulk out the bowl (so you don't end up adding too much alcohol).

    Mix the punch to taste, and enjoy.

Ever tried brewing your own beer at home? Now's your chance.

Jessica Murray

WRITTEN BY Jessica Murray

As an Editor of Save the Student, Jessica Murray has written extensively on student money news and money-saving tips. She was co-host of our podcast, No More Beans, and is now a journalist at the Guardian. Her tips and insights range from fun guides for freshers, to information for graduates entering the workplace.
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