Best friends Josh Howard and Michael Tippit never let a little thing like a budget get in the way of a good time.
Even while under-employed — Howard was substitute teaching and Tippit worked at a moving company — they did what they wanted and worried about their bank accounts later.
“We always chose to do things — whether it was $50 or not, we just did it,” said Howard, now a recruiter for Baton Rouge Community College and a youth minister at HeartsEase Family Life Church. “That’s just who we are and what we do. After a while I looked at my checking account and said, ‘Maybe we should cut back.’”
Watching their spending didn’t mean cutting entertainment out of their lives. Howard, 25, and Tippit, 21, instead found creative fun that cost less than $10 and shared their experiences on the Internet. They write about their “inexpensive adventures” as 2BRokeGuys on their BRoke BReakdowns and Adventures blog and on a Twitter account.
They created the account and blog two years ago complete with a logo when they decided to change their free-spending ways, but they never followed through.
In April, while they drove to a crawfish festival in Lake Charles, they decided to revive their Internet project to see where it might lead. That first day they hit the crawfish festival, a rock climbing gym in Lafayette and the Baton Rouge Blues Festival and wrote about them all. All were labeled: “BRokeApproved.”
Within a month the Louisiana Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism asked them to write an article for http://www.LouisianaTravel.com about visiting Baton Rouge on a budget.
“Most of the things we found were food,” Tippit said. “I mean, it’s Louisiana. Eventually we started doing mostly food, and we had to do other stuff.”
“Once our waistlines expanded,” Howard added, “we thought our commentary needed to expand.”
Since the blog took off, Howard has met with a financial adviser to set a budget and earnestly begin saving money. He has gone over budget a few times, he said, because “we’re young and we’re dumb,” but he has learned to spend responsibly.
“We’re young and we have jobs, but we want to make sure we can live the rest of our lives,” he said. “We have to save and conserve. Sometimes you have to do things you don’t want to do to do the things you do want to do.”
Five tips from 2BRokeGuys
After navigating the entertainment world of Baton Rouge with little cash, Josh Howard and Michael Tippit offer advice to stay busy without becoming even more broke.
1 Go to lunch. Howard dines out for lunch rather than dinner because the specials are better.
He’s learned to order water to drink — soft drinks cost up to $3 in some restaurants — but flavoring the water can be a little embarrassing to him.
“You can go the old, stale route — water with a bunch of lemon and sugar. You can also bring your flavor packs,” he said. “We’re frugal, but we’re not so broke and tacky and cheap.”
At lunch, Howard never orders an appetizer. Because lunch specials often take less preparation time, the appetizer and main course come out together, he said.
“What’s the point of even getting all that?” Howard said. “Look for something that may not be the biggest and the best, and you’ll find the cheapest route there.”
2 Do your research. The 2BRokeGuys have fun in a very deliberate manner. They scour calendars, websites and Twitter in search of deals, free and cheap concerts and festivals, anything to enjoy a cheap night on the town.
“Keep digging and find it,” Howard said. “It’s just digging and finding it. Also, it’s not being afraid to call and ask.”
Before trying something new, they call restaurants ahead of time to find out prices, Howard and Tippit said, or they search for an establishment’s website.
Tippit has known friends who wanted to try a new place, but the menu was a little pricier than expected.
“And they’re too embarrassed to get up and leave,” he said, “so they end up paying $30 for themselves.”
3 NEVER FEAR NEW EXPERIENCES. Between the area’s universities, an endless supply of regional festivals and free or cheap musical events, there are always new things to try, the guys said.
“I used to always sit around bored and say, “There’s nothing to do here,’” Tippit said. “But if you open your eyes and look around, you’ll find stuff going on all the time.”
Last month they watched a cheap — but fairly obscure — movie at City Park. They froze their “tails off,” Howard said, but they made it enjoyable.
“It was a silent movie, so we kind of made our own plot,” Tippit said.
Tippit, who loves music, will watch any band at least once. Sometimes he finds his new favorite artist, and sometimes he learns who to skip in the future.
“The more you walk around, you’ll discover something new,” Howard said. “Baton Rouge is always big enough to discover something.”
4 MAKE CONNECTIONS. While Howard and Tippit are outgoing and just enjoy making friends, they have also learned that meeting people can open doors.
“It’s not to use people,” Howard said, “but if you’re nice to people, (then) people like to help you out.”
Recently, at a small, locally owned restaurant, they expressed their enjoyment of the food to the staff, who began plying them with additional dishes.
Connecting with people will usually not lead to free food, but it often improves the dining experience. Restaurant employees know the dishes and side combinations better than anyone; Howard finds they are honest.
“Anytime we go to a restaurant, we ask for a recommendation,” Howard said.
5 USE COUPONS OF ALL KINDS. Around Baton Rouge Community College and LSU, Howard and Tippit find coupon books marketed toward students, and they rely on multiple online coupon services, such as Living Social, which partners with restaurants, stores and hotels to offer deals to subscribers. They used one coupon offer to buy a reduced-price trip to Las Vegas this December.
Sometimes coupons are out of place, Tippit said. When he and his girlfriend go out, he leaves them at home.
“When we go on a date, we’re not breaking out the coupons,” he said. “We’re not that bad.”
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