DC Fit Masthead

How to have a social weekend on $55

Laura Peppas

It’s Friday afternoon and you’re down to your last few dollars before pay week.

Your friends are keen to meet up with you, but you’re more inclined to stay on the couch, eating leftovers. We’ve all been there, and it got us thinking – on those weekends when you’re close to broke, is it still possible to have a social life in Canberra? We put Laura Peppas to the test to find out.

I like the idea of a “social experiment”, but not necessarily when it involves me and especially not when it involves money – or to be clear, not having much of it. I’m known to be a bit of a spendthrift when I go out so I have a feeling this is going to be tricky, but I figure this could be a good way to snap me out of that bad habit.

To last me for the entire weekend, I’m given a total of $55  – for everything including breakfast, lunch, dinner and social activities. It doesn’t sound so bad initially, but that’s before I hear the rules: I’m not allowed to sit at home and hibernate like I usually would when I only have a few dollars to my name, and cheap go-to’s like Maccas or a walk around the lake are forbidden too – I’m told I have to be a bit more creative than that. So, here goes…



For someone on a budget, I start my experiment in a pretty sophisticated way and head to the National Film and Sound Archive for The Vinyl Lounge, a monthly event where you can go back to a time when iPods didn’t exist and listen to music on a pure analogue sound system. It’s the perfect way to discover music you’ve never heard before as well as old favourites you thought you’d never hear again. The best part? It’s free – gloriously free. Vinyl Lounge is held on the first Friday of every month, and while it’s free entry drinks are available for purchase.

Amount left: $55


For my next stop, I head across the road to Lucky’s at QT Hotel with trepidation – it is, after all, one of those funky Canberra hot spots that doesn’t exactly scream “cheap”. But happily, I soon discover a nifty little fact about Lucky’s: they have free tacos every Friday. Yes, you read it right, FREE. After I grab a taco and a house red for $9, I feel like I’m doing pretty well so far.

QT: Head to Lucky's for evening drinks.

QT: Head to Lucky’s for evening drinks.

Amount left: $46



I head north to see what they’ve got to offer, and am happy with what I find: especially as Caffe Cherry Beans in Gungahlin does a mean bacon and egg roll for just $8.50. See more of Canberra’s best breakfasts here.

Amount left: $37.50


After brekkie I feel like shopping but clearly can’t afford anything (and let’s face it, window shopping in a shopping mall is just plain cruel). The next best thing? Perusing the Farmers Markets at Exhibition Park on a lovely sunny day. Sure, I can’t afford much, but the intoxicating smell of fresh produce and chatting to the lovely vendors almost makes me forget that.  The markets are on every Saturday from 7.30 – 11.30.


farmers market photo

Amount left: $37.50


It’s a bit chilly so I decide to head indoors, and wander across to Canberra Museum and Gallery to check out their latest exhibition, Ink Remix: Contemporary Art from Mainland China, Taiwan and Hong Kong, on until 18 October. It’s free admission and is well worth a look!


Amount left: $37.50


It’s the moment I’ve been dreading: Saturday night dinner. But as I discover, to get a filling bite to eat, you don’t have to pay the big bucks. Spudbar in Civic offer delicious and filling meals at reasonable prices. I go for the The Festival, a satisfying mix of melted butter, tasty cheese, free range bacon and sour cream, for just $8.20. Find other cheap eats around Canberra here.

Amount left: $29.30


I feel like dancing but can’t afford the cover charge, so I head to The Durham in Kingston where it’s free admission, live music and best of all, $2 sliders with every drink (house wines start from $6.50).

Amount left: $20.80



I decide to head south for breakfast today, and grab a delicious cookies and cream scroll from Mr Scroll at the Old Bus Depot Markets in Kingston for just $5.50.

Amount left: $15.30


After breakfast I feel like getting active, so I hit up one of Canberra’s best walks, The Centenary Trial, around the Parliamentary Triangle. Read more about the best walks around Canberra here.


Amount left: $15.30


Walking has made me work up an appetite, so I grab a delicious bowl of Cheesy Chilli Chips at the Broddogs van at The Hamlet in Braddon for just $6. Less than $10 left!

Amount left: $9.30


The weekend is winding down and I’m down to my last handful of coins. I head to Parlour Wine Room in NewActon for a bowlful of salted and smoked almonds ($7) to end my social experiment on a high and with $2.30 left! Not bad for a girl on a budget!

Amount left: $2.30

Know of any more cheap or free stuff in Canberra? Let us know in the comments below!


Laura Peppas

Laura Peppas is HerCanberra's senior journalist and communications manager and is the Editor of Unveiled, HerCanberra's wedding magazine. She is enjoying uncovering all that Canberra has to offer, meeting some intriguing locals and working with a pretty awesome bunch of women. Laura has lived in Canberra for most of her life and when she's not writing fervently she enjoys pursuing her passion for travel, reading, online shopping and chai tea. More about the Author

  • Alison Carter

    On Tuesday evenings you can get a $10 steak from the Uni Pub

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