What can ruin a perfectly planned budget faster than you can say, "one large tub of popcorn, two Diet Cokes, and a box of Milk Duds, please?" You guessed it -- Friday and Saturday nights.

It's such a drag to think about budgets on the weekend. You want to blow off a little steam, hang out, kick back, recharge your batteries. You deserve it, especially after all those late nights at the office trying to get the month's sales presentations finished for the pickiest boss in the universe.

And you're having a great time ... until Monday rolls around and you realize you don't have any cash left in your wallet. You can't buy lunch or put gas in the car. Now what?

The Foolish solution
The weekend doesn't have to break the bank, and you don't have to turn into a loner spending your Saturday nights in the library to stick to a budget. Consider some of these ideas to keep your weekend spending in check:

  • Budget for fun, and make it a realistic budget. If you know your happy hour with friends will mean a few martinis, don't pretend that you'll sit at the bar and sip a seltzer with lime all night. Make cutbacks in other areas of your spending to compensate, and you can stick to your budget and have fun, too.
  • Meet your friends for drinks or dinner or a movie, but not all three. Sometimes weekend spending gets out of control when one activity leads to the next and, before you know it, you've been digging into your wallet every few minutes for hours. If your friends plan an all-night excursion, join them for the parts you'll most enjoy and that you know will fit your budget.
  • Skip dinner and meet for dessert, or coffee, or an after-dinner drink. Dinner tabs can really add up when you combine the cost of drinks, appetizers, an entree, and dessert. There's a very good reason why restaurant chains like Cheesecake Factory (NASDAQ:CAKE) and Texas Roadhouse (NASDAQ:TXRH) are so profitable. You can cut the tab by arranging a date or a rendezvous with friends around just one of them.
  • Hold part or all of the night's festivities at home. Volunteer to host the happy hour at home before going out to dinner. Invite everyone over for a potluck chocolate dessert party. Screen a Harrison Ford retrospective in your own living room. Hanging out with friends doesn't always mean you have to spend a lot of money to enjoy the pleasure of their company.
  • When you're at the movies, skip the large tub of popcorn and the Milk Duds. Your arteries and your budget will thank you.
  • Look for a discount theater in your city. Many towns have second-run theaters that screen movies for less after they've been kicked out of the megaplexes. Sometimes you can even find runs of classic masterpieces that you may have never seen on the big screen.
  • Pick your activities with the price in mind. Scout out the pie at a local diner. Pack a summer picnic for your date. Rendezvous at a romantic bridge and take in the stars. Share a banana split at the ice cream shop.

You might have to think a little more creatively, but there are plenty of low-cost or free things to enjoy if you need to make a serious dent in your weekend spending. If you're stuck for ideas, check in with the creative folks who hang out on the Living Below Your Means discussion board.

For even more advice for ways to save money and have fun, check out the Motley Fool Green Light newsletter, which recently tackled strategies to cut your vacation airfare and travel costs.

You might also get some motivation from these related articles:

Try out Motley Fool Green Light with no obligation by taking a free 30-day trial.

Fool contributor Mary Dalrymple was fascinated to learn that Milk Duds got their name because they couldn't be manufactured in a perfectly round shape -- they came out as duds. She doesn't own shares of the restaurant stocks mentioned in this article, though she wouldn't turn down a slice of cheesecake. The Motley Fool has a chocolate-coated disclosure policy.