Last month, I went with six girls to Vegas. I was determined to gamble, drink and have a good time for the weekend. I ditched the girls and hit the casino Friday night. While laying down a few bets on college football for the following morning, I asked one of the security guards where I could have the most fun. He responded, “Hands down, free drinks at $1 blackjack.” I took his advice and scored a variety of beers from Corona to Heineken and hard liquor from rum and coke to double vodka and red bull, all on the house. By 3 a.m., I was 20 drinks down and entertained by the most random collection of folks. For the majority of the night, a biker with crazy stories and a mass of tattoos sat my right while a Swedish couple graced my left. For two nights I got hammered in Vegas without paying for a drink. Is that sort of feat possible for a student in Santa Barbara?

The method and occasion for drinking are important variables pertaining to the overall cost of the evening. Celebrating a close friend’s 21st birthday in Vegas can be expensive. However, it is important to keep typical weekend partying in I.V. as cheap as possible. Whether you are throwing down for a 30-pack or a handle, getting drunk each night should not cost more than 10 bucks. Being prepared to drink can help the damage. For underage drinkers, get your alcohol during the week. On Friday night, you’re going to have to beg your 21-year-old friend to buy you some booze. This ‘friend’ often attaches a small fee for being inconvenienced.     

Meanwhile, downtown Santa Barbara is a different scene. Once again, it is important to be prepared before going out on State Street. All you have to do is pregame, pregame and pregame a little more. A girl should never have to buy a drink downtown. A man should not exceed four drinks. A female hustling for a drink doesn’t even need to be attractive to get it. Most guys will jump at the first sign of affection and offer to pay. Just strike up a little conversation, act interested and laugh. Be advised, gentlemen: The hot girl who is way out of your league is only talking to you for a free drink. It may seem like harmless flirting but then in a flash she is gone with a 10-dollar drink on your tab. Try to talk to girls who already have a drink in their hand.

Before leaving the dorms on campus for the streets of I.V., make sure you are comfortable drinking any type of alcohol. Achieving a tolerance for a wide variety of alcohol is the key to drinking cheap. Prices directly relate to the style of packaging. Go for the plastic bottles of Heritage, cardboard boxes of wine and 30-packs of Natty Light. The alcohol may not taste like a liquid lollipop, but it does the job. Cheap alcohol also deters weaker drinkers from depleting your stash, leaving you with more to drink for further inebriation.

For the five-days-a-week drinker, drinking cheap alcohol is the only way to not go broke. Do you think a few drinks a day or a regular nightcap is too expensive? Whether it’s 2 a.m. on Wednesday morning or noon on Thursday, just go to the freezer and get out the plastic handle of Heritage vodka ($9.99). Simply add a healthy dose to a tall cup of two-liter Albertsons brand grape drink ($0.89). This powerful drink can make any student’s budget, with each cup costing less than a dollar. 

If you’re a sometimes-sipper or a constant crunker, it’s vital not to let alcohol expenses affect your already tight student budget. Whether it’s being prepared for the party or building up your tolerance for bottom shelf booze, a little bit of know-how goes a long way. Cheers to that.