Drinking is such a large part of American culture that it's often the focal point of many social gatherings, dinners and events. Certain career ladders are climbed at networking events or with after-work drinks. Unfortunately, social drinking can become an expensive habit.
Consider turning discipline into a fun challenge with your friends. Set a one-drink maximum for the night and if you go over that amount, you have to buy a round or give them a few dollars. That way, everyone gets involved and has something at stake. You can also select certain nights where you'll allow yourself to drink and others where you stay sober. For example, if you have a big night coming up that weekend, consider giving up drinking for the week. Those extra dollars and extra calories can add up. Use a Google document or a financial monitoring app to track how much you spend as you go.
You can also rally your group of friends to start the evening a little earlier for happy-hour prices. Use Yelp to find out which local bars or lounges offer happy-hour prices -- and on which days of the week. Dishes or drinks are usually half-off, and sometimes you can find an even better deal by asking the server for inside information. Check Groupon for savings on trendy restaurants and bars in your area; it offers lots of deals at newer places or older establishments looking to boost their crowd.
When planning a dinner party or a meal-centered get together, look for a restaurant with a BYOB option. Many restaurants charge a small corkage fee that can be split among your group (usually between $5 and $10), and then you can share the bottle for a fraction of the cost you would spend if you were buying drinks by the glass.
And of course, if you want to keep the party going without actually heading "out," you can always host gatherings at your apartment or house. That way, you can invite everyone to bring their own bottle of choice, saving the entire group some money. Trader Joe's and Whole Foods both have bottles of wine for as low as $3 before tax.
Alternatively, you can use this as an opportunity to cut out alcohol completely. Beyond the health benefits of an alcohol cleanse, it could also provide you with mental clarity and peace of mind. Take time to assess which relationships and friendships are serving you. Can you have fun with these people without help from alcohol? Evaluate your social circles and to take a look at how much or how little you rely on alcohol to interact with others.