If you're a small business owner, it can be tough fighting against the big names when it comes to engaging your clients - and that's half the story. They have the best tickets for every NFL game, you on the other hand can only afford the nosebleeds at your local high school event (where the games are free…). They can pay for expensive meals at the trendy restaurants seven days a week, while you only pay for dinners only twice a month.

But in reality, that's not what it's about. Talk time, the matter of the subject, is very important when it comes to establishing connections in the business world. It eventually leads to lifelong relationships, more clients, and - ultimately - a successful business. And from time to time, quite frankly, showing off too much can take away your reputation for who you really are. There are several ways to engage and bond with your clients on a tight budget.

Breakfast is always cheaper than dinner, since you don't have to pay for any alcohol. And, it's slick. Breakfast is the new dinner. Plus, for people with billable hours - a legal professional - it's going cost them $500 to be out of their office for an hour, so you better make it breakfast. One more tip, it's easier to fit a breakfast into your calendar - I know that as the day progresses, things usually get out of control.

The thing to keep in mind is that engaging clients isn't about showing off, or food. It's about spending time with them and talking about your ideas, face-to-face. It's pretty cool when you talk business while out with someone. If the both of you head to a gathering and meet 20 new people, you'll probably see them later and think, "HEY! That person looks familiar." But if you dine out together, it's nearly impossible to forget about them. And that same thing happens when you go out for coffee. Even with today's trendy coffee shops, you only spend $20, sandwiches included.

Happy Hour
Yeah, I know. Alcohol, particularly at an upscale bar, will cost an arm and a leg. As much as four dinners combined, in certain restaurants. But look at it this way: No one will get smashed out their minds at a business meeting, so you're probably going to pay for three drinks per person, max. It also depends on how many people you're catering, you can leave the bar only $100 lighter. This tip, however, comes with one warning. If you're going to go ahead with this plan, let the other person know when the meeting will end. Otherwise, drinks turns into dinner, and you end up paying a $200 bill - and probably four times more than expected. So gracefully plan your exit strategy. It'll make them feel special instead of insulted - it's more about saying the right words and presenting them in a way that is smooth. Trying to end the meeting after a couple of drinks if the other person wants dinner can seem like you're trying to avoid the extra cost.

When you invite someone to a meal, you should be the one with suggestions about where to eat - otherwise, they may suggest something that is out of your budget (if that happens, just play it off like you were there the other day). If you're at a meeting and you want to order drinks, you should be the first one to grab the menu. Take a good look at it, then ask everybody to choose between two options in your price range. Then, show the menu to the waiter and ask what he would order. This way, you can select what you can afford, but at the same time catering to your clients.

There are, obviously, several ways to engage your clients that don't involve food and/or drinks. These aforementioned tickets are all the rage - and expensive - but you don't have watch the games. Other activities going on in your city can be just as exciting and free, or at a bare minimum, fairly cheap. A film festival or an art show, an outdoor event, independent concert.