The first thing you should do is set up a budget for entertainment. Determine how much you can afford to spend each month on entertainment so that you don't spend money that is needed for other areas of your budget, like bills, food and other essentials. Be sure to factor in monthly entertainment fees, like cable TV, when creating your budget.
If you love going out to movies, consider the matinée. Instead of doing Dinner and Movie, go to the movie first. You save a little money and can talk about the film during the meal. If you go to the movies a lot, be sure to sign up for the theatre rewards program. At many theatres every time you buy tickets or concessions, you get reward points which eventually add up to free movie tickets or concessions.
Most areas have at least one movie theatre that runs older movies for cheap prices. All you have to do is wait until the movie has been out a for a few months and it will eventually show up at one of these theaters. Ticket prices can be even less than a matinee and are sometimes double features. There is also a growing trend of movie pubs. You can go and order a drink or even a meal and watch a second run movie for a discounted price. Drive-in movie theaters can also be great bargains and an added novelty for the kids or an old fashioned "date night".
An even cheaper way to watch movies is by renting them. If you rent a lot of movies, consider a subscription service like NetFlix. It allows you to create a list of movies you would like to watch and they send them to you in the mail. The cost is based on how many movies you want to check out at a time, down to $9.99 a month for one movie at a time. If you watch one movie a week that's about $2.50 a movie which compares pretty well with the video store prices for new releases.
With any subscription service, you should periodically evaluate whether you are getting your money's worth. You can view your rental history and see how many movies you have received over the last month and divide it by your monthly subscription fee. If you find you aren't using the service enough to justify the cost, you can scale back your membership, or just opt to rent occasional movies from your local video store. However, late fees can really eat into your entertainment budget.
One way to save money on entertainment and get more for your money is to limit your options. Do you really have time to watch cable movie channels and your movie rentals? Pick one of the other. Even alternate. Subscribe to HBO for a couple months while the Sopranos are on and cancel your Netflix account until you switch back.
For free movies, take advantage of your local library. They have tons of movies available and you can request that they order movies you want to see. You can even reserve movies you want online and they will notify you when they are available. And, of course, you can always borrow movies from friends and family after they have watched them.
Coupons are a great way to save money when dining out. You can look for restaurant two-for-one coupons in the entertainment section of the newspaper or in an entertainment book. Good coupons often come in the mail as well. With the large portions sizes that many restaurants serve, consider splitting a main dish and each getting a salad. It will be easier on your waist line and pocket book. Most restaurants offer a similar menu at lunch, but with smaller portions for less money.
If you avoid getting drinks or cocktails while you are dining out, you can save a lot of money. The mark-up on drinks and cocktails is high. You will do much better having your drinks at home after a night out. Also most bars have a happy hour early in the evening so call your restaurant to check out the best times to go.
If you would like to go to one of the 5 star restaurants but are on a 2 star budget, consider going and sitting in the bar. Although the price tag may still be high, you can share a couple of appetizers and have a drink without spending hundreds of dollars.
Most public theatre and classical music venues have mailing lists and email newsletters, which are a great way to find out about ticket specials. It also helps you plan ahead, since some shows can sell out months in advance. The Seattle Symphony usually has a free day once a year and occasional free organ recitals. The Seattle Repertory Theatre has a special price for students and other venues offer either discounts or special events for students. Weekend matinees also tend to be less expensive than Friday or Saturday evening shows.
Local community theatres are also a great way to see plays. Many produce locally written plays and take chances on lesser known authors in addition to performing audience favorites. You can often see the play for free if you volunteer as an usher for some of the performances.
Local High School plays can be a lot of fun to attend. They usually encourage attendance by the general public because it helps support the theatre department. The bigger high schools put on very elaborate productions, including live orchestras for musicals. Other schools do more intimate classics, by Agatha Christie or Neil Simon.
For live music, pick up a local newspaper or check out the Internet. Most cities have a weekly paper that is free and had information regarding clubs and activities in the area. Many local bands play at bars or clubs with a low cover charge. There are also performances at the local universities, colleges, and performing arts centers. Musical styles can range from jazz to rock to experimental performance art.
If you like to visit family friendly places like zoos, aquariums, or theme parks, look into buying a family membership. You can often get a yearly membership for the price of just a couple of visits and also get discounts on special exhibits. For example, the Pacific Science Center in Seattle offers free IMAX tickets if you join and a 10% discount on concessions.
A membership may also allow you free or discounted admissions to zoos or aquariums in other parts of the country. Always be sure to mention your membership when you travel to find out if they provide a discount. Also, be sure to mention that you are a member of the AAA or the AARP when you buy tickets. The key with any membership is using it enough to justify the investment!
Another thing to check out is your local community library. Many libraries have membership passes that they "rent" for the day to library members. This is a great way to go for free.
Many museums offer free admissions at some point, say on the evening of the first Thursday of each month or on national holidays. Going to dinner and a museum can be a very inexpensive date. There are musuems for fine art, of course, but there are also children's museums, motorcycle museums, rock and roll museums, forestry museums and on and on. Museums also have yearly memberships that allow you to attend special events and have unlimited attendance throughout the year.
This is a another situation where the internet is your friend. You can find out about special tickets packages by subscribing to a team's email list. There are also family or group ticket packages that can cost as little as $10 to $15 per person and sometimes include a voucher for food or merchandise.
For even cheaper options, look into minor league teams in your areas. Tickets are much cheaper than their major league counterparts and the games can be a lot of fun to watch.
You don't have to spend much money to have a good time at your local Farmer's Market. Most communities have them on Saturday or Sunday every week during the Spring, Summer and early Fall. You can get some great vegetables for less than you pay at the grocery market and usually there is something fun for the kids to do.
Swap meets and garage sales are a great way to spend a Saturday morning. Even if you don't spend a dime, you can look at trash and treasures, meet some interesting people and maybe find a real bargain!
Most local and State parks are free, especially if you are not camping. Pack a picnic lunch or bring some barbecue. Try out different parks in your area until you find your favorites. Whenever you can bring food from home, you will save money. You can hike to a waterfall in the mountains, or play frisbee on the beach, for the cost of driving.
If you live near a National Park, they are well worth any entrance fee. Camping is usually cheap, there are nightly entertainments and daily lectures with knowledgeable park rangers. They also have great kids programs with crafts and education about the area.
Metropolitan areas seem to have a festival of some sort nearly every weekend during the late spring and summer months. Every community has it's own festival, even if it is only on the Fourth of July. There is quite often free entertainment, plus craft and food booths. Parades are a big hit for the kids. Take pride in your own community or visit a surrounding area for something new.
Share your own favorite tips with the ThriftyFun community and read more ideas submitted by readers below!
1. Sign up for clubs where you would like to go. Our local $3/person movie theater has a club where you get free tickets on your birthday and other free stuff throughout the year.
2. Sign up with focus group / survey companies. My parents get tickets to a new movie every couple of months in return for filling out a questionnaire at the end with what they thought of the movie.
3. Be willing to try out new technology. A rental from Blockbuster costs $4 here, but since I tried out the new "Red box" rentals that are at grocery/drug stores, the rentals are only $1 each!
For those that are talking about renting movies at Safeway, I think those are the kiosks from www.dvdplay.com . Make sure to check their website a lot because they have a lot of good promo offers and specials that help save even more money. I think they have kiosks in other stores across the country too.
There are always free/inexpensive things to do - Last weekend we went to a free chamber music concert and the next day to a festival for which we had gotten free tix becaz I am a member of a music assn. I want to go to as much free/inexpensive live music as possible this summer. There are lots of outdoor concerts in the summer season - some free, some, like our local Hollywood Bowl, very inexpensive in the cheap seats! And you can hear pop music/jazz etc. at bars and restaurants for the price of a drink. We always look to see if there is music, so we get more out of our experience. A few weeks ago we heard Mexican harp while we had a light tapas dinner. And then there are festivals, which have musicians and the events are usually reasonable or free. (But remember to pack your own drinks and food - that's where the costs can run up at outdoor events!)
Try "re-thinking" entertainment. Now that the weather is nice, we have been meeting friends at the park, taking a stroll around the lake followed by a couple hands of cards at the picnic table. We bring drinks and snacks from home and enjoy being outside without the stress of making sure the house is "company" clean.
My family likes going to a sandy beach somewhere and making sand sculptures. I usually make a picnic lunch and we make a day of it.
My hobby is attending auctions, and I often make a family outing on a Saturday. I have found that some areas will let go of high resale value items, much cheaper than others, and the things I look for are the antiqued things no one is bidding high on. I almost always find a buyer on e-bay, or in my antiques booth, for my auction finds, sometimes making my money back ten-fold.
The kids are learning a useful skill and love to help me look through the stuff, or play with their friends, the
other "junker" kids..... lol.
At lunch time we each get a sandwhich, a cola, and chips, and make "penny guesses" on how much I will make on the resale of the stuff I bought. The winner gets the equivilent of the money made, in pennies, in their bank account, and the winner with the biggest savings account at the end of the month gets a requested, NON dollar value reward. This incentive ensures good behavior at the auction, because bad behavior is not rewarded.
RedBox vending machines rent movies locally for 1.00 a day plus tax. If you have dominoes, Monopoly, cards or checkers, etc, you could start a family game night.
Check out your local library for movies. Ours has lots of movies on DVD and VHS. They keep very current on what is just coming out also. The library is FREE!
Why not try Lunch and a movie matinee instead of dinner and a movie? By moving the entire date to an earlier time you save Lots of money and can go for a nice walk afterwards, and still have time to stop and have a cup of coffee and discuss the movie before it is too dark.
For NYC there are a number of free e-letters one can subscribe to for doings that are free.
Also, in NYC & other large cities the smaller theaters have 'volunteer ushers". In lieu of a salary, one gets x amount of free viewings of a play if one volunteers their time as a usher.
I recently learned that my frequent "flyer" miles on Amtrak can be used to buy passes to the movies. There are other programs like this for airlines and hotels, so I plan to check for more free movie tickets!
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Use the library. You can take out books, music, DVD's and they often offer other entertainment. Go to the park if you have one near. Play cards with another couple. Refreshments can be simple, cookies, cake, coffee or pretzels and soft drinks.
Go for a bike ride! We have bike paths in Vermont that are fun, clean and safe. No need to worry about cars and it is free. My mom used to bring me when we were young and we would stop for picnics or playgrounds along the way. As I got older I would rollerblade with friends and pick blackberries along the way. Who says you can't have fun and burn calories?
You could also "climb a mountain", not the rope climbing kind, the walk along a hilly/steep path kind. All states should have these free, or sometimes a couple dollars.
State parks are fun too! when I lived in the southwest, there were all kinds of parks to go to. My brother and I would fill out these "tests" about the park and then we got junior badges. That was so fun! I'm not sure if they still give the badges...it was ten years ago.
I like the library idea, we did that too. You can also find movies cheap on clearance or at yard sales. Used video games can be purchased for under 10.00 if you look in the right places. Or even ebay, I have bought movies for 5.00 or less, that's shipped to the door(shipping+sale price= less than 5.00)
Growing up we found ways to have fun on the cheap. And those memories are much more appreciated than the time I went to Six Flags. Family time is so hard to find in the blur of this multitasking technological world. Best to you and yours everyone!
To save money on snacks at the movies: before taking kids to the movies, feed them so they can't say they are hungry. Make microwave popcorn and let them eat it in the car on the way. Have cold juice boxes and a candy bar in your purse for them at the movies and/or tell them homemade cookies and hot chocolate are waiting at home.
You can have a great time at business grand opening celebrations and home builders also have weekend days where they invite you to see their models and offer fun and free food. Read the paper and keep your eyes peeled for those things happening in your community. Most are free or very cheap to go to and the kids have a ball.
Here in CA, Safeway stores have new movies for $1.49 a night plus tax ($1.61) and on Mondays for $.99. Not ALL new releases but most, great deal! You can keep for a day (up until 11:59 the next day, no matter what time you buy) or if you keep longer it's $.99 a day after.
Read a book to each other! Make a book. READ, it's the best!
In our local grocery stores (Harris Teeter, BI_LO ) they have a video machine. For $1.49, you can rent a video for one night and if you choose to keep additional nights, it's only $.99 for each day. Grab a 2 litre drink and some micro popcorn and, for less than $6.00, you can have movie night at home. Also be sure to add your email address when the machine prompts, they will email you "rent one, get one free" codes. I love it.
Cards, board games, drives (not inexpensive any more). If you live in a large city, art galleries have showings. Get on the mailing lists online. Check out free lectures listed in your local paper at local colleges, societies, hospitals, etc.
By the Oracle
Learn to play bridge. Gather three other friends and you'll love it. It's free. (except for the snacks!)
Here's a few we use all the time. Check out the newspaper on Sunday, there is usually a page full of club and city activities that anyone is welcome to for no charge. Sign up for the mailing list of local colleges, I've gone to free concerts, plays, musicals. Your local park district has a lot going on too. Ours has nature walks during the day and evening, garden shows, history reenactments, maple sugaring in the spring, haunted trails in the fall. Our city has a vintage car show every week and a weekly concert in the park. All this is found in the newspaper.
Go to your local library to check out VCR movies and DVD's. They also have books on tape, have the family listen to a chapter a day "together", talk over what they think the outcome will be and whoever is closest to the outcome gets to be or do whatever they want for a day.
My kids loved the competition of listening and then remembering what they heard. I believe it helped them become better rounded adults.
By Paula, Mebane, NC