Entertainment doesn’t have to be expensive. In fact, some activities don’t cost anything at all. Others, while not free, allow you to entertain a crowd for a mere pittance. Start with these 10 money-saving tips for having fun on a budget.
1. Discount coupon books.
One of the best buys around if one exists for your area is the Entertainment Coupon Book. You’ll find discounts on everything from movie tickets to dry cleaning. This book will pay for itself with only a few coupons. In fact, most books are packed with over $15,000 in savings if you used every coupon (which you never will).
2. Cheap at-home entertaining.
Don’t think that just because you invited friends over for dinner that you have to pick up the entire cost. Have a pot-luck instead. People love sharing their favorite recipes and by splitting dinner, everyone enjoys variety while saving money. In fact, make this a tradition among your friends. You can also simply plan the meal and then ask your guests to make up an assigned dish for which you can trust their cooking ability or furnish them with the recipe.
3. Movies at home.
Home videos and DVD’s are perfect family entertainment. You can buy or rent them at most of the large chains. Buying allows you to watch the movie as many times as you want. This is particularly good for young children who never seem to tire of seeing the same cartoon movie over and over again. If you have a computer with a large-screen monitor, a great way to rent movies is from Amazon Video On Demand. Save time and gas because you don’t even have to leave your home, and their selection is fantastic. And for anyone who watches a lot of movies or for families who would otherwise head to the theater one or more times per month, Netflix can save you tons of money. When watching movies at home, create a special occasion. Pop popcorn, grab a soda, spread out a blanket and some pillows and pretend your at a drive-in.
4. Pack a cooler full of goodies.
Going to a ballgame can be great fun, but it can also get expensive. Not only has the price of tickets skyrocketed, but the cost of food sometimes reaches exorbitant. Instead of spending money on overpriced food, take your own cooler of food. Pack it with fried chicken, potato salad and soft drinks and have a real picnic at the ballpark. You can do this at local Little League and soccer games, festivals and fairs as well.
There are hundreds of things to do to keep you entertained that cost nothing at all. For example, for little Friday or Saturday night excitement, sign up at your local police department for a ride-along where you can go with an officer as they respond to real calls. The local library is always offering things to do for free. Check out some of the local coffee shops for poetry readings. Many cities offer free concerts in local parks during the summertime. Your local newspaper will often have listings of FREE things to do in your area.
6. Check memberships for savings.
If you belong to AAA, AARP, Allstate Motor Club, or other clubs of this type, check to see if they offer discounts to amusement parks, sporting events, theater performances, among others.
7. Cancel magazine and newspaper subscriptions.
Do you have a subscription to Gourmet Magazine and have never used a recipe in it? It’s a beautiful magazine, but like most people, you probably take a quick look-through to see what’s in it and it’s relegated to the garbage or worse, a stack of magazines that you’ll never look at again. How many subscriptions do you have just like this. One lady subscribes to the daily paper exclusively for the crossword puzzles, but the only thing she reads is the headline on the first page. Seems like a real waste of good trees, doesn’t it? How much money could you save by cancelling rarely-used subscriptions? Get your reading material (along with videos and much, much more) at the local library. It’s free. Also, most libraries have activities for all ages that are free to attend.
8. Bring out the games.
When was the last time you played Monopoly, Trivial Pursuits, Checkers, Backgammon or a host of other games that used to be the mainstay of family entertainment years ago? How about charades, blind man’s bluff, tic-tac-toe, mother may I? Playing games is a lot more challenging and mind bending that sitting in front of the boob tube every evening.
9. The great outdoors.
It is estimated that 1 in 3 people are obese. The number of children with diabetes is alarming. Physical education and recess has been cut out of many school curricula. What better way to regain your health than to take advantage of everything the great outdoors has to offer for FREE. Hiking, camping, fishing (well, OK, you might have to buy a fishing license), tubing down a local stream in the summer, tubing down a snowy hill in the winter just to name a few activities to keep everyone entertained and healthy.
10. See how others live.
Did you know that a real estate open house rarely sells a home. Why? Tire-kickers and nosy neighbors are usually the only ones who go to open houses. Going to real estate open houses is great fun. Sometimes agents will even have free goodies to eat. It’s also a great way to get decorating ideas especially at decorated model homes. This is probably not something the kids will enjoy, but it can be very entertaining for adults. Just don’t give out your real name and phone number unless you’re really in the market for a house.
11. Get some culture.
Visit zoos, museums, planetariums, aquariums, historical societies and other attractions typically operated by non-profit organizations. Many have days that you can visit for free or for a deep discount. Check to see if an annual membership could save you money. If you attended special events and new exhibits, participated in activities, a membership in the organization could be a real money saver. In addition, these places are extremely educational, so you’d be taking steps up the cultural ladder and creating a well-rounded environment for the kids.