We all need a bit of down time, and usually we call it entertainment or recreation. The thing is, these things can be pretty expensive, even when you try to “go cheap”. For example, the average cost for a family of four to go to a Major League Baseball is more than $220, and that is for cheaper seats. Clearly, few of us could sustain that type of expenditure, and so things like sporting events are often deemed as special and one-time activities for most. Yet, with movie tickets averaging around $10 a seat, with matinee prices hovering at $6 a seat, the movies are no bargain either. And we won’t even begin to discuss restaurant prices! So, what can you do to save on entertainment? Actually, quite a lot.
Think Outside of the Box to Save On Entertainment
In this article, I am going to go over my favorite ways to start to save on entertainment, and you may be happy to know that it doesn’t require you to skip all of the typical ways of being entertained. As an example, we are going to look at streaming services as a form of entertainment, dining out, going to the movies and even attending sporting events and other popular fee-based activities.
So, let’s start with the most common way that most of us find our entertainment – at home. When you think about entertainment at home it is likely to include watching TV and movies as well as playing video games, reading and listening to audio books and podcasts.
The good news here is that you can start to save on entertainment at home using some very simple tactics:
- Look at the local library – In a recent article, I went over the myriad ways you might be missing out on huge savings available at the local library. To summarize, I discussed the many e-library services most libraries can offer. That included the use of both Hoopla and OverDrive for movies and TV streaming; Freegal and Qello as the ideal replacement for services like Pandora; and Freading that offers an enormous array of free eBooks, including best sellers. You can also find options such as RBdigital that lets you enjoy reading lots of newspapers and magazines online, and entirely for free.
Don’t forget that libraries also have enormous, well, libraries! You can find thousands of books, movies and recorded books on the premises and almost all libraries do interlibrary loan options, too.
- Consolidate and cut down on subscription services – I myself used my libraries different freebies as a basis for cutting back on subscriptions. For instance, I had Amazon Prime, Netflix, Hulu, Pandora, my local PBS station, Acorn TV and a few premium channels sapping my bank account every month. I also subscribed to streaming services like the Great Courses Plus and Audible. Because the library gave me many options, I cut out more than half of my subscription options…and never missed them.
I would strongly urge you to use this step as a way of also identifying all recurring charges that you may, or may not be aware of each month. Websites and apps such as Truebill, Trill, Trim, Bobby, Bean and others get permission from you to review your financial accounts, identify recurring charges and help you decide whether you want to keep or end them. With a few clicks, I was able to net more than $60 per month that I didn’t realize I was spending on subscriptions and ongoing charges.
- Invest in board games – My readers know that I love to look for ways to save big on most of my purchases. I’ll shop through portals like Ebates and ev’reward to see how I can make the most of any purchase, and I also keep track of my opportunities for saving big at stores like Target and CVS, as well as warehouse stores and Amazon. I also make note of the “best time of year to buy” many kinds of items. So, what I can tell you is that late August (when kids are heading back to school and no longer need entertainment at home) and the Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales are the best for board games. Stock up and use your array of portals and savings tactics to get the best games for your household. Also, watch Amazon as they sometimes do buy two/get one free type deals.
- Learn something – I know this sounds like just the thing I promised NOT to do but stick with me for a moment. Last year, after my household became obsessed with the Netflix series “Stranger Things”, we were inspired to learn MORSE code. We decided that three times a week, after dinner and just for one hour, we would hone our skills. We mastered it in about two months and now have loads of fun tapping out messages whenever waiting in line, sitting in the car and so many other places. It inspired us to learn more, and we have since mastered the art of making sushi at home, playing the game of “hacky sack”, and viewing a few of the Great Courses Plus programs (including one about Vikings and another about Physics). These things did cost us a bit of money – we used apps to learn MORSE, pay a monthly fee for the courses, and so on. Yet, they gave us more than an hour or two of entertainment and allowed us to actually save on entertainment.
- Try to save on entertainment by profiting from hobbies – In another recent article, I looked at ways to actually earn income while doing your favorite hobbies. Here too is another way you can entertain yourself without depleting your bank account. In fact, you might find it is an ideal way to take in substantial amounts. While you can easily crochet, carve or make things to sell online, you can also use the methods described in the article to turn the hobby into a second job or high yielding enterprise through affiliate marketing and content creation.
As an example, I described my love of working with my own sourdough starter and how it has inspired me to try all kinds of baking. I could leave it at that, making and enjoying homemade baked goods. Yet, if I just set up a video camera and documented some of the activities, then write blogs and tutorials, I could also develop a relatively profitable affiliate marketing business, too.
Almost any hobby can earn income in this way, and I strongly encourage you to consider the ways that your hobbies can both save on entertainment costs and bring in income.
That is just a look at some of the ways you can save on entertainment costs at home. I didn’t even mention things like inviting friends over for potluck dinners rather than going out, investing in outdoor games, and even installing an outdoor theater and inviting friends and family over for your own “drive-in” movies.
You can also save on entertainment expenses when out and about in the world, too.
How to Save on Entertainment Outside of Your Home
If you are eager to cut back or save on entertainment costs when outside of your home, you need to divide entertainment into a few categories:
Let’s start with dining and how you can begin to save on entertainment when it involves food and drink. In the past, I have described the different ways I cut my dining costs and they include simple steps such as:
- Looking for early bird hours, happy hours, and opting for lunch rather than dinner
- Look for “specials” such as weekly burger nights, taco Tuesday bargains, half off deals and options for BOGO (buy one get one) deals – you can find them at local spots and in the national chains
- Opt to eat in the bar room during happy hour and you can often get access to deeply discounted menu items and even free finger foods
- Always, and that means ALWAYS, look for coupons and deals. Groupon is an ideal spot to find discounted dining options (I once got a $100 Restaurants.com gift card as part of a dinner and movie package, and the total price was less than $40)
- Go to the many discounted gift card sites and see if anyone is selling off their unwanted gift cards to your favorite chains at a discount
- Consider the “pay what you can” restaurants popping up everywhere. In most urban areas you can find a few of these unique establishments, and they actually allow you to just pay what you can for the meal. This lets you dine out for less, and you are often doing something good by paying a bit more (yet still saving big over standard restaurant prices) and allowing those who can’t to get a meal
Okay, so that’s food, and that means that we can now look at ways to save on entertainment at the movies. I have a few good recommendations beyond the “go to a matinee” option.
For one thing, I encourage anyone who goes to the movies twice a month to invest in a MoviePass membership (while they last). For a monthly subscription of $9.95, you can go to almost any movie theater in the U.S. once a day. That means you could, technically, watch up to 31 movies in a single month for just $9.95 total. Few of us do that, so I would say base your decision on the two movies per month question. If you do visit for regular screenings and pay around $10 or so a ticket, the pass pays for itself. However, if you go more often, you are really going to save on entertainment using this method.
You can also save on entertainment at the movies by looking for options to buy in bulk. For instance, I also look for options to buy something like ten or more tickets at a discount. My local theater does this, allowing a $6 per person price when I buy ten at a time. Since my MoviePass is good for one ticket a day, buying in bulk allows me to save on entertainment for the entire household. You can buy sets of ten tickets directly from some chain sites and even at places like Costco or Amazon.
Don’t forget the fun and cost effectiveness of drive in theaters. I am lucky enough to have three nearby, and they charge per vehicle and not per person. I load up the SUV with the couple next door along with a few kids and enjoy a great experience. We pack a cooler, back in and set up a table and chairs, and best of all – get two movies for the entry fee.
Lastly, we should consider the ways to save on entertainment such as events like concerts and sports. This is tricky, but here is what we do:
Look for amateur and minor league options – We have a Minor League baseball franchise in our county and lots of amateur ball teams, too. When we want a night at the baseball field, the soccer field or even the hockey rink, we can get it for a very low cost. Plus, we do some good with our ticket and food purchases.
If you are looking into major shows and events, you can wait until the last minute and use options like StubHub and even the box office to get a seat. Don’t forget to shop through portals like AAA and other organizations that frequently extend discounted ticket pricing.
You can also become a volunteer at theaters and other venues, and in that way you might even get free tickets.You should also consider local “free” games, shows and concerts as these can be just as enjoyable as the big name entertainers.
Also consider museums – they have pay what you can policies at some, and free days at others. This can help you save on entertainment and get some education. Many also have discount days, and that includes major theme parks.
These are but a few of the ways you can save on entertainment outside of your home. I greatly encourage you to try them all and track what you save. You are going to be pleasantly surprised.