Entertainment expenses seem to be one of those categories that gets cut first on a monthly budget when times are tough. After all, entertainment is something that we can all live without. When it comes down to putting food on the table, clothes on your back, and shelter to live in – entertainment will almost always lose out.
There are actually several ways to keep your entertainment budget low and still enjoy having fun with your friends and family at a reduced cost. The key is to have a plan and don’t get caught off guard. Here are 4 simple ways that my family has been able to limit the amount of money we spend each month on entertainment. Some of the items take careful planning while others take a bit of sacrifice.
1. Reciprocal Memberships
Not all memberships are created equal. Most memberships need to be used more than twice in order to recoup the costs. If you lose interest and become bored with the membership, there is a good chance you will not be able to justify the costs.
Reciprocal memberships, however work a little differently than traditional ones. A reciprocal membership allows you to take advantage of agreements between similar locations like zoos, aquariums, and museums. For the price of one membership, you can enjoy visiting multiple destinations throughout the year and only pay once.
Our family has had many fun weekends traveling to nearby zoos and museums just from having our reciprocal memberships. They have more than paid for themselves and we get to see different parts of the country. Since there are plenty of zoos and museums that participate in these agreements within a few hours driving distance, we can enjoy the fun without becoming bored and wasting our money.
For more information on the reciprocal agreements, check out – Cut Your Entertainment Budget With Reciprocal Memberships.
2. Get to Your Local Library
Even with budgetary cuts and closings, libraries are one of the best free resources for entertainment. From DVD rentals and books to free activities for the kids, your local library can help keep your entertainment budget in check.
Be sure to get a schedule of any free activities or classes that may be offered through your library. In addition to books and other media, most libraries also provide computer access and free Wi-Fi in case you don’t want to pay for either of those resources at home.
My wife and I have not rented a movie or paid to watch one in over three years because we always make use of our library. The only downside is that you may be put on a waiting list on new release books and movies as they are in more demand. If you are willing to wait and make this small sacrifice, your pocket book will thank you.
3. Coupon Books and Discounts
Have you seen the Entertainment Books for sale around your town? These are the books that cost around $20 and have tons of great deals on restaurants and other venues in your area. My son actually was selling these for a fundraiser at school. The coupon books were full of awesome buy-one-get-one free specials at many of our favorite restaurants. For the cost of $20, we will make our money back after using just two of these coupons.
Can’t find a coupon book in your area? There are other discount options available to find restaurant and entertainment coupons. For example, Restaurant.com is a popular site that provides discounts. Another option that has become very popular is Groupon. Many similar sites are popping up all over the country that cater to your local area.
Dining out doesn’t always have to put a strain on your wallet. Do yourself a favor and look for a coupon and plan ahead before going out to eat next time to help save money.
4. Free Local Events
Chances are there are probably free events in your town and you may not even know it. From free concerts and plays to parades and carnivals, there are probably plenty of no cost events in your area. Often the problem with these events is that they are not widely publicized, so you may have to do some digging to find them.
Check with your city or chamber of commerce for a calendar of free events they are hosting and sponsoring. Ask friends and neighbors if they know of events that may be going on around town. Pick up your local newspaper or look for free ones around that advertise local festivals and concerts. Another way to find free events for the family in your area is to run an online search using Google.
Our family takes advantage of free events hosted by the local YMCA and the city that we live in. It seems that almost every weekend some type of event is being hosted that is either free or very low cost. The key is to explore the resources that are available to you and take advantage of them!
The reality is you don’t have to spend a ton of money to entertain yourself and have a good time. With a little careful planning and some small sacrifices, you and your family can still enjoy many of the same things that others are paying full price for. The list above is just a few of the many ways that our family is able to stay on budget while enjoying spending time together.