Please welcome back our usual Thursday contributor, Laurie for The Frugal Farmer…
One of the ways we’ve been working hard at finding balance as we pay off debt is by saving where we can, including finding ways to save money on entertainment. When we started our debt payoff journey in January of 2013, our first plan was to spend nothing – zero – on entertainment for our family.
That lasted about two weeks before the danger of trashing our budget set in, so we quickly decided that, instead of eliminating our entertainment budget, we’d learn how to make one we could live with. This, in my humble opinion, is extremely important if you want to avoid debt fatigue.
For 2013, we ended up just kind of spending a bit here and there, and our plan to save money on entertainment resulted in an entertainment budget for our family of six of about $74 a month. That’s not bad, but for 2014 we have a new goal of using the envelope system and setting our entertainment limit at $60 a month. This has worked well for us so far. When we see those three twenties staring back at us each month, and we know that “this is it” as far as fun money is concerned, we find it a lot easier to say “no” to those fast food drive thru trips and to save our entertainment monies for something that is truly important to us. As such, we’ve worked hard at learning how to save money on entertainment, so I thought I’d share some tips with you today that might help you do the same.
To Save Money on Entertainment, Make a List and Check it Twice
One of the things we did when we first started learning about how to save money on entertainment costs was to make a list of all of the fun things we like to do. We divided that list into three sections: free stuff, cheap stuff (as in, under $20) and then we added a third list with estimated costs included for stuff that was over $20.
On the first section of the list we put things like hiking, biking, picnicking, game nights with friends, etc. The second section would include things like movie rentals, and fancy or junk food nights that went outside of our typical frugal grocery budget. The third list included more expensive things, or things that were on our dream list, like trips to a waterpark or hotel weekends.
Creating a list of ideas helped us to have ready-entertainment ideas right at our fingertips so that we had choices available that were both within our budget and within our interests.
Think Outside of the Box
There are all sorts of coupons, deals, and ideas to help you save money on entertainment out there in Internet land.
- Don’t just go hiking: turn your hike into an archaeological dig and bring a list of things with you that the family can look for on the hike, such as fossils and rare bird or state bird sightings. Invite extended family over for a potluck, and have a slideshow or picture albums out from days long gone. We did this last year and it was a huge hit that is now slated to become an annual gathering.
- Search your state’s tourist site for lists of cities, towns or historical sites that have free or discounted days, or free town celebrations or parades. There are likely all sorts of things going on not too far from your home that can provide hours of free or cheap entertainment for your family.
- Some of our favorites? The weekly farmer’s market here, complete with musical entertainment and free samples, the town celebrations at all of the nearby small towns, and free movie days in the summer at a nearby theater.
Look for Alternative Ideas to Your Expensive Tastes
Instead of eating out at your favorite restaurant, save money on entertainment by making a version of their signature dish at home. You can pretty much find any recipe on the Internet these days, or at least some version of it. Rent a movie at Redbox and make some air-popped popcorn with lots of real butter and your favorite soda instead of spending your hard-earned cash at the theater.
Have an elegant dinner with friends at your home where each brings an upscale appetizer or dessert and brings a new or unusual bottle of wine instead of heading out for that $100 meal. Instead of a trip to an expensive waterpark, see if you can find a stellar deal at a decent local hotel with a pool. It may not be quite the same, but it’ll be something instead of nothing, and let’s face it, entertainment is more about attitude than about what you do.
One of the things we’ve found about learning how to save money on entertainment in this way is that we really do have much more fun when we go out. The restaurant trips or movie dates are much more gratifying, because we do them three times a year instead of three times a month. I guess the best way to put it is that we appreciate things more, and the bonus is that we’re saving money in the process.
What fun ways have you found to save money on entertainment? What’s one of the best dates or family fun nights you’ve enjoyed recently?
Photo courtesy of: South Canterburynz-