How to Entertain Yourself on a Budget
So. You've crunched the numbers, figured out ways to cut back on spending and prepared for your new life. Or maybe you've filed bankruptcy and are working to rebuild your credit and develop healthier spending and savings habits. Or maybe you just don't like to spend much money.
No matter where you fall on the spectrum, you want to save money, but you still want to have a life. No problem. With summer on its way, saving money on entertainment is easier than ever - read on for some tips on how to spice up your social life and tone down your spending.
Budget Fun without Kids
Now that winter's over, saving money on entertainment is easy - can you say deck party? Consider taking advantage of the great outdoors when planning your next night out.
- Frozen Food/Drink Potluck: If you have a porch, deck or backyard, invite friends over and have them bring their favorite chilled food or ingredients for their favorite frozen drink. Then mix up a frosty smorgasbord and enjoy it in the steamy outdoors.
- Chill Out Inside: Heat too much for you? Relax in an icy movie theatre - during the day! This will get you out of the sun's hottest rays and likely you save you money, since matinees are often cheaper than night showings. Some areas even have theatres that show older movies for much less than the cost of a regular ticket.
- Drink the Specials: Do some research on local bars and restaurants - many have great specials on nights you wouldn't normally go out. When you go out, bring cash and leave the credit cards at home, so you can't spend any more than you planned. Get a group together and rotate designated driving responsibilities so you can save cab fare.
- Go for the Samples: Restaurant openings, vineyards and outdoor festivals usually have freebies available. Don't be shy - fill up on complimentary food and drinks and only buy a small amount of something you really like. To find events near you, contact your city's Chamber of Commerce or type your interests into an Internet search engine.
- Hit Outdoor Events: Summer festivals, craft fairs, farmers' markets and concerts offer great entertainment - sometimes for free! Most vendors at outdoor-type events are willing to negotiate on prices, but even if you don't want to spend money, such festivals offer plenty of stimuli to keep you busy.
Budget Fun for the Whole Family
- Outdoor Theatre Night: Why pay zillions for movie theatre tickets? Take advantage of the weather and rent a DVD/movie projector, set it up in your backyard and kick back with homemade snacks and friends/neighbors. This may work best for a bigger crowd willing to chip in, as renting projectors can cost a fair amount. The Washington Post recently ran an article about how to find reasonably-priced projector rentals.
- Picnic: An old standby for summer fun, the picnic is a great way to save money (bring your own food) while mixing things up for a family. Some communities offer free outdoor music, which can be a great background for a family dinner.
- Swap Your Kids: To avoid having to pay a babysitter, offer to have a "child swap" with another couple. You watch their kids while they go out; they return the favor. This way, you can save money and give your kids new playmates.
Other Ways to Save Money
Buying coupon books can save you big money if you frequent the establishments that offer discounts. Their website lets you peruse the coupons available for your area, so you can determine whether the book would be a good investment for you.
If you're going to an event that requires tickets, buying the tickets in advance can usually save you some money.
If you're a night owl, consider hanging around coffee shops and bakeries around closing time - many offer discounts on baked goods or hand them out for free before shutting down. This can be a great, inexpensive way to fill up before going out for a long night.
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