19 Tips to Save on Entertainment

A few days ago we provided some easily digestible savings tips in 30 Tips to Save on Food. Today we turn to different potential budget-buster – keeping yourself amused.

In 2010 (the latest year available), the average American family spent $2,504 a year on entertainment, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics – less than on food, housing or transportation, but still about 5 percent of overall expenses.

Find ways to amuse yourself for less, and you could divert a nice chunk of change to paying down debt, building up savings, or otherwise making yourself wealthier.

In the video below Money Talks News founder Stacy Johnson gives you five ways you can save on entertainment. Check it out, then read on for more tips to keep yourself entertained for less.

Here’s a recap of those five tips, and a bunch more ways you can enjoy your free time without going broke.

1. Get discounts on dining out

You don’t have to cut out restaurants altogether to save on entertainment costs. Sites like restaurants.com sell gift certificates at deep discounts – most $25 gift certificates go for $10, and sometimes for as little as $2. Check out the Money Talks News deals page for other coupons and special deals.

2. Attend amateur sporting events

In 2010, the average cost of a ticket to an NFL game was $76.47, according to USA Today. If you like watching live sports, attend amateur league games – they’re much cheaper.

3. Read for free

With a membership to your local library you gain free access to thousands of books, e-books, magazines, books on tape, and DVDs. Other sources for free e-books include Project Gutenberg and ManyBooks.net. And don’t forget about blogs and online news sites. Most newspapers have an online counterpart, so ditch the subscription and start getting your news free.

4. Volunteer

As Stacy put it, volunteering doesn’t cost a dime and will pay off big for both you and your community. Local animal shelters, home-building groups, shelters, and food banks are always looking for volunteers. And check out volunteer opportunities at local festivals and events. By volunteering, you get to go to the event free.

5. Turn a hobby into income

Being crafty is a fun and productive use of your time – plus you can use anything you make as gifts, or sell your products with sites like Etsy and eBay to earn some extra cash.

6. See a matinee

According to the National Association of Theatre Owners, the average cost of a movie ticket was $7.89 in 2010 – but tickets run much higher in some urban areas. Attend the matinee (from 4:00 p.m to 6:00 p.m.) for cheaper ticket prices, or look for film festivals and independent film theaters where tickets are even cheaper.

7. Rent movies for less

While libraries do offer movies, they may not always have the newest releases. You can rent those through Redbox for $1.20 a night. Use the Redbox location site to find one in your area.

8. Drink at happy hour

You’ll find two for one, dollar drafts, and other drink specials: Many bars also serve free food during happy hour, so you can eat and have a drink for one low price. While you’re there, see if the bar has theme nights. Some bars have “ladies night” or offer discounts during sporting events.

9. Swap babysitting gigs

You can spend more paying the babysitter than you do on the night’s entertainment. Instead, offer to trade babysitting services with a friend. Take turns watching the kids for a night and you’ll never pay a babysitter again.

10. Swap cable for streaming

The average cable bill is $75 and rising, according to CNN. You don’t need it. In You Don’t Have to Pay for Cable TV we give you several ways to get your TV fix without the high cost – like Netflix ($7.99 a month) or Hulu (free on a limited basis.)

11. Avoid ticket surcharges

Buy your tickets online and you’ll pay a surcharge. Buy your tickets in person at the box office or over the phone through the venue directly and you won’t have to pay the extra fee.

12. Find free concerts

Depending on where you live, you might have access to free music. In New Orleans, I can attend a free concert every week downtown. Check out your city’s tourism website for similar events in your area.

13. Spend time in nature

Don’t overlook the outdoors when you’re looking for something to do. National parks are free on certain days – this year including June 9,September 29, and November 10-12 – but are low-cost year-round. 

National parks offer free hiking and bike trails. You can also rent paddle boats, canoes, or horse rides for a small fee – or spend the weekend camping. Visit the National Park Foundation website for a list of national parks in your area.

14. Host potlucks

Gather a few friends together and throw a potluck dinner. You’ll get to spend time with your social circle and potlucks are a lot cheaper than restaurant meals.

15. Throw a game night party

Board games are cheap and reusable. But you can still save on the cost by asking your friends and family to bring over their favorite games on game night.

16. Buy season passes

If you frequent an amusement park, zoo, or aquarium, get a season pass. Season passes sometimes sell for not much more than the price of two entries. For example, you can buy a one-day ticket to Six Flags for $36.99, or a season pass for $56.99.

17. Get discounts on amusement parks and events

If you’re not a frequent visitor, check your local grocery store, retail chain, or drugstore for discount tickets. Some stores sell discount tickets to events if you buy in advance.

18. Attend local art shows

Pricey art museums aren’t the only place to see artwork. Local galleries often host free nights and many cities host monthly art walks where you view several galleries free.

19. Take a tour

Historical societies offer tours of homes, industrial plants, and businesses. In my area, these tours are free or less than $5.00 a ticket and last one to two hours.

Our goal was to create a complete list of cheap (or free) entertainment ideas. Did I miss any? Sound off on our Facebook page and tell us some of your favorite free pastimes.

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