Sometimes our most delightful moments cost no money at all.
Which is why I was shocked when I learned the typical American household spends over $240/month (5% of spending) on entertainment (BLS, 2016). That’s more money than that average household saves!
Now, to be clear, I’m not suggesting you should spend zero money on entertainment. After all, who doesn’t love catching a concert, Netflix and chilling, or grabbing drinks with friends? We should live life to the fullest, while also making smart economic decisions.
In this article, I’ll share tips to help you have more fun than the average bear while spending way less!
Tip #1: Nature is free! Enjoy it!
Nearly every city in the U.S. has a free park or walking trail. It’s remarkable how calm and happy we can feel just by observing or walking through nature.
When planning daytime activities, consider hikes and park picnics as alternatives to more expensive options like browsing the mall or eating at a restaurant. You’ll likely have more fun and feel better afterwards!
Tip #2: Pre-games aren’t just for college
Going out with your friends on a Friday or Saturday night? Rather than directly meeting at a bar or club and buying multiple (ridiculously expensive) drinks, convince one of your friends to host a pre-game before you tear up the town. Or host it yourself!
Tip #3: Always look for discounts
Do you have that frugal aunt or uncle who tells you to never pay full price? Well they were right!
If you decide to buy movie, theme park, or museum tickets, first search online for discounts. You’ll often find deals through sites like Groupon or RetailMeNot, a program at work (i.e. teacher discounts), or reduced price gift cards in your local grocery store or Costco.
For example, my local movie theater (Cinemark) charges $13.50 for a regular movie ticket. But instead of paying full price, I buy pre-paid Cinemark tickets at Costco for $8.50 per ticket! That’s a 37% discount. Wowza!!
You may wonder, why do companies do this? Why have a “face value” price and a secret lower price available through minimal extra effort?
Because these companies are smart. They know that most people won’t even think to look for a lower price. But savers like you and I will! They still want us as customers and are willing to accept a lower margin to bring us in, but don’t want to alert their mainstream audience to our clever game.
Disclaimer: Occasionally you just won’t be able to find a discount for that fun thing you want to do. In that case, if you’ve determined it’s worth the money, go ahead and purchase. We can’t get discounts 100% of the time, but we can always try!
Tip #4: Cut the cord!
If you’ve already unsubscribed from cable TV or never had it to begin with, skip to the next paragraph. If not, (inhales) WHAT ARE YOU DOING?! CUT THE CORD NOW!! (exhales). Ok, now that I got that out of my system, I’ll make a more logical case for why you should unsubscribe by addressing common counter-arguments:
Once you’ve cut the cord, the next step is optimizing which entertainment subscriptions you’ll pay for. Netflix, Spotify, Hulu, HBO Go, Amazon Prime Video, the list goes on and on.
In my opinion, you shouldn’t pay for all of them. First, figure out which are most valuable to you. For those you determine are worth the money, see if you can legally share a login with others to reduce the cost. For example, we subscribe to Spotify’s family plan ($15/month) which allows everyone living at our address to access Spotify premium, rather than each individually paying $10/month.
Tip #5: Your local library is a hidden gem
Once you have your card, check what online services you get for free. For example, my library provides access to an app called OverDrive which includes tens of thousands of free audiobooks and ebooks! And that’s just one of my library’s many free services!
Many libraries also provide “cultural passes” which give you discounted or free admission to popular local museums and attractions. Image how much happier you’ll be at that dapper art museum knowing you got in for free!
And then of course, there’s the physical content of the libraries. You name it, they’ve got it: books, movies, TV shows, magazines, even video games. Yes, video games. If you’re a gamer and you’re on the fence about buying a new game, borrow it from the library first to decide whether to buy. If someone else has checked out the item you’re looking for, just make a reservation and it will arrive before you know it.
What did I miss?
What are your favorite ways to save money while having more fun? Sound off in the comments! I’ll be sure to try out your tips myself and I’m sure our readers will as well!