When looking for ways to cut expenses, most people assume they will have to give up entertainment if they want to become financially stable. Of course, this can only last so long. No one wants a boring life, even if it does help them lower their credit card debt, so back they go to the world of movie theaters, Big Book Stores, pricey hobbies and expensive concerts. Are these our only options? A life of boredom or a life of high-interest-rate credit card debt? No.
My entertainment budget is lower than most people, but I have more entertainment because I diligently search out free and cheap entertainment. I am able to go out as often as I want to without worrying about the cost. Alternately, I have lots of options for entertainment at home if I'm not up to leaving the house.
Here are some ways I've found cheap entertainment.
* Library. Free books, movies, CDs, internet, lectures, classes, magazines, concerts and discussion groups. Some libraries (Chicago Public Library for one) even offer museum passes that can get you and a friend or two in for free.
* Local concerts. Top-40 concerts are pricey, too pricey for me, even if it's a favorite band. I just can't drop $40 for a few hours listening to music. I do go to concerts often, especially since my current city has a rocking music scene. There are dozens of concerts going on each night for free or perhaps a $5 cover. Before I go, I google specials and Happy Hour deals for that bar. (Lovin the Local Music Scene)
* Museums. Museum entrance is usually costly, ranging from $5 to $15 a person. I never pay. I check out the website for special promotions. Most museums will have free entrance at least once a year, and some will offer one day each week. It's crowded these days, so go as soon as they open to beat some of the crowd.
* Reading. I love to read and always have a good book with me. I never pay full price. I acquire my books in these ways: library (free!), paperbackswap (free, but I pay to ship books to others), amazon.com (a penny listing book after shipping will be $4), library sales (especially on the last day when it's Bag Sale Day!), thrift stores (my favorite sells some books for $.25), yard sales, Project Gutenberg (free ebooks, http://www.gutenberg.org/). You can also search for free Kindle books.
*Movies. I used to go to the theater, but don't anymore because it's too loud and I'm fussy. I do love movies though, and enjoy them cheaply in the following ways: library, Family Video's bargain section (2 for $1), redbox (sign up for their codes for free or discounted movies), online free streaming (crackle.com), thrift stores (I have a VCR and I get tapes for a quarter), library sales, amazon (penny listings are $2.99 after shipping and most popular movies are a penny due to over-saturation). On the rare occasions when I want to see a movie at a theater, I go to a second run theater on the discount day for $1 entrance. There are also early bird specials, miliary/student/senior discounts and free days during summer for kids.
* Restaurants. I like to eat out, even though I can cook at home for a lot cheaper. I have an entertainment book (purchased late in the season for $8, entertainment.com) that gives me buy one get one free meals. Happy Hour specials often offer 1/2 off appetizers; a couple can replace an entree. Lunch is almost always cheaper than dinner. Hole in the wall ethnic restaurants usually offer delicious, authentic meals at ridiculous prices. My favorite little Greek dive is priced similarly to fast food joints.
* Outdoorsy stuff. Biking, hiking, walking, jogging, swimming, roller blading, and skateboarding are all free or relatively cheap and they keep you in shape. I also like to get something to eat in addition to enjoying the outdoors, so I enjoy mushroom hunting (after having field training and I don't eat anything that I am not completely positive is safe), berry picking, edible wildcrafting, and fishing.
* Travel. I can't afford to take six months off work to drive around the country eating bread from local bakeries (my ultimate fantasy trip!). I still have a raging wanderlust, so I take day trips. I'll fix a nice breakfast in the morning, fill up the coffee mugs and hit the road. I'll drive an hour or so to some small town and explore. I've found wonderful restaurants, quirky museums and wonderful little antique malls. My day trips, including gas, usually run around $50-75. Not cheap, but much cheaper than any typical vacation. (Feeding Your Wanderlust)
There are lots of other ways to get free or cheap entertainment. All it takes is a bit of flexibility and research. Search "Cheap" and your city, or "free festivals". If your city offers a free paper, pick it up and you'll find lots of free events, special promotions and coupons. You never need to be bored again.