Even when a budget is tight, people want to find ways to be entertained. If you plan carefully, you can still be entertained while being economically frugal.
I have a passion for entertainment. Books, movies, video games, theater — I enjoy them all equally, and that entertainment can be very costly. Fortunately, I’ve figured out ways to cut those costs dramatically and finish the month with more cash in my bank account. Here are some of my favorite tips on how to get your entertainment cheaply:
1. Catch a movie first thing on a weekday.
Most people know that movie theaters offer a matinee price for their movies (usually for shows before 6 P.M.). But did you know that several national chains offer an even cheaper price if you see the first showing of a movie on a weekday?
In Los Angeles, for example, a typical movie ticket price can run between $10 and $12 (with tickets for movies in 3-D or IMAX usually costing at least an additional $5). A matinee showing will shave one dollar off that price. If I catch the first showing of that same movie on a Wednesday morning instead (generally around 9:30 A.M.), the same ticket only costs me between $6 and $7 instead (and around $10 for 3-D and IMAX films).
For a family of four, that would be a savings of up to $24 just for one movie, enough for the family to be able to see an entirely second movie.
2. Use half-price ticket companies.
Live entertainment (theater and concert) tickets have become outrageously priced in the last few years. So if you love live entertainment like I do, what can you do?
The answer: half-price ticket companies. Once only found in large cities, these companies are now exploding across the country. They offer deeply discounted ticket prices for live shows, allowing you to see live entertainment without paying the full ticket cost. These companies used to only offer such tickets on the day of a show; now, however, you can often get tickets days or even weeks in advance.
The goal of these companies is to fill seats for shows that are people are less interested in attending — generally those on weekdays. So if you get tickets from one of these companies, expect them to be for a show sometime between Monday and Thursday. However, since it will be the same show that plays on the weekend and you will have paid half as much, the only difference will be how much money you save.
One note: With discounted tickets, you’re generally not going to be able to choose your seat, so expect to pay full price if you absolutely must be in the second row.
3. Drop your cable company.
Does your cable bill make you cringe? Then toss your cable away and turn to newer options for your television entertainment. With many HDTVs having Internet streaming capabilities now, you can pay far less for streaming services and watch hundreds of hours of television each month for under $20.
If you want to replace your cable movie channels, try services like Netflix. If you want to replace your current television shows from cable, try Hulu Plus. HDTVs often now come with both services already installed on the set, giving you a seamless way to toss that cable bill for good.
4. Take advantage of free and discounted books.
If you love reading books, there are two highly economical ways to add titles to your personal library. The first way is to buy an e-reader and check out the many free e-book websites. Sites like Project Gutenberg offer thousands of free e-books for download, far more than you could read in a lifetime.
But if you want new books (or physical books), join your local bookstore’s club. Because of the rapid shift to e-books, local bookstores are getting aggressive in offering deep discounts on new books to their club members. You can often get a brand-new book for 50 percent off the sticker price and an even greater discount on older books.
5. Figure out the entertainment value equation.
Ultimately, when you want to get the best value for your entertainment dollar, keep the following equation in mind. How much entertainment time does the product offer you for its cost? Movies generally offer only between two and three hours of entertainment time, for instance, while a video game can offer you hundreds of hours (or thousands, if it’s an online game) for its price.
Getting the best-value entertainment, then, is all about seeking out those products that give you more entertainment for their price. With this in mind, take the time to talk to your family and find out what entertainment they enjoy, and follow that up by seeking out the versions of that entertainment that give you the greatest value for their cost.