During these tough economic times many of us are looking for ways to balance our budget without feeling deprived. While reviewing our budgets the first item that usually takes the deepest cut is the entertainment budget and rightfully so, but you don’t necessarily need to cut your entire entertainment budget to zero. Let the Good Times Roll with these lower cost entertainment ideas.
- BOWLING: Most Bowling Alleys reduce the cost of shoes and the cost of a game during off-peak hours. (Including Weekends). A game of bowling during the early afternoons or late night (also known as late night bowling) can often be had for $1.00 -$3.00 per game. Check with your local bowing alley for specials and have fun for the entire family at greatly reduced prices. Your children will love being able to stay up a little late to have fun. Bowling Alley’s on Military Installations offer the best prices and they also have reduced prices during off-peak hours, often as low as 50 cents per game. If you live near a Military installation but do not have access partner with someone who has access. Most Bowling Alleys also have lounges with free entertainment including karaoke, live bands and DJ’s. Some of these lounges have become hot spots for after work happy hour crowds with low cost appetizers and no cover charge.
- DANCING/ CLUBBING: If you enjoy dancing or checking out the Night Club Scene in your city there are ways to keep your night out on the town low cost. The average cover charge at most nightspots range from $10.00 to $30.00 plus parking in many major cities. Do you really need to cough up a coverage charge to shake your groove thing? Most Night Clubs, Dance Clubs and other Night Spots waive the cover charge if you arrive at the club before a designated time, normally before 10:00pm – 11:00pm and even midnight in some cities. Take advantage of ladies night. Many nightclubs waive the coverage charge for ladies and reduce the cover charge for men. Are you thinking, hey the club does not start jumping until after 11:30pm or later in some cities? Keep the following advantages in mind:
- You instantly save you $10-$30, depending on the city.
- You can often find free parking close to the door (your feet with thank you for this at the end of the night).
- You will have your choice of seats once inside.
- Many clubs also offer drink specials to entice the early crowd so drink up (please drink responsibly).
- MOVIES: Most people enjoy the movie experience. However, first run movies can easily put a hole in your entertainment budget with the average cost of a movie ticket ranging from $8.00 (for a Matinee) to $25.00(after 5:00pm) in some cities. If you are willing to wait a few weeks you may be able to view the same movies for $2.00-3.00 at many low cost movie theaters throughout the US (informally known as the dollar movies). For the children in your life sign up for the Kids Club offered by most major movie theater groups (Regal/ AMC). As a member of the Kids Club you will be invited to free showings of select movies aimed at children (usually shown on Saturday Mornings) . Also sign up for the movie theaters e-newsletters and reward programs to receive coupon codes and earn point toward free tickets that are not normally advertised to the general public.
- THEATER: Theater tickets can easily range in price from $20.00 — $200.00 a seat but there are inexpensive tickets available for both professional & community Theater Productions at deeply discounted prices. My personal favorite is “Pay What You Can Night (PWYC)”. No kidding! Many community & professional Theater Companies offer PWYC Night. The Theater will select a night in which you can make a donation of any amount and attend live theater showings. Normally PWYC Night is during the week and a few theater companies have a $3.00-5.00 minimum donation and a limit on the number of tickets that can be purchased per person. Prepare to obtain your PWYC ticket as early as possible. PWYC tickets are only sold on the day of the show and they sell out quickly, especially for the most popular shows. Collegiate and young adults (under 25) are often offered discounted tickets for around $10 in an effort to get younger people to appreciate the arts.
- RESTAURANT DINING: There are many ways to reduce your dining out cost! First start with online coupon sites such as Groupon, Scoutmob, and LivingSocial. Be sure to read the fine print for restrictions and expiration dates. Family dining and fast food restaurants offer coupons via the internet, newspapers and direct mail. Coupons may seem old fashioned and cheap, but are a great way to reduce the cost of a great meal and also allow you to try out new dining experiences without breaking the bank (especially if you have a family). Take advantage of Early Bird Specials and Senior Discounts, if you are eligible. An Early Bird Special is normally offered during off-peak hours. Dying to check out a hot new restaurant, but the dinner menu is somewhat pricey? Consider patronizing the hot new restaurant at lunch time. The lunch menu may be less expensive and offer you portions that are just right for your first time at a new spot. Check the restaurant website for Kids Eat Free promotions (these are common at many family-oriented restaurants) and check out discounts for members of organizations such as AAA (Automobile Club) & AARP. Be sure to ask your wait staff about any non-advertised specials.
- LIBRARY: I know you are thinking “Library? I can’t get jiggy with that”, but trust us, you don’t always have to “turn up” to have a great time! The library is the best place on earth to borrow items for free! Check out your favorite CD’s, Movies and books for FREE. The Library has tons of free entertainment for everyone. Children will love story time and arts & crafts. There are book clubs for children & adults, free tax preparation (during tax season), community forums, movies nights & free access to the internet! Oh yeah and they also have great books on almost every topic under the sun! You may have to sign up for the most popular movies & books but hey, it’s free entertainment.
- CELEBRATIONS/ PARTIES: Having a celebration or party and need to keep your budget in check? Consider holding your event at the neighborhood Masonic Hall, Apartment/Condo Cabana or if your gathering is alcohol free, consider the Church Social Hall. Establishments such as these offer their facilities at extremely reasonable rates and you are usually allowed to furnish your own food and liquor. For Decorations check out your local dollar store. You may need to shop several stores, but these are low cost gold mines for party supplies (everything from streamers to plates & napkins and table coverings). To help reduce your costs consider hosting your celebrations jointly with others celebrating the same milestones or birthdays. Sharing the cost of the venue, food, and catering can result in a per host cost of less than $100.00 in some cases.
- MUSEUMS: History buffs can get their fill at nearly every museum in the US. Most museums are open to the public for free at least one night a month (typically during the week). Many provide free educational materials for children & adults. Be sure to check online for discount tickets and special exhibits that may be of interest to you and/or your loved ones. Getting together a group can also qualify you for group discount rates so be sure to check their website for full details.
What are your cost saving tips and tricks to have a good time and “ball on a budget?”