The easiest part of the budget to control is entertainment. Seeing movies in the theater is a major expense and is therefore an obvious elimination. This also goes for eating out with friends. Turning off cable television and home Internet is also an easy way to save $100 or more a month. Eliminating cable will also eliminate the expense of downloading music and movies for a while as well.
Wait! Don't start crying or feeling deprived. Cutting back on these expenses does not mean that entertainment has been ripped out of your life. Consider the following options which cost very little or no money.
- Discover your local public library. Here you can not only check out books, but DVDs, videos and CDs, as well. This is also a great place for free Internet access. Either use one of the computers provided, or take your laptop in to access the free WiFi. Your local library is also a great place for free children's programs or informative lectures for the adults in the family.
- Does your town have a discount movie theater? The movies at a discount theater have been out for a while, but not long enough to be on DVD. The $3 movie is a great way to get out of the house and enjoy the movie going experience, but be sure to stay away from the over priced food. Eat before the movie or sneak in a small soda and bag of homemade popcorn.
- Invite your friends over for a potluck dinner. Not only is it more economical, it's also much more fun. Everyone gets to show off their cooking skills. A good friend of mine did his wedding reception as a potluck. Instead of gifts, he and his husband asked everyone bring something for their amazing get together. He used a website called PerfectPotluck.com to plan the whole affair, so their would be plenty of variety and plenty of plates.
- Look in your local newspaper or entertainment guide for all things free and almost free. It's amazing what is available to do for little or no money. I've seen wonderful, free performances at my local children's theater. If I'm itching to hear live music, I have no problem paying $5 to get in the door at my local bar, I just don't buy any drinks once I'm inside.
- Check out your local museum. Here you will not only find free art exhibits, but activities for you and the whole family. On Friday nights, my local museum has an open house for the community. It's turned into quite the social event. Our museum also has a free, creative area for children. It's huge and nothing like their little creative nook at preschool. Four rooms are filled from top to bottom with anything a child would need to create whatever they want.
- Explore a local park or take your children to play at a local playground. The programs offered by your local park are usually always free. Our local parks run educational programs as well as exciting events like photography competitions and craft shows. Most importantly, it's a free way to spend time with your family, get some exercise and some fresh air.
- See what's going on at your local college. When I was a kid, my parents took us to every student art exhibit and concert our local college put on. The exhibits were always free, and many of the concerts were free as well. This past weekend my local college had free admission to their basketball game. When I lived in Ann Arbor, I remember going to many free films. Some were student exhibitions, some were simply free movies. Every school will be different, but there will always be something available.
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