6 Entertainment Options That Won’t Break Your Budget

By Pam Reiss

As the saying goes, “a penny saved is a penny earned.”  You work hard for your paycheck but, if you’re like many of us, you’re amazed at how little you’re able to save every month.  Especially now, with the rate of inflation as high as it is, and many people still reeling from the past two years, finding ways to save even a little more is important.  It may be to save for a vacation or wedding, college tuition, a new car, or for a rainy day fund, or any other reason.

Entertainment is an important part of our lives.  It gives us a much needed and deserved break from the work week and other routines.  It also lets us enjoy our friends and family – many of whom we may not have seen recently.

So, the question becomes, how do we entertain ourselves without breaking our budgets?  Going out for dinner or happy hour, taking in a movie, or enjoying a concert are always fun activities, but you can easily run up a huge tab if you’re not careful.  That doesn’t mean you can’t have a good time without spending a pretty penny.  There are a wide range of activities you can enjoy with your friends and family, while keeping your finances in check and making the most of what you earn.

Here are a few cost-friendly entertainment options and tips to consider, so you can stay committed to your savings plan and still enjoy some quality down time.

Bring the party home

Meeting up with friends for a drink is a pretty common activity.  Why not save a few bucks and have happy hour at home?  There are several ways you can do this, which will make sure you enjoy that end-of-the-week stress relief with your friends, without a high bar or restaurant tab.  Consider having you friends over to enjoy drinks and snacks or dinner much more affordably.  To even out the food and beverage costs, try making it a recurring event and rotate it between each household.  Or, you can make it a BYOB and/or pot luck meal.  You can even split the cost and have friends reimburse you with a P2P payment app.  Just because you’re hosting doesn’t mean you have to bear the entire cost.

Skip the theater and rent a VOD movie

Everyone loves to check out a new movie once it hits theaters, but that can get expensive.  Ticket prices alone have gone up over the years, and adding popcorn, candy, and drinks into the mix can really add up – especially with fancier food and beverage options in many of today’s theaters.  Luckily, most major releases these days can be accessed via on-demand or on streaming services, so you can watch the same movie from the comfort of your home.  You may have to pay for some, but others are being released on streaming platforms as they come out in theaters.  Even if you have to pay for it, it’s typically not much more than the cost of one movie ticket.  But, you’ll also save on snacks, beverages, and parking.

Take advantage of admission promotions

Most areas have a great assortment of museums, art galleries, aquariums, zoos, and festivals throughout the year.  Yet, so many people don’t realize they have access to these locations or events for free or at reduced rates.  Even festivals that charge entry fees often provide an entire day’s worth of activity – often outdoors.  Consider checking out one of these options as an alternative to your usual entertainment lineup.  You may be able to find coupons or other savings through your local paper, social media, or other websites.  Sites like Groupon and others often have good deals on group activities.

Break out the board game collection

We’re always looking for existing activities outside of the house, yet fail to realize most of us have great options in our own closets.  How many board games have you accumulated over the years?  Why not dust them off and enjoy countless hours of fun with your friends or family?  Turn it into a weekly or bi-weekly event, and even have friends bring their games to add to the mix.  There are a wide variety of classic games and many newer ones to choose from.  You can even turn it into a team-based competition, with winner getting a small prize at the end of the “season.”

Embrace the great outdoors

Why spend time indoors when there’s so much to do outside?  If the weather is nice, and you have access to a public park or beach, consider gathering your friends and family for a picnic, volleyball game, frisbee toss or other outdoor games, or just to relax.  Make it BYO-style and, if one you has a portable grill everyone can use, even better.  Think of it as a tailgate without the game or concert (bring a speaker, and you can enhance the atmosphere).  You might even find a park or other public space with access to a grill or fire pit to make it even easier.

Look for local venues

If you’ve bought tickets to a big-name concert recently, you know all too well how high ticket prices have gotten, especially in larger venues.  Look for smaller concert venues and theaters locally.  You may find some great cost-effective options, regardless of what style of music or theater you’re looking for – and you might discover some great talent in the process.

How good of a time you have shouldn’t be dependent on how much you spend.  There’s nothing wrong with splurging on a night on the town or a stadium concert every now and then.  But, most of us can’t afford to do it regularly.  So, keeping both your budget and entertainment needs in mind, think about these and other low-cost options when planning your weekend activities.  You can keep your budget in check and, just as importantly, have a great time.