When times are tough, entertainment expenses are one of the first things people sacrifice. If you're struggling to put food on the table and pay bills, it's difficult to justify dropping $50 to go see a movie and buy popcorn. Theater tickets, concerts, and many other things quickly feel out of reach, too. But don't fret - there are plenty of ways to keep yourself busy while saving money. Some of them might even surprise you!
Get a Library Card
A lot of people have the wrong idea about libraries. They picture rows and rows of books and think it stops there. That's a common misconception. Libraries offer tons of different services and are a great way to save money and make the most of your entertainment budget. In addition to the standard fiction and non-fiction books, libraries also offer things like comic books, audiobooks, e-books, magazines, movies, and music. That's a lot of entertainment, completely free!
Audiobook services, like Audible, run between $8-$15 per month. Constantly buying new books and buying or renting films adds up quickly, too. You can put all of that back in your pocket and replace it with a library card. If your local library doesn't have something you're looking for, many are even willing to order it! Most libraries also have a computer area where you can use computers and the internet for free with a library card, too.
Find and Attend Free Events
You can't get cheaper than free! When you want to save money on entertainment, look around for no-cost events. Check your local newspaper, look at fliers posted around the neighborhood, and join local groups on social media. You'll be surprised at how many things you can find, from free movie nights in the park to theater or sporting events. Public concerts are a great way to hear some free music, and many museums offer free admission.
Host a Game Night
Board games are coming back in a big way. Gather your family around the table or set up shop on the floor and pull out your favorite board game or a deck of cards. Game nights are an excellent way to spend a few hours and possibly even learn a new skill. After all, it's never too late to learn how to play chess or a new card game! If you want to branch out, try a roleplaying game like Dungeons & Dragons, which is becoming massively popular thanks to recent shows and films.
Cut Back on Streaming Services
On average, people have about four active streaming services at any given time. If you're subscribed to multiple streaming services, evaluate whether or not you use them enough to justify the cost. It never seems like much when you sign up, but it adds up quickly. If you have four services, each at around $15 per month, that's over $700 a year! Cut out any services you don't use and put that money toward something you really want (or need) or even spend it on other entertainment-related transactions.
From used bookstores to refurbished electronics, there's practically nothing you can't get secondhand. Several stores even offer refurbished gaming systems and computers, so you can save more money on major purchases. Stores like GameStop sell pre-owned games at a lower cost than new copies, but they'll play just the same at home! Likewise, you'll get the same novels at used bookstores that you'd find for double or triple the price from standard retailers.
Go to the Park
If you live anywhere near one of the many national parks in the US, congratulations! You're close to some of the most beautiful parts of the country. Several parks, like the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, offer free admission, while others charge low prices.
Go for a hike, plan a cookout, or just go exploring. Many parks have areas for other activities like fishing, so you can get days (or even weeks) of entertainment. They typically have educational opportunities, too, if you're interested in learning more about the area and what's in the park.
If you're okay with combining work and play, volunteering is an excellent way to gain access to exciting events and locations. Volunteers earn things like free theme park tickets, access to concerts and sporting events, and much more. You'll feel good for your contribution and get rewarded for it! Even major companies like Disney sometimes offer free theme park tickets in exchange for volunteer work.
Several companies and businesses allow you to trade in things like books, CDs, movies, and video games for store credit or cash. You can visit brick-and-mortar locations or opt for services like OfferUp. If you earn store credit, it's available for other entertainment needs. Of course, any cash you earn can go toward whatever you'd like! This is a great tip to combine with number 5 on the list! Sell your old movies and buy video games secondhand all in one place.
Use Your Cashback Points
If you have a credit card that earns cashback, use your points toward entertainment! Several cards reward entertainment purchases, with some even offering up to 6% back on streaming services like Spotify and Hulu! If you don't want to reduce your entertainment expenses but still want to save money, see if you qualify for a credit card that rewards your spending.
Ask About Discounts
You'll be surprised at how many discounts are out there. Military discounts, student discounts, senior discounts, and child discounts are among many potential discounts. If you're purchasing tickets, especially to places like museums or parks, ask about their discounts to see if any apply to you!
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