We’re often encouraged to live life to the fullest, as tomorrow is not promised. But what happens when our wallets say otherwise?
There’s no question that spending on fun activities can add up quickly. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. households spent an average of $2,605 in 2012 on entertainment. That’s about $217 per month.
The good news is that there are many ways to be entertained without breaking the bank.
1. Deal websites
Check out daily deal websites, such as Groupon, LivingSocial and Deal Chicken, which offer discounts on everything from fine dining and live entertainment to spa treatments. My personal favorite is the steeply discounted vacation package the Nickelodeon Suites Resort sells via Groupon two or more times per year.
2. Discounted movie tickets
If there’s a locally owned theater in your area, consider paying it a visit, as the tickets may be priced at a much lower rate than those at the big chains. Also, check out AAA for discounted tickets if you are a member.
And don’t forget about the matinees. They’re not as cheap as watching movies at home from Redbox or Netflix, but you can definitely save a nice chunk of change.
3. Fine dining for less
Instead of a dinner date with the family, try heading out during the lunch hour to take advantage of the midday specials. Also, peruse the restaurant’s website for coupons and sign up for the mailing list to receive promotional offers.
Another alternative is Restaurant.com, which sells reduced-price gift certificates for fine dining.
If you prefer to kick back and relax with an adult beverage, happy hour is always waiting for you. A great example of this is the late-night happy hour and half-priced appetizer menu at Applebee’s.
4. Live entertainment
Check the listings in your local newspaper to find out what free events are taking place in your local area or community. The library and local churches may also advertise these types of events.
5. Less expensive sporting events
There’s nothing better than a day or evening out with the family at a sporting event.
The lowest price I’ve spotted for a decent seat at a Tampa Bay Buccaneers game is $161. Fortunately, we have the Tampa Bay Storm, an arena football team that is just as entertaining to watch and has tickets ranging from $15 to $140.
And remember: At amateur sporting events, the parking’s a lot closer and the hot dogs are way cheaper.
6. Public library
The books and DVDs are always available to be borrowed for free. You can often take advantage of free courses or reading groups. My local library offers workshops on a number of topics, ranging from couponing to starting a business.
7. Lending a helping hand
It never hurts to do some good in the community and meet new friends in the process. Volunteer work is very fulfilling and a great source of entertainment.
To find opportunities in your area, contact local shelters, food banks, and the parks and recreation department. Or you can always help give a family the gift of homeownership through Habitat for Humanity.
8. Exploring the great outdoors
Why not head to a local or state park to picnic and enjoy a scenic view? You can also visit national parks at little or no cost to you. And if you don’t want to pay the admission price that applies to 133 of the 401 national parks, you can always visit on a free entrance day.
9. Family fun night
This is my personal favorite. We are Uno addicts in my household, so we often include the game as part of our family fun night.
On other occasions, Redbox or Netflix and a bowl of popcorn do the job. Either way, we get the opportunity to spend quality time together, and save a ton of money while doing so. A movie from Redbox costs only $1.20 per night, and the monthly subscription to Netflix is $8.99. It doesn’t get much cheaper than that.
10. The local zoo
General admission to the zoo can be a bit pricey, so check the website and local paper for a schedule of discounted or free admission days throughout the year. The Lowry Park Zoo here in Tampa offers $6 days.
And if you’re lucky, you may be able to find a coupon.
11. Local college events
If you live near a college or university, you may be able to attend sporting and arts events for little to no cost to you and your family. Visit the online calendar to learn more about the festivities on campus that are open to the general public.
12. Camping out
No need to head to a campground, unless you insist upon doing so.
Grab the marshmallows, graham crackers and chocolate and heat them up in the microwave to make s’mores. And to top things off, grab a tent and set it up in the backyard, and you’re good to go.
13. Letting the creative juices flow
Put your creative talents to use, and get the entire family on board for a do-it-yourself project. Great ideas include gardening, painting, and building household furnishings and fixtures. After all, team work makes the dream work, and your vision to get things done around the house may just become a reality.
14. Taking a staycation
Been looking to get away? Try a staycation instead. You can still relax, take in local sites and save a ton of cash that would otherwise be spent on travel arrangements.
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