Let’s face it: budgeting money can be both difficult and unenjoyable. Planning each month (for the cost of housing, food, transportation, and insurance) takes patience, practice, and skill. Budgeting for necessities, however, allows some room for personal enjoyment and entertainment. Even if money isn’t overflowing in your wallet or bank account, with the right decisions and careful planning, you can still enjoy many forms of entertainment while getting the biggest bang for your buck.
Location, Location, Location
One of the best ways to stay entertained, while living on a budget, is to get to know your area. Some people are unaware of free or discounted entertainment close to home. Even if you have lived in the same location for a considerable period of time, you would be surprised at the many untapped entertainment opportunities that exist.
One of the best places to start looking for available entertainment is in the local newspaper. Instead of only reading the local news and sports sections, flip through the entire newspaper, especially on Sundays, and search for free concerts, movies, and sporting events. Often local organizations will offer residents free or discounted entrance fees for supporting the community. This will help you stretch your dollar while still enjoying entertainment.
Take a walk or hike on a local trail, or spend the afternoon fishing at a lake. This will save quite a bit of money, but is still an enjoyable experience for the entire family.
Finally, local cultural events are often very affordable and easily accessible. Try looking for free or cheaper events hosted by museums, galleries, local theaters, community centers, or libraries. You can also search the Internet to see if these venues have online event calendars or offer email reminders of upcoming and low-cost events.
Staying Entertained at Home
One of the easiest ways to stay on an entertainment budget, without sacrificing experience, is to entertain at home. After the cost of gas, babysitters, and the actual event, many are left spending way too much on one night. By being creative and thinking of alternative stay-at-home forms of entertainment your budget will never be broken. For example, on those cold or rainy days, popping some popcorn and playing cards or a board game will not only bring your family and friends closer together, it will save you buca bucks.
If board games are not your ideal way to spend an evening, spend some time in front of the television. With HBO, Showtime, Netflix, Hulu and others all producing original series, the quality of TV shows these days is off the charts. Purchasing a new cable package often comes with free premium cable channels. These offer plenty of exciting movies and TV shows, available at any time of the day or night. Hosting a pot luck dinner with friends and watching a special show or movie is bound to provide both entertainment and savings.
When it comes to food, it is very appealing to have the experience of visiting a nice restaurant where people serve and cleanup for you. It’s nice, that is, until the bill arrives and you realize you probably could have enjoyed a very similar meal at home or by ordering take-out. By looking for specials at local restaurants, like kids eat free days or cooking a new recipe at home, your budget will not burst.
If you simply must venture out and try the newest restaurant, try going earlier in the day. Breakfast and lunch are usually much cheaper than dinner.
Staying within your entertainment budget isn’t impossible. In fact, with some out-of-the-box thinking, you might be surprised at how much time and money you wasted before!