Save Money on Entertainment

jugglerThe long list of ways to save money on entertainment.

Going out for the evening? Organize a babysitting co-op with neighborhood parents and take turns watching the kids for free. Your kids will be happier with their friends -- more fun for them and fewer games of Candyland for you. Or go in on a sitter with another family.

Save power. Many electronic devices (TVs, DVD players, and computers) draw a lot of power even when they're off. An even bigger energy waster: a PC in sleep mode, which can use a third as much electricity as it does when on. Either unplug them or use a powerstrip to turn them off.

Brown-bag it. Ditch the sandwich at the deli and pack a couple of lunches with leftovers.

Do lunch, not dinner. Make reservations at a pricey restaurant for a midday meal; the food is the same, but the prices are cheaper.

Think small. Forget the white table cloth service at a ritzy restaurant; order smaller portions from the bar menu instead.

Indulge a little. Eat your main course at home, then go out for dessert. Order something extravagant -- you can afford it.

Watch TV shows online. If you watch mainly movies, a few select shows, and an occasional ball game, you may not need TV service at all: You can watch many shows free online at sites such as Hulu.com or the network sites and (depending on your Internet provider) live sports at ESPN 360.com.

Rent DVDs. You can get DVDs delivered to your door by Netflix or pick them up at a Redbox (those little $1 DVD rental vending machines at the grocery store).

Cut the cable. Doing without cable can save you $40 to $100 a month, depending on your cable package. Got to have the History Channel? Keep basic cable but drop one or more premium channels, and save $15 or more a month.

If you like watching movies at the theater, go before 6:00 pm. We really like watching movies in the theater with the big screen and the great sound effects. But instead of paying $10 a pop for the ticket, go before 6:00 pm when the tickets are a little less expensive. Also, for movies that we don’t absolutely want to watch right away, just wait until it screens on the discount theater where the tickets are $2 a pop.

Discount coupon books. One of the best buys around if one exists for your area is the Entertainment Coupon Book. You'll find discounts on everything from movie tickets to dry cleaning. This book will pay for itself with only a few coupons. In fact, most books are packed with over $15,000 in savings if you used every coupon.

Cheap at-home entertaining. Don't think that just because you invited friends over for dinner that you have to pick up the entire cost. Have a pot-luck instead. People love sharing their favorite recipes and by splitting dinner, everyone enjoys variety while saving money. In fact, make this a tradition among your friends. You can also simply plan the meal and then ask your guests to make up an assigned dish for which you can trust their cooking ability or furnish them with the recipe.

Pack a cooler full of goodies. Going to a ballgame can be great fun, but it can also get expensive. Not only has the price of tickets skyrocketed, but the cost of food sometimes reaches exhorbitant. Instead of spending money on overpriced food, take your own cooler of food. Pack it with fried chicken, potato salad and soft drinks and have a real picnic at the ballpark. You can do this at local Little League and soccer games, festivals and fairs as well.

Freebies. There are hundreds of things to do to keep you entertained that cost nothing at all. For example, for little Friday or Saturday night excitement, sign up at your local police department for a ride-along where you can go with an officer as they respond to real calls. The local library is always offering things to do for free. Check out some of the local coffe shops for poetry readings. Many cities offer free concerts in local parks during the summertime. Your local newspaper will often have listings of free things to do in your area.

Check memberships for savings. If you belong to AAA, AARP, Allstate Motor Club, or other clubs of this type, check to see if they offer discounts to amusement parks, sporting events, theatre performances, among others.

Cancel magazine and newspaper subscriptions. How much money could you save by cancelling rarely-used subscriptions? Get your reading material (along with videos and much, much more) at the local library or online.

Bring out the games. When was the last time you played Monoply, Trivial Pursuits, Checkers, Backgammon or a host of other games that used to be the mainstay of family entertainment years ago? Playing games is a lot more challenging and mind bending that sitting in front of the boob tube every evening.

The great outdoors. What better way to regain your health than to take advantage of everything the great outdoors has to offer for free. Hiking, camping, fishing, tubing down a local stream in the summer, tubing down a snowy hill in the winter just to name a few activities to keep everyone entertained and healthy.

Visit other houses. Going to real estate open houses is great fun. Sometimes agents will even have free goodies to eat. It's also a great way to get decorating ideas especially at decorated model homes. This is probably not something the kids will enjoy, but it can be very entertaining for adults. Just don't give out your real name and phone number unless you're really in the market for a house.

Get some culture. Visit zoos, museums, planetariums,aquariums, historical societies and other attractions typically operated by non-profit organizations. Many have days that you can visit for free or for a deep discount. Check to see if an annual membership could save you money. If you attended special events and new exhibits, participated in activities, a membership in the organization could be a real money saver.

Buy your books at 45% off list price from reliable third-party sellers on Amazon.

Buy discount books at local bookstores. Bookstores have a discount section where you can get all sorts of good reading material at a fraction of their original price.

Get books free at the library -- even if you have to wait for that bestseller.

Roll your own CDs. Download two full albums on iTunes for $10 apiece -- or look for $5 album specials on Amazon.com -- and burn them onto CD-R discs. It'll cost you as little as $12 a month.

Enjoy free music samples. Go to npr.org/music and expand your horizons with no-cost music podcasts and song downloads.

Get your own DJ. At pandora.com, you can listen to an online radio station customized to your musical tastes. Listen free for 40 hours per month or pay $3 a month for unlimited music.

Get carded. Nab discounts by paying a membership fee at businesses you frequent. A $25 Starbucks Gold card will earn you a 10% break on lattes and pastries (worth the price if you spend at least $21 a month), plus two free hours of Wi-Fi a day.

Buy the discount book. Discount coupon books like The Entertainment Book may seem cheesy, but for $10 you can get discounts of 10% or more at restaurants, theaters, and other venues in your area, along with other freebies. Or go online for discounts at entertainment.com and restaurant.com.

Drive a bargain. A $73 annual membership in AAA doesn't just buy you maps and a free tow when you need one. You'll also qualify for hundreds of discounts, and not all of them involve travel: 6% from Dell, for example, and 10% from Target.com.

Reduce tips. Somehow during these heady past few years, 20% became the new 15% as far as restaurant tips are concerned. It's time, perhaps, for the budget-conscious to rethink that. Waiters and waitresses depend on tips to make a living, so cutting your tip budget to zero doesn't seem ethical. But dialing back tips to the 15% baseline -- and reserving 20% for extraordinary service -- can slice some of the expense from your monthly dining bill.

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