Do you find yourself wondering at the end of the month where all of your money went? A good bet is that the items you cannot track are entertainment-related. We tend to underestimate how much of our discretionary funds go toward movies, dinners, or evenings out on the town.
If you need to cut your spending, look over your entertainment budget and consider making a few money-saving changes.
- Cut Back on Dining Out – For many people, dining out is one of the largest drains on the entertainment dollar. You can save quite a bit by eating at home when possible and saving the trips out for special occasions.
It is easy for a family of four to spend anywhere from $50-$100 or more per meal. At that rate, if you eat out one less time per week, that is from $2,600 to $5,200 in savings each year! Granted you will spend some of that on groceries, but your savings should be at least in the 50% range.
You can also save by looking for coupon deals, specials, and other discounts at your favorite restaurants and plan dining out around those offers.
- Avoid First-Run Movies – Theater prices for newly released movies are quite high. Consider waiting until the movies reach the discount theaters or until they are available for rental or on streaming services. While some sci-fi and action movies won’t show well on the small screen, many dramas can be enjoyed at home for a lot less.
If you must see first-run movies, look for any discounts such as matinee shows, two-for one deals, or coupons at various theaters.
- Avoid Shopping Sprees – Shopping as a form of entertainment is a sure way to rack up debt. An easy way to handle this is to shop with literally no way to pay for the purchases. Leave every payment method you have at home – all the credit and debit cards, checkbook, cash, payment apps, tokens, coupons, vouchers, beads and trinkets…, you get the idea.
Think of these as reconnaissance missions. You can then plan a return trip in the future to pick up the items that fit within your budget. If someone else bought the one-of-a-kind item that caught your eye, it just was not meant to be.
- Consider Free or Discounted Activities – Some parks, museums, zoos, and similar destinations are often free or have times when they are discounted. Others offer relatively inexpensive memberships or passes that are cost-effective if you visit often.
For example, major-league baseball tickets and the auxiliaries (parking, food, etc.) are quite expensive, but there are some minor-league and college teams that provide similar entertainment at a great price (and depending on who you root for, possibly better baseball).
Check your local newspaper for a list of free activities in your area. You may find a fun activity you had never considered before.
- Evaluate Your Media Options – With cable television companies, phone companies, and technology groups all playing in each other’s sandbox, it is a great time to negotiate deals on your television and online entertainment options.
Bundling deals are available that can save money on combined services. You can also consider scaling back on your television packages, or “cutting the cord” entirely by using online services such as Netflix and Hulu.
These are just a few examples of how to save on entertainment; you may well think of others once you get in the proper mindset.
If all else fails, there is the old-fashioned approach. A family game night or similar activity can not only save money, but also bring your family closer together. It worked in the days before TV, so why not give it a try?