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  • Tightening Up the Entertainment Belt

    The following is a guest post from Jenna Smith. Consideration was received for the editing and publishing of this post.

    Some families’ biggest luxury is eating out. For other families, it is taking long vacations. And for still others, it is going to movies, plays and concerts. It’s nice when there’s enough money on hand after paying the bills to be able to pay for a fun family evening out but … what about those times when money is tight? How do you stay entertained when frugality is the name of the game?

    First, you have to stop thinking that you have to spend money to be entertained as a family. There are lots of ways to put together a fun evening, while spending very little or even, sometimes, nothing at all. Check it out:

    Social Connections

    Cooking dinner together can be just as much fun as going to a restaurant. If you assign one part of the meal to each person in your family, it makes less work and more enjoyment for everyone. You can make it even more fun by setting up a neighborhood potluck — every family gets fed and gets in some socializing at the same time and all for the cost of one dish!

    Another great spin on this idea is to join up with another family – one provides the food, while the other provides the entertainment. For example, let’s say you’ve turned off your cable subscription but your family loves to watch NFL football. Your friends across the street still have cable and get the NFL Network’s Thursday Night Game. Why not offer to cook dinner for everybody once a week if they’ll agree to have the game on for everybody to enjoy?

    Staying Home

    Instead of taking the kids out to a movie (which can easily run close to a hundred bucks if you let the kids get their own snacks), consider staying in. There are plenty of movies and television shows that you can find, legally and for free, online. YouTube offers full length older movies for free online and (if you don’t mind the occasional pause for buffering) they can be a great way to introduce your kids to classics from your childhood.

    Another great example is a streaming media subscription service. Netflix, for example, has an incredibly diverse library of entertainment for people of all ages. If you don’t yet have a Netflix subscription, you can try Netflix for a month free when you use a coupon code. Then, if you like it, it’s only $8 a month. That’s less than the cost of one ticket to a movie theater.

    Community Resources

    Don’t forget that the library is a fantastic resource when you need free entertainment. In addition to being able to check out books, music, movies and in some locations even video games, libraries also have a wealth of programming. They offer talks and movie nights and classes — almost always for free — to their local communities. When the family is itching for a movie night out of the house, try the one at the local library.

    Community centers are also great places to find fun activities for the family. In addition to a variety of classes (for all ages), they offer sports, dances, film nights, concerts, hobby fairs and other activities. A lot of these events are free and even the ones that do charge admission usually charge relatively small fees.

    These are just a few ways that your family can save money on entertainment and getting out of the house. What are some of your favorite ways to keep everyone occupied and happy while spending as little money as possible?