Sunday, October 5, 2008

Choose Cheap Activities for Entertainment

#8 Saving Money Activity - Choose Cheap Activities for Entertainment. Whether you are married, single, have kids or not, you will want to do some activities for entertainment. That entertainment can involve staying home or going out in your town or traveling to nearby areas. And of course entertainment can range from being free to costing a lot of money. In order to find things that you like to do that don’t cost a lot, then you will need to read the paper, the Internet, talk to friends and use your imagination. I’m going to suggest a lot of free or cheap activities that you can do as a single or married person with or without kids.

Indoor Activities:

--If you like to read books, then head over to your library and check out their selection. Most any book you want can be checked out of the public library. Rather than buy a book at the bookstore, check the library first.

---If you like movies, most libraries carry a fair selection of movies – either DVDs or VHS. All of this is FREE. Before you rent a movie at the local movie rental place, check the library out.

Another great indoor activity is board games, dominoes, or card games. Games are a lot of fun and are cheap entertainment. Near Christmas, the stores often have games on sale for good, cheap prices. Even better, go to your local thrift store. Games often cost just a dollar or two – make sure all of the pieces are inside! Yard sales are a great place to acquire games, as well – often for 25 cents to a dollar. Keep a small stash in your house and you will have cheap fun when friends come over or for a family game night.

Outdoor Activities:

--There is usually no shortage of outdoor activities in the nice weather. Cheapest of all is to find a neighborhood playground or park. All children love playgrounds and it is free entertainment. If you don’t have children, then parks are also great for picnics or hikes or nature walks. Choosing ones nearby cuts down on gas prices, too.

--If you have a bike, take a bike ride. If not, take a walk. Walks around town or neighborhoods are great ways to get exercise, meet neighbors, discover your surroundings and get a dose of fresh air.

--Slightly more expensive would be to find an outdoor recreation area or state park. Sometimes there are small fees for admittance or to use some of their facilities. But overall, prices tend to be cheap, especially for children. Rather than go to a commercial water park, for example, check out your county parks. Many of them have pools with small water parks. The cost is often ¼ of the price of private waterparks. Some of your local recreation centers might even have indoor pools and water playgrounds for when the weather is too cold for swimming outside. This is a great, cheap alternative to hotels with fancy water slides.

--Listen to music. If you like concerts, see what your community offers. Oftentimes there are local outdoor concerts for free.

--In fall, there are often pumpkin patches at many of the nurseries and farms around town. Even without doing a big day at the farm deal, a lot of fun can be had at a small farm that allows you to buy pumpkins or pick apples. Costs for them are comparable or cheaper than buying at the supermarket. And not only is it fun to see how these fruits and vegetables grow, it’s educational, too.

--In winter, it’s fun to go sledding outside or ice skating at a local rink. Most ice skating rinks have a fee, but there might be times of the day that are cheaper than others.

--During any weather, check what your local community offers – are there mills, working farms, or historic homes that are run by the county. Often the prices on these are cheap or even free for children. Again, a day at one of these places is not only fun, but educational, as well.

Other Entertainment:

--Sometimes you want to go out of the house but not commune with nature. Perhaps you want to see a play. Live theatre can be an expensive hobby. Shows on Broadway are about $100 a seat. But you don’t have to spend that to see a live show. Check out not only your local community theatre, but high schools, middle schools, and even elementary schools. In the springtime, many of them have shows that range in price from free to $15 or $20 a seat.

--Movies have gotten expensive, but there are still cheap deals to be had. Go to a matinee. Or if you have an Entertainment Book, then there are often coupons in there for different nationally-run theatres.

--Dining out has gotten expensive. But it doesn’t have to be. There are many good restaurants that don’t cost a fortune. Often cities have magazines with ratings for cheap but good restaurants. Try one of those out. Or go for lunch when it’s cheaper. Or, do takeout if the establishment offers it. You save on tip and drinks that way.

--Sporting Events are fun and expensive. Go to a local high school football game. It’s cheaper and you can see it up close. Watch a baseball team practice or go to a minor league game. Children probably prefer these to the major league teams anyway. Not to mention the cost savings and the traffic savings for parents.

In Real Life (IRL)I have three kids and being frugal by nature (and perhaps a little bit of nurture), I am always looking for cheap things for us to do. Playgrounds and libraries top our list. We go about once a week to each of them. At the library, not only do we read books there and check them out, but our local branch often has storytimes, puppet shows, and music shows for entertainment. And they cost nothing. We’ve seen shows for free at the library that are offered at other venues for $5 per person. That’s a big savings.

The playground near our house is on the way home from my daughter’s preschool. In the nice weather, we walk to her school carrying a blanket and a cooler in our stroller. On the way home, we have a picnic lunch and the kids play. It is a great activity for all of us!

My oldest daughter had never seen a play so when she was about 4 years old I noticed that the local high school was putting on the Wizard of Oz. That is a favorite movie of hers. Tickets were $10 for adults and free for children under 5. The two of us spent an afternoon there for $10 and she got to meet the cast afterwards. She’s 7 years old now and still talks about that show! In the last two years, we have gone to shows at the local elementary schools. Last year, one of the schools put on Annie. Tickets were only $1 each so I didn’t know what to expect. Boy was I blown away. The kids did a great job and we even knew one of the actors. For $2 we had a lovely night out! This year we saw Willy Wonka at another elementary school. Tickets were $3 for adults and $1 for children. Again, I was very impressed by the talent the children displayed. And for $4 my oldest daughter and I had a very nice evening. And she now has an appreciation for live theatre.

I can go on and on about our local waterparks. We contemplated joining a local pool this past summer. The cost was $600 from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Which overall, if we were to use it nearly everyday, would not be too costly when averaged out for a daily rate. But in reality, I didn’t think we’d use it much. Our schools don’t even close until at least mid-June and we go to the beach every June with our extended family for a week so I wasn’t looking for much to do for that month. In July, two of my children were attending camp for two weeks and in August, they were going to visit grandparents for a week. So, it came down to about 5 or 6 weeks that we would possibly use it. Since I’m not a huge fan of swimming, I knew we wouldn’t go every day – maybe every other day if we were lucky and didn’t have much rain. So to spend $600 for about 20 days of use, it just didn’t make sense for me. That’s $30 per day!

Instead, we chose to take advantage of a local waterpark about 25 minutes from our house. I love this park because it fits the needs of my family. All three of my kids can play in the same 1 foot-deep pool while I watch. Even better, the cost is only $7.50 per adult and $6.50 per child. Under 3 is free. So for about $20, our family can spend the day at the pool when we want to. Oftentimes, we have coupons for buy one ticket, get one free, so it’s even cheaper. Or once in a while we go late in the afternoon, when tickets are only about $4 per person. All in all, we made it there about 3 times this summer and spent about $50 total. A lot better than $600!

These are activities that worked for us. We are always on the lookout for other fun, free or cheap activities. We’ve gone peach picking, apple picking, and strawberry picking on the weekends this summer. We walked to a local pumpkin farm this fall and played and took pictures among the pumpkins and bought some fruit. We spent about an hour there one afternoon after school and spent less than $2 and brought fruit home!

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