Entertainment On a Budget

by Elizabeth on March 20, 2010 · 5 comments

in Frugality, How Tos

I’m young and single, so spending time with my friends is a huge priority for me. The problem is, spending time with friends often means spending money. When I was in school and working, this wasn’t a problem. I worked hard, and didn’t have a problem spending money at the movies, out to dinner, at bars, etc. Now, though, it is becoming a problem. I’m living on the money I earn from my (very small) part-time job and my savings. Neither of these is ideal to spending money while hanging out with friends.

I’ve come up with a list of activities that are meant to take the place of regular entertainment activities (dinner, movies, nights out at bars). I’m not good at sticking to this list, but I am trying, so that has to count for something. (Right?)

  • Rent a movie instead of going to see one. Renting movies is still expensive, but it’s cheaper than seeing them at the theater. Going to the local Redbox is even cheaper than the rental store or OnDemand. Have friends over, pop lots of popcorn, and watch the movie. If you’re anything like us, you probably won’t actually watch the movie, but spend more time talking. (Which is always more fun!)
  • If going to see a movie is unavoidable, suggest a matinee. Matinee prices usually last until 6:00, which means that people can come straight from work and still make the cheaper show. One of my local theaters has a “super matinee” that’s even cheaper. It’s $6.50 versus $7.25 for the regular matinee and $8.75 for the regular price. My area also has a $1 movie theater that I like to go to. If you skip the concessions, it’s a great deal! Speaking of…
  • Skip the concessions! It’s such a waste of money!! Bring snacks (and a large purse) if you like to eat while at the movies. A theater near me has a special on Tuesdays where a small popcorn and a small drink are a $1 each. Not a bad deal when nothing will satisfy that movie-theater popcorn craving.
  • Don’t do dinner and a movie. If your friends insist on going out to dinner or to a movie, suggest one or the other, but not both.
  • Meet friends for lunch rather than dinner. You’ll save way more money that way. Bonus, meet for lunch at a sandwich shop or a typical lunch place. Food tends to be cheaper there than at a regular restaurant.
  • If dinner is all that fits everyone’s schedule, aim for something less expensive. Sandwich and burger places, chain restaurants, and local favorites tend to be more budget friendly. Everyone’s trying to save money these days. People, friends especially, will understand when you say you’re trying to watch your wallet.
  • Share an entrée with a friend. Restaurant portions are huge anyway, so offer to split something. Share an appetizer or dessert (but not both!) if you don’t think one entrée will be enough food.
  • No one wants to share? Order an appetizer as your main meal. Ask for a side salad to go along side, if you’d like. But check your prices! This could end up being more expensive than just ordering an entrée!
  • Skip main meals all together and grab coffee, ice cream, even breakfast! The point is to spend time with friends, not to eat. Again, just say you are being more careful with your money and suggest an alternative. Real friends will understand and be supportive.
  • Meet for happy hour instead of hitting the bars late at night. Most bars have happy hour specials, so use these to your advantage.
  • Can’t get out of going out? Be the designated driver. That way you’re confined to 1 drink AND you have an excuse to explain why you are not drinking.
  • Suggest a totally new idea! Try hitting a local state park for a hike, browsing an arts-and-crafts fair (no buying!) or farmers market, or just hanging out at home. Who says you have to spend money to spend time with friends!


I would love some other ideas on how to spend less money on entertainment. Please share!

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

1 mysticmynstrel March 25, 2010 at 4:01 pm

Yay for Redbox being cheaper than normal renting, but I think you've forgotten an even cheaper option… borrowing from the library! I don't know about yours, but my library has a big selection of movies to pick from.

Also, you could have a game night at someone's place. That would be free and fun, except for the optional snacks and drinks.


2 Lorraine March 25, 2010 at 8:47 pm

Free concerts, Bowling (always hate the idea of it, but it's fun when you actually get there), form a book club and rotate houses, window shop, lectures, book signings


3 Martha March 26, 2010 at 1:22 pm

Join a book club, or start one. Congenial chat, lively discussion, and intellectual content. And cheap – if it's held in people's homes, they take turns with light munchies and nonalcoholic beverages. Or byo/potluck if you have food at all.


4 Jessica March 29, 2010 at 1:00 am

Great ideas! 🙂 Sometimes even watching ridiculous TV shows (like reality shows or American Idol) with friends can be entertaining, and it's (sort of) free! It's also nice because, like you said, sometimes when you rent a movie you just end up talking through it anyway so that way you don't "waste" money on an expensive rental! And, as we all know, many public libraries have extensive DVD collections for patrons to check out for free 🙂


5 Elizabeth March 29, 2010 at 3:50 am

These are all great ideas! I love the idea of starting a book club and rotating from house to house. Also, I can't believe I didn't suggest renting a movie from the library! I love to rent movies from the library, but I definitely don't do it enough. Bad librarian!


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