Depending on what you like to do for fun and how much it costs, you could be spending a lot of money on entertainment each month.
Usually when we start getting serious about our finances, we tend to cut unnecessary expenses with entertainment being one of the first to go. While it’s true that you don’t need to spend tons of money to have a good time, establishing an entertainment budget can actually save you money in the long run.
The Importance of an Entertainment Budget
Whether you’re a homebody or not, it’s only normal to want to get out of the house every once in a while and do something fun whether it’s free or costs a little money. Experiencing new things with friends and family is a part of life no matter how focused you are on cutting your expenses and prioritizing your financial goals.
When you set a realistic entertainment budget, you’re actually placing a limit on the amount you plan to spend on entertainment each month whether it’s $100, $50, or $0. If you don’t set a budget and limit yourself, you can easily spend too much on entertainment when the money could have been more useful elsewhere during the month. In other words, no budget = no limit and no control.
If you’re trying adapt a frugal lifestyle and entertainment is low on your priority list, you can certainly set an entertainment budget of $0 and find plenty of fun things to do for free but realistic frugal entertainment budgets for individuals and families usually average $25-150/month (sometimes more or less). I even tried a $0 entertainment budget for a month and it worked out well, but I realized there are some things I like to do that cost a little money.
It’s a good idea to have some sort of cash buffer so if you do end up spending money on entertainment throughout the month, it won’t be viewed an unplanned expense and throw your entire budget off. With the weather warming up, there will be plenty of low cost activities to partake in. Here are a few ways to help maintain your frugal entertainment budget this spring.
1. Check Out Community Event Websites
Local community event websites like The Patch are great for locating free and low cost events near you. You can also subscribe to your local city of county’s newsletter or look up your park district or library to be the first to hear about upcoming events.
There is always something going on even in the smallest town whether it’s an outdoor concert, art show, fundraiser, play, movie screening, or sporting event that is free or open to the public.
2. Get Outside
Getting outside is the easiest thing you can do for fun. Plus, it’s free! Tour your neighborhood, check out parks, ride bikes, play sports, or just anything that gets you up and moving.
Utilize national and local parks for their amenities and do some hiking or even boating. I know it sounds expensive, but kayaking and canoeing can actually be really cheap when you rent a boat and grab a couple of friends. I actually live right by a small river and I have a neighbor who owns a couple of canoes. We took the kids out a few times last summer and had a blast.
3. Obtain Reduced Cost Admission To Museums
Museums, aquariums, zoos, and other attractions usually offer free or reduced admission prices either weekly, monthly, or on certain days throughout the calendar year. Be sure to take advantage of these offers.
If a museum offers a free admission day to state residents, pack a lunch and go check it out. Museum admission can cost anywhere from $15-30 in some cases. Why not take advantage of a free opportunity?
4. Utilize Restaurant Specials and Promotions
Sometimes dining out at restaurants is placed in its own budget category but it can very much be considered as entertainment as well if you value the experience and interaction with others in addition to the food. There are plenty of ways to dine out and still maintain your entertainment budget.
You can start by taking advantage of happy hour for discounted appetizers and half-off drink specials. Some restaurants also offer ‘early dining’ or ‘late dining’ specials to people who choose to come in during off peak times like before or after the dinner rush. Also, if you have a coupon for your favorite restaurant don’t be afraid to use it. You can sign up for rewards and loyalty programs or subscribe to receive coupons straight to your email that will come in handy the next time you dine out.
5. Use Groupon
Groupon.com is one of the best sources for getting discounts on food and activities in your area (in my opinion). I personally use Groupons a lot to get discounts on activities that I love but don’t necessarily want to pay full price for.
When you sign up for Groupon, you’ll be able to select your location and receive daily updates on deals near you. Anytime you’re looking for something fun to do you can just simply sign in to the site on your computer or smartphone and search for featured deals and goods, things to do, places to eat, hotel and travel deals, and more.
Groupon typically offers discounts ranging from 20% to 80% (more or less) off so you can save a ton by using their services. I’ve used Groupons to save money on hotel reservations, trips to a water resort, pumpkin farm, ice skating rink, movie theatre and tons of other places with no problem. If you’re looking to save money on your next outing I’d highly recommend Groupon.
Do you try to keep your entertainment budget frugal so you can reach other financial goals? What’s your favorite frugal activity?
STOP Living Paycheck to Paycheck
You can't break free from the status quo when you're living like everyone else. Get one of the free spreadsheet tools I used to pay off $35,000 of debt quickly, build an emergency fund, and break the paycheck to paycheck cycle.