Thursday, August 30, 2007

Entertain yourself for less

When I think of things to do, I also consider how I can save as much money as possible doing it. If anything is too expensive I decline. With all the inexpensive or free entertainment out there, there's little reason not to plan ahead to maximize your savings. Here are some tips for entertaining on the cheap:

  • Museums and zoos: Not many people bother checking their museum and zoo schedules before planning a trip there. Almost all of these institutions have sponsored days where you can visit for free. Sometimes this is once a month, but often it is once a week. Just avoid the gift shop.
  • Movie Theaters: Going to a movie with a spouse on a Friday evening can easily cost upwards of $50. Many are also getting into the dining business, attaching restaurants to their buildings and serving pricey entrees. Check around to different theaters for their pricing. Everyone knows about the cheap matinees, but many also have an even lower price for the early morning crowd. Have a big breakfast that morning and (being that it is before lunch) you'll be less tempted to go for the popcorn and soda. Though the clerk might give you dirty looks, they will serve you tap water with ice in a small cup at no charge. Tell them you are allergic to Dasani.
  • Farms: Pick your own fruit and vegetables. You're not going to save any money on the food itself because of the gas it takes to get there, but you can spend almost an entire day with the family picking fruit at a farm for often less what it costs at the grocery store. Check the Internet for farmers near you that do this. Many also have plenty of land for bringing along a picnic lunch where you can sit and enjoy some of the fruits of your labor.
  • Dog parks: Even if you don't have a four-legged pal, bring a few tennis balls and a gallon of tap water to your local dog park and you'll instantly find yourself surrounded by half a dozen furry friends. Just about all the owners encourage their dogs to play with other people and you are helping out those who forgot to bring extra drinking water for their pets. Young kids will go nuts!
  • Dining out for two, for one: American portions are really large these days. I find that if we just go out and order bread/chips and a single entree we are both full. Sometimes we even have a drink and appetizer at home before going out, avoiding those overpriced items. Mexican restaurants are the best, as almost all of them serve free bottomless chips and salsa. If you absolutely must have liquor, go early and hit the happy hour.
  • Sushi on the cheap: My wife and I love sushi, but it is a very expensive treat. What do we do? First, we try out as many sushi restaurants as we can, because you'll find that prices on individual sushi/sashimi pieces vary wildly. Then we order the sashimi (cheaper) with a bowl of white rice on the side (which they usually give for free). You can get a mouthful of rice and fish for less!

Any other tips for staying entertained without breaking the bank?

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