There’s this assumption when talking about frugality that it means a lifestyle of no fun, ever. “But if I live like a pauper, how will I ever take my cherished babies to Disney World?” we wail, assuming that a) Disney World is fun, and b) it’s impossible to afford fun on a frugal budget.
I am here to dispel this ridiculous notion, dear readers. We’ve been writing a lot about the big picture of personal finance recently, and I wanted to give you (and me) a break with some practical, small-scale advice. Being frugal and smart about your money is neither a death sentence for your social life nor a monastic vow to sit quietly and think about all the fun you’re not having. Movies, concerts, video games, sports—all are well within your grasp as a professional penny-pincher. In fact, you can enjoy a whole weekend full of cheap shenanigans while still maintaining your badass, frugal ways.
- Use. The. Fucking. Library. I’m not even going to dignify this one with further explanation.
- Discount movie theaters. Unless you’re desperately afraid of spoilers, let go of the notion that you have to see movies on opening weekend. All across the country are discount movie theaters that buy their reels from larger theater chains at a steep discount after the films have been out for a couple months. They pass the savings directly on to their customers. So instead of spending $14 to see Rogue One right the fuck now, you can spend $2.50 to see it in a few weeks.
- Used video games. I’m about two years behind on video games. I likely won’t play Fallout 4 for another year and I’m totally cool with that fact… because I pay about a fifth of the cost of a brand new game by waiting for used ones to show up at my local GameStop. Within a few years of a popular game’s release, gamers are pawning barely-used copies off on those of us who are willing to wait and only getting back a fraction of their initial investment. And as I am, sadly, a grown up with a grown up’s schedule and responsibilities, I can’t play games fast enough to keep up with the newest releases anyway. So why bother buying anything but used games?
- Free museum days. Many museums and parks participate in Free Museum Day, and may have other free or deeply discounted days throughout the year. It’s a little more crowded on these days, but well worth it. The idea is that access to the cultural enrichment of museums should not be contingent upon an individual’s financial status. Museums, art galleries, zoos, aquariums, botanic gardens—check the schedules on their websites to find out how you can expose yourself to the breadth of human knowledge, art, and history for the low-low cost of zero dollars.
- Buying concert tickets at the box office. You can avoid online processing fees by hoofing it down to the concert venue and buying your tickets directly from the box office instead of online or over the phone. Considering sites like TicketMaster can sometimes charge almost $20 in processing fees, it’s worth it. And take a chance on a lesser-known artist! Their tickets will be significantly cheaper than Beyoncé (Long May She Reign) and you’ll have the priceless experience of seeing the next Bob Dylan* in an intimate small venue setting before he gets big.
- Podcasts upon podcasts. Despite how often Ira Glass sweetly begs for donations, most podcasts are entirely free. Listen to them while going for a walk through your local public park and feel smug about your physical health while simultaneously learning a thing. Get your family to join you in listening by reminding Grandpa about FDR’s Fireside Chats—it’s just like that!
- Move your body around. People do The Sports because they’re fun. And while some of them require the use of expensive equipment (skiing, fishing, curling, cycling, bobsledding, caber tossing, etc.), many of The Sports can be done with little more than a pair of sneakers and a ball (running, soccer, flag football, ultimate frisbee, parkour, Humans vs. Zombies, etc). Pick a cheap sport and do it instead of something else that costs money.
There you go, my beloved tightwads. I just gave you a weekend full of delightful activities you can afford for whatever’s currently sinking through your couch cushions. Go forth and pursue cheap entertainment guilt-free, with your financial goals safely on track.
*True story: one of my college journalism professors saw Bob Dylan at an open mic before he was famous. Apparently she and her friends agreed that “He’s got good songs, but he’ll never get anywhere with that voice.”