7 Totally Reasonable Ways To Save Money on Cheap Entertainment

There’s this assumption about frugality and cheap entertainment 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.

Cheap shenanigans

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.

Wait, did I say GameStop? I meant “stream old games from my couch.” Within a few years of a popular game’s release, not only are gamers pawning barely-used copies off on those of us who are willing to wait and only getting back a fraction of their initial investment. But game developers are releasing discounted editions of their games for download straight to your console.

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 for the cheap entertainment.

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.

Whether solo or on a date, here are some other ideas for what to do in your precious free time:

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.

Any other ideas?

There you go, my beloved tightwads. I just gave you a weekend full of delightfully cheap entertainment 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.

And if you have any ideas for ways to have fun on the cheap, share them with us in a comment below! My imagination is limited, so I’d love to be delighted and surprised! And while you’re at it, consider pinning this article.

*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.”

10 thoughts to “7 Totally Reasonable Ways To Save Money on Cheap Entertainment”

  1. One thing to consider about used games: None of the money from secondhand game sales goes to the developer. It all goes to GameStop(/local variant thereof). This might not be a big deal if you only ever play AAA titles that make millions in their first week, but if you’re into indies or more obscure franchises, their continued existence depends a lot on the developer actually getting paid for them, so try to buy new at least done of the time of it’s a series/genre you care about.

    Side note: the basic principles can still apply. Games are almost always discounted after they’ve been out for a year+, but instead of giving GameStop $20 for a game that they paid someone $1.50 for, maybe go to Best Buy or Amazon and pay $25 for a discounted new copy.

    1. This is a great point, and it’s wise to remember to patronize indie retailers for other industries as well (book stores too, for example). When I’m shopping for games at GameStop, I’m almost always looking for used AAA titles. I can’t recall ever finding a used indie game in the used section of GameStop.

    2. Yas, Erin, this is such a good point! It’s making me want to do a regular round-up of solid affordable indie games. Have you played This War of Mine? Ugh. I am a glutton for punishing resource management and visceral morality challenges. It ate my fucking weekend.

  2. What are your thoughts on TV streaming services for entertainment? Netflix, Hulu, Showtime, etc.! Do they have enough bang per buck?

    (The ability to pirate things for free notwithstanding, that is~)

  3. Useful tip: Most theaters (and other similar stuff, like dance companies) have volunteer ushers that can then stay and see the play for free. Seriously, I see somewhere about 10-15 plays for $0 every year, and I’d see more but I don’t have time!

  4. many public libraries have museum passes. So if you really want to see a show at a museum, but you can’t make their free hours – you can check out a museum pass and go for free/a significant discount.

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