There are many ways to reduce what your family spends, on everything from utilities to groceries. These methods allow you to keep your family fed, clothed, and sheltered without having to feel like you’re “going without.” When it comes to entertainment, however, many families quickly go to the extreme of giving everything up and denying themselves fun experiences. This is likely because entertainment feels too frivolous to be considered a priority.
The problem with this line of thought is that, without a break or a treat every once in a while, you are more likely to cheat on your carefully planned budget and make big splurges that you know you cannot afford. By budgeting in entertainment options, you reduce this risk significantly. Remember, reduction does not mean rejection. It simply means you have to plan your entertainment more carefully. Here are some quick tips to help you do exactly that.
1. Bundle it Up
Most cable and satellite television providers offer really great TV packages for low prices if you’re willing to bundle them up with other services like internet and phone. The great thing about these packages is that, unlike what you might have had growing up, these packages are extensive. For example, Phili DTV packages start with 145 channels. The likelihood of not being able to find anything to watch on 145 channels is pretty small. Most packages now also come with On Demand, which reduces your need for streaming media and helps you save money on those subscriptions as well.
2. Shop Used
Your kids have been clamoring for an XBox One or a PS4 for months now but you simply don’t have enough room in your budget to go pick one up at Best Buy. And even if you did, you probably wouldn’t have enough left over for actual games. Have you tried checking out your local Goodwill? You might also try your local GameStop–they often sell used or floor model consoles and games for less than you would pay new. It’s also likely that there is a shop in your town that deals specifically in used and refurbished media like gaming consoles, games, DVDs, etc. Spend some time haunting these places. You might be surprised by what you find and for what prices.
3. Go Analog
Before the dozens of different consoles and hand held gaming devices took over the market, people used to play games the old fashioned way: face to face using cards, tokens, boards, etc. Tabletop gaming (or, as we used to call this, “board gaming”) is making a comeback and the games that are available today are leaps and bounds ahead of what was available in the toy aisle at Target when you were a kid. The best way to try new (or new to you) games without first forking over a chunk of cash is to spend some time playing at your local game shop. Most of the local and independent game stores will have tabletop games that you can check out and play on site. Play through a few together for an afternoon to find out what you like. You can also buy games really cheaply through second hand shops like Goodwill, Salvation Army, Value Village, etc.
4. Use the Internet
There is tons of free and family friendly entertainment on the web. More importantly there is tons of information about free and family friendly events happening in your town on the web. Search your local sites events calendars for fun things to do with the family that won’t cost a lot. Take in an afternoon matinee at the library. Participate in a charity fun run at your local park. Do arts and crafts at your community center for an afternoon. You get the idea.
Remember: living a more frugal lifestyle does not mean that you have to live a life free of fun! Take some time to look around you; you’ll be surprised at how much free and low cost entertainment is available.