Maximizing Your Budget: Entertainment

Maximizing Your Entertainment

In 2015, we’re putting extra emphasis on budgeting since it’s a must for financial success. Each month, we tackle a different category, and by year’s end, we’ll have one big resource for maximizing your entire budget.

The Entertainment portion of our budget is the one I feel least qualified to write about. And it’s not because we blow it every month. Rather, it’s kind of the opposite. Johnny and I are simple (read: boring) folk, so this is an area of our budget where we’ve never struggled. We make big “sacrifices” in Entertainment spending (or lack of), and it doesn’t feel like a sacrifice at all. So we’ll give our tips on how we don’t spend on entertainment. But then we need some help from you who go and do more so our readers can hear your best tips, too. Capiche?

Swap babysitting.

One of the biggest deterrents to going out for a date is having to pay a babysitter. Suddenly our night out is twice the cost because we have children who need watching. But that doesn’t mean we get rid of our date nights altogether. No, no, no. My fondest memories the past few months of having two children are the ones when Johnny and I were out. Alone. You can’t really put a price on that rejuvenation that comes from a night out. But rather than ramp up our babysitting spending, we swap date nights with other couples who have kids our same age. We drop our kids at their house and have a few hours to ourselves, and then we do the same thing for them a few weeks later. And we save the paid babysitters for special occasions — anniversaries, birthdays, or “We have to go on a date tomorrow or I’m going to lose it!!!” nights.

If you have very young children like we do, perhaps you’ve felt frustrated by paying a babysitter to just sit in your home while your children sleep. Our kids go to bed so early that there’s no real babysitting that even happens. For later evening dates, we sometimes ask a willing friend or family member who doesn’t have children to simply sit at our home and watch a movie (sometimes with their boyfriend or girlfriend) while we’re out. In return, we grab them food or a treat while we’re gone.

Find free activities.

One of our favorite evening activities before we had kids was taking walks outside. It sounds lame, but we had so much fun just walking around (during the warmer months, of course), talking about whatever. It didn’t cost a penny, but we still got that quality alone time outside of our home.

Now that we have kids, evening walks don’t happen very often, but we still look for free or inexpensive things to do when we go out. Our outings on the weekends almost always include our daughters, and we usually find a free park, splash pad, or hike where we can be together. We once made the mistake of perusing the mall together as a family, and it took all our willpower to leave without buying a single item. So we avoid malls and other stores unless we have a list of specific items we need to buy.

Have a night in.

Johnny and I love our nights in. We have it down to a science almost, which makes it sound super boring, but for some reason, we get really excited for our date nights in. We fix a favorite meal to have after the girls are in bed (or do take out), and we settle down on our couch in front of the TV with a rented movie or an episode from whatever show we’re currently obsessed with. We also keep a stash of junk food — candy, chocolate, ice cream, popcorn, etc., and choose one of those items (or a few) to have with our movie. We were grocery shopping two nights ago, and as we were restocking our junk food stash, Johnny added Twinkies to the mix… so we’re that family now, the one with Twinkies in the cupboards.

We also love having friends over for board games or to watch college football. We have snacks and treats, and we all sit around and play games. It’s good, nerdy, competitive fun. And it’s free!

Nix the cable.

In case you missed it, at the beginning of the year Johnny and I found a way to save on the easiest form of entertainment known to man — we cut cable TV. And we’ve never looked back since. Any entertainment we seek from our TV, we find in Netflix and other streaming options (which we outlined in our comprehensive post on the subject). If you’re someone who likes to eat out or go to movies more than we do, canceling cable could be a great option for saving some money in your budget that could go toward other entertainment options.

And with that, we’ve exhausted all our tips and tricks we can think of for saving on entertainment! So we need to hear from all you exciting folks out there! How do you slash your entertainment spending while still having fun in order to maximize your budget?

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  • Reply Michelle Schroeder August 17, 2015 at 9:32 am

    There are so many free activities out there that a person could look into. Whether you live in a small town or a big city, I’m sure there is something!

  • Reply Ali @ Anything You Want August 17, 2015 at 10:59 am

    We also love nights in (pizza + Netflix = the best!) and free activities. Our city has tons of free activities, like outdoor movies, concerts, etc.. I also love to take long walks around the city, but haven’t managed to work that into a date night just yet.

  • Reply Rachel August 17, 2015 at 11:07 am

    We had a long chat at the start of this year about films. We both love films so should we upgrade our TV package, get a amazon prime/netflicks membership, a cinema subscription card, buy blurays or something else? In the end we decided that going to the movies is part of the experience, we get to have a ‘date night’ and feed our film habit BUT we’re not happy spending £10-12 a ticket. Therefore we have only gone to movies when we have an at least half price deal, mostly we pay £5 per ticket and can go once a week IF there are films we want to see. We also get our snacks from the supermarket next door to the cinema so the whole thing costs us under £15 instead of over £30. We don’t have children but are pretty sure that would change things a little! 😉 We also have just got super fast broadband in our area so we are reconsidering the subscription services.

    Ultimately we prioritse what we want to do. We bought a National Trust membership this year, which made us feel really middle aged, but we can now get into loads of historical sites for free (ok, we paid for it but after 3 visits we’re in profit!). We are going away at the weekend and plan to visit a couple of Trust properties as a bargain activity. The membership means we can go somewhere different without spending lots of money, and if it’s rubbish we don’t feel like we’ve wasted money.

  • Reply Mrs. Crackin' the Whip August 17, 2015 at 11:57 am

    We pretty much stay at home and hang out together. There’s no place I’d rather be. Mr. Crackin’ refuses to take me to the movies. This decision was made long before we were cost conscious. I will fall asleep every single time. He says we’re not paying that much money for me to take a nap! Can’t say I blame him….

    Johnny and Joanna….you guys are going to be in real trouble if there’s a zombie apocalypse. You should have never revealed to the internet you have Twinkies on hand!~

  • Reply Ellen August 17, 2015 at 5:20 pm

    Our entertainment budget includes our food out budget simply because they are one in the same for us. We like to try new places to eat but I refuse to pay $100 for a meal when that buys 2 weeks of groceries for me and my husband . We always make sure to check Groupon or LivingSocial for good deals. We have recently found them for concerts and museums too! It makes a big difference. We also like playing tennis a lot. Besides a couple racquets and a can of tennis balls, it’s basically free!

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