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19 tips to save on entertainment

The average American family spends $2,500 a year on entertainment. Here are 19 ways to substantially reduce those costs.

By Stacy Johnson May 3, 2012 2:20PM

This post comes from Angela Colley at partner site Money Talks News.


Money Talks News on MSN MoneyWe recently provided 30 easily digestible ways to save on food. Today we turn to a different potential budget-buster -- keeping yourself amused.


In 2010 (the latest year available), the average American family spent $2,504 a year on entertainment, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics -- less than on food, housing or transportation, but still about 5% of overall expenses. Find ways to amuse yourself for less, and you could divert a nice chunk of change to paying down debt, building savings, or otherwise making yourself wealthier.

In the video below, Stacy Johnson gives you five ways to save on entertainment. Check it out, then read on for more tips.

Here's a recap of those five tips, plus 14 more: 


Get discounts on dining out. You don't have to cut out restaurants altogether to save on entertainment costs. Sites like sell gift certificates at deep discounts. Most $25 gift certificates go for $10, and sometimes for as little as $2.


Attend amateur sporting events. In 2010, the average cost of a ticket to an NFL game was $76.47, according to USA Today. If you like watching live sports, attend amateur league games. They're much, much cheaper.


Read for free. With a membership at your local library you gain free access to thousands of books, e-books, magazines, books on tape, and DVDs. Other sources for free e-books include Project Gutenberg and And don't forget about blogs and online news sites. Most newspapers have an online presence, so ditch the subscription and start getting your news free.


Volunteer. As Stacy said, volunteering doesn't cost a dime and will pay off big for both you and your community. Local animal shelters, homebuilding groups, shelters and food banks are always looking for volunteers. Also check out volunteer opportunities at local festivals and events. By volunteering, you get to go to the event free.


Turn a hobby into income. Being crafty is a fun and productive use of your time. Plus, you can give what you make as gifts, or sell your products via sites like Etsy and eBay to earn some extra cash.


Image: Tickets (© Pixtal Images/Photolibrary/Photolibrary)See a matinee. According to the National Association of Theatre Owners, the average cost of a movie ticket was $7.89 in 2010, but tickets run much higher in some urban areas. Attend the matinee (from 4 to 6 p.m.) for cheaper ticket prices, or look for film festivals and independent film theaters where tickets are even cheaper.


Rent movies for less. While libraries do offer movies, they may not always have the newest releases. One inexpensive option is Redbox, which charges $1.20 a night. 


Drink at happy hour. You'll find two for one, dollar drafts, and other drink specials. Many bars also serve free food during happy hour, so you can eat and have a drink for one low price. While you're there, see if the bar has theme nights. Some bars have ladies night or offer discounts during sporting events.


Swap baby-sitting gigs. You can spend more paying the baby sitter than you do on the night's entertainment. Instead, offer to trade baby-sitting services with a friend.


Swap cable for streaming. The average cable bill is $75 and rising, according to CNN. In "You don't have to pay for cable TV," we gave you several ways to get your TV fix without the high cost, like Netflix ($7.99 a month) or Hulu (free on a limited basis).


Avoid ticket surcharges. Buy your tickets online and you'll pay a surcharge. Buy your tickets in person at the box office or over the phone through the venue directly and you won't have to pay the extra fee.


Find free concerts. Depending on where you live, you might have access to free music. In New Orleans, I can attend a free concert every week downtown. Check out your city's tourism website for similar events in your area.


Spend time in nature. Don't overlook the outdoors when you're looking for something to do. Admission to many national parks is always free, and all are free on certain days each year


Host potlucks. Gather friends together for a potluck dinner. You'll get to spend time with your social circle, and potlucks are a lot cheaper than restaurant meals.
Throw a game night party. Board games are cheap and reusable. You can also ask your friends and family to bring over their favorite games on game night.
Buy season passes. If you frequent an amusement park, zoo or aquarium, get a season pass. Season passes sometimes sell for not much more than the price of two entries. For example, you can buy a one-day ticket to Six Flags for $36.99, or a season pass for $56.99.

Get discounts on amusement parks and events. If you're not a frequent visitor, check your local grocery store, retail chain, or drugstore for discount tickets. Some stores sell discount tickets to events if you buy in advance.

Attend local art shows. Local galleries often host free showings, and many cities have monthly art walks where you can view the works of multiple galleries.
Take a tour. Historical societies offer tours of homes and other significant sites. In my area, these tours are free or less than $5 a ticket and last one to two hours.
Our goal was to create a complete list of cheap (or free) entertainment ideas. Did I miss any? Let me know in the comment below.
More on Money Talks News and MSN Money:




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