You don’t have to give up fun to save money on entertainment and recreation; as a lot of money saving tips you read may suggest.
When you’re on a budget, it can feel like you have to make a lot of sacrifices.
But an effective budget is one that still allows you to have fun while saving, covering the bills and expenses, and being financially responsible.
However, many people make the mistake of cutting down too much – and then, understandably, getting fed up with their budget.
One of our biggest expenses is entertainment; whether it’s going to the movies, or watching cable TV, the cost can really build up.
According to figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, entertainment costs make up about 4% of our spending.
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But, it doesn’t have to.
There are plenty of things that you can do to save money on entertainment and recreation, without sucking the fun out of your life.
So, take a look at our list, start saving, and keep your budget intact.
What will I learn?
Save on TV, Movies and Music
Let’s start with one of our most popular pastimes – watching TV and listening to music.
Whether it’s watching your favorite sitcom, going to the movies or listening to music, it’s going to cost you.
In this section, we discuss ways that you can save money on cable, visiting the movie theater and of course, listening to music.
1. Cut the Cable
One of the easiest ways to save on entertainment is to drop your cable service. I know, we all love watching our favorite shows after a hard day at work, but the cost of cable is sky high.
According to statistics, the cost of cable is $99 a month on average.
This means that over the course of 12 months, you spend $1,118 on TV!
Now, cutting out the cable bill doesn’t mean that you have to forgo your favorite shows.
There are so many cheaper cable TV alternatives out there:
- Netflix: $7.99 to $11.99 per month.
- Amazon Prime: $12.99 per month.
- Hulu: From $7.99 per month.
- HBO Now: From $14.99 a month.
- Sling TV: From $20 a month.
As you can see, the services above are so much cheaper. And, they feature so many great shows, and movies.
Don’t want to give up live TV?
You don’t have to…Sling TV offers live shows.
2. Can’t cut the cord? Do this…
Ask and you shall receive!
A lot of times, all it takes is asking.
If you really, really don’t want to get rid of your cable, then contact your service provider and ask for a cheaper rate.
Thanks to platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, cable companies are now struggling to keep customers.
So, if you phone them and say you’re thinking about ending your subscription and switching to another provider, but you’d keep your cable if you were offered a better rate, then they might offer you a cheaper price.
3. Subscribe to a movie ticketing service
Going to the movies is a lot of fun – but a single ticket costs $8.97 on average. And, if you live in a pricier area, like NYC, then it’s not unusual to pay $20 to see a film.
Don’t worry, we’re not suggesting that you cut out going to the movies altogether.
No, as we said above, budgeting doesn’t mean that you have to cut out all of the fun stuff that you love to do.
Instead, you can cut down on the cost of a trip to the movie theater.
And, an easy way to do this is to sign up for a subscription-based movie ticketing service.
Update 9/14/19: MoviePass has suspended service to their customers.
One of the best out there is MoviePass. With MoviePass, you pay $9.95 a month, and then you can watch a new movie every day. So, you can watch around 30 movies in a month for that price! If you visit the movies twice per week, and you pay the average $8.97 price, then it would cost you $71.76 a month. Now, with this service, since you only pay $9.95 a month, you save $61.81! Make sure that you check out our MoviePass review, where we talk more about how it works and discuss other similar services.
4. Listen to Music for Free – really!
A quick browse of the iTunes store for an album can leave anyone feeling stressed about their budget!
But, you don’t have to pay to listen to great music. There are ways to get music for free, legally of course, which are super easy.
Firstly, Spotify is a great option.
Yes, they have a paid service but with the app, you can actually listen to music as well as podcasts and audiobooks for free.
Plus, there are even legal ways to get Spotify premium for free.
The only downside is that albums play in shuffle mode and you can only skip a certain number of songs, so if you like to listen to songs in order, then this isn’t ideal.
This is only minor though. Spotify features new tracks and classic songs from well-known and up-and-coming artists.
Where to get it:
- Desktop version: https://www.spotify.com
- Download Spotify for iOS devices here.
- Download Spotify for Android devices here.
- Download Spotify for Windows devices here.
Spotify is not the only service of its kind though. There are other websites where you can get music for free, and free internet radio platforms as well.
You can also find great music on the following websites:
- Desktop version: jango.com
- Download Jango for iOS devices here.
- Download Jango for Android devices here.
- Desktop version: https://www.deezer.com/en/
- Download Deezer for iOS devices here.
- Download Deezer for Android devices here.
- Desktop version: https://soundcloud.com/
- Download SoundCloud for iOS devices here.
- Download SoundCloud for Android devices here.
- Desktop version: https://www.pandora.com/
- Download Pandora for iOS devices here.
- Download Pandora for Android devices here.
- Desktop version: https://www.youtube.com
- Download YouTube for iOS devices here.
- Download YouTube for Android devices here.
- Desktop version: https://tunein.com/
- Download TuneIn Radio for iOS devices here.
- Download TuneIn Radio for Android devices here.
- Desktop version:
- Download iHeartRadio for iOS devices here.
- Download iHeartRadio for Android devices here.
- Desktop version: https://www.iheart.com/
- Download 8tracks for iOS devices here.
- Download 8tracks for Android devices here.
- Desktop version: https://www.slacker.com/
- Download Slacker for iOS devices here.
- Download Slack for Android devices here.
Save Money on Dining Out
Dining out is another fun activity – spending time with friends or not having to cook is always fun!
But, whether it’s a coffee on the way to work, or dinner with your family, the cost of eating out can really add up.
Fortunately, there are plenty of things that you can do to reduce the cost.
5. Look for Specials
A really easy way to save money when eating out is to check whether any restaurants in your area are offering a special deal. A lot of restaurants offer special deal days.
For example, some might offer a half-price meal deal on a certain night of the week, a set price for three courses or a special on the price of a bottle of wine.
Check nearby restaurants for these deals.
6. Have a Drink During Happy Hour
A deal that many restaurants offer is Happy Hour.
During Happy Hour, you can get drinks at low prices, so it’s a great way to save on booze.
And, a lot of bars will serve discounted food as well during happy hour.
7. Get a Restaurant Gift Card at a Discount
Did you know that you can purchase a gift card for less than its worth?
Online, you could get your hands on a $50 gift card, and pay just $30 for it.
And, you won’t just find gift cards to retailers – you can find tons for restaurants.
Let’s take a look at a few examples:
This is a hugely popular site and with good reason. There, you can get some big discounts at popular restaurants.
Here are a few examples:
- Potbelly: $54.02% discount.
- Buffalo Wild Wings: 50.1% discount.
- Krispy Kreme: 25.68% discount.
- PF Chang’s 25% discount.
This can save you so much money on eating out and there are gift cards from a huge variety of restaurants to choose from.
CardPool features discounted gift cards for a huge range of eateries, ranging from fast food places to sit-down restaurants.
Here are a few examples of savings available:
- Red Robin: Up to 16% off.
- Cheesecake Factory: Up to 15% off.
- Tony Roma’s: Up to 10% off.
- Bonefish Grill: Up to 17% off.
- California Pizza Kitchen: Up to 23% off.
Another great platform is Raise.
Here are a few examples of the savings available:
- Burger King: Save up to 13.7%
- TGI Fridays: Save up to 8.6%
- Applebee’s: Save up to 16%
This is a great website if you’re looking to save money at restaurants.
With this website, you get up to 50% off your restaurant bill.
You can get gift certificates in denominations ranging from $5 to $100.
8. Use Coupons
Coupons aren’t just for groceries; you can also get them for restaurants.
You could look in your local newspaper to find coupons from local restaurants, but, the best place to look is online.
Here are a few places where you can find restaurant coupons:
These websites feature coupons and other special offers from restaurants.
There are coupons available for a wide range of restaurants.
For example, on RetailMeNot (read my RetailMeNot guide for insider tips) you can get deals, at the time of writing, such as:
- 25% off regular menu price order at Papa John’s.
- 2 for $5.99 each on select items at Domino’s.
- 40% off pizza at Pizza Hut.
- $5 off $15 food purchase at Ruby Tuesdays.
9. Sign up for Newsletters and eClubs
A lot of restaurants send out special discounts and offers via email.
You just need to subscribe to their email list.
There are even restaurants that offer free food on your birthday.
Here are a few eClubs to check out:
- Taco Bell email club
- My Perkins
- Zaxby’s Club
- Church’s Chicken eClub
- Ruby Tuesday So Connected
- Panda Express email list
- The Cheesecake Factory Email Newsletter
- Good as Gold Club
- Hardee’s Email List
- Denny’s Rewards
- IHOP Pancake Revolution
- Arby’s Deals Newsletter
- Dairy Queen Blizzard Fan Club
- Culver’s eClub
- Taco Cabana MY TC
- Blimpie eClub
- Maggiano’s eClub
- El Torito’s eClub
- Fazoli’s eFamily
- Fuddrucker’s eClub
- Johnny Rocket eClub
- Logan’s Roadhouse Road Crew
- LongHorn Steakhouse email club
- Mimi’s Café eClub
- Papa Murphy’s eClub
- Tony Roma’s eMail Club
- Texas Roadhouse email club
- Waffle House Regular Club
- Del Taco Raving Fan Club
- Jason’s Deli Email Club
- The Keg Steakhouse and Bar Newsletter
- Einstein Bros Bagels The Shmear Society
- Spicy Pickle Rewards
- Hof’s Hut Preferred Guest
- Dickey’s Barbecue Pit Big Yellow Cup Club
- Carl’s Jr. Email List
- Sbarro Slice Society
- Taco Bueno Bueoheads Club
- Black Angus Steakhouse Prime Club
- Bear Lovers
- Boston Market’s VIP Club
- El Chico eClub
- Famous Dave’s Famous Nation
- Gold Star Chili eClub
Some of these clubs will even give you a discount or a free menu item just to sign up.
- Denny’s will give you 20% off your next visit.
- Black Angus Steakhouse will give you a free dessert.
- My Perkins gives you a 20% off coupon.
- Hardee’s will give you a free small fries and beverage with purchase.
Visit the website of your favorite eateries and see if they have an email list that you can sign up to.
10. Join iDine
If you really enjoy eating out and want to save money each and every time that you do, then check out iDine.
You can earn 5 to 10% with it every time that you dine out.
What’s great about it is that you don’t have to pay any membership fees or use coupon codes.
You just need to link your credit or debit card to your iDine account. Then, use iDine.com to find a restaurant near you. Then, dine there and pay with the card you attached. Then, review your experience, and you’ll get the cashback.
Once you earn $20 in cashback, you’ll receive an American Express Reward Card.
This program is great, as it means that you can save money regardless of where you dine.
Save Money on Events and Attractions
Whether it’s a sports event, a visit to the museum, a trip to the zoo, or a concert, there are tons of free things to do in your city.
11. Look for Free Events in your Area
What’s better than saving money on an event?
Getting it for free of course!
A lot of communities offer free events or at least very cheap events. These could include sports events, street fairs, concerts in the park, community plays, and art gallery openings.
Here are a few places to look for these types of events:
- Local colleges and universities.
- Parks and recreation offices.
- Local libraries.
- Community boards/websites.
- Community calendars.
- Tourism agencies in your area.
- Local newspaper.
- Local magazines.
- Coffee shops in your area.
12. Check out Free Museums
There are a lot of great museums out there that are totally free. This is a great way to spend a weekend.
Here are a few museums that don’t charge admission:
- Fairbanks Community Museum
- Saint Louis Science Center
- Field Museum – free admission only applies to residents of Illinois.
- Frye Art Museum
- The Smithsonian – this offers nineteen different museums with free admission.
Also, consider doing a search online for your state or city, and followed, by the term “free museums,” this will bring up free museums nearby.
13. Take Advantage of Free Days
A lot places that normally charge admission, such as zoos, aquariums and museums sometimes have a day where it’s free.
Don’t be afraid to call them and ask if they offer any free days.
For example, the California Academy of Sciences offers free admission on two designated weekends each year to residents of San Francisco.
14. Attend Local and Amateur Sporting Events
Let’s face it, attending major league sports events is costly.
According to figures reported by Statista, attending an NFL game can set you back anywhere from $61 to $130!
If you love live sports, then go to amateur league games instead. Doing this can save you so much money.
15. Watch Local Theater
The average Broadway ticket can cost you more than $100!
Attending shows at your community theater is so much cheaper.
Sure, the production quality might not be on par with Broadway, but it’s still a great way to see a live show, without having to pay a fortune for it.
16. Consider getting a Membership
If you like to visit one particular attraction often, like the zoo, for example, then it might be worth paying for a membership.
If you plan to visit an attraction multiple times a year, then the cost of the membership could work out less than the cost of buying a ticket each time.
What’s great about these memberships is that you often get free admission opportunities or discounted admission too.
So, do the math and see if it’s worth getting – sometimes memberships pay for themselves in just a few visits.
Before buying the membership, make sure that you read the details in full to see what savings you’ll get access to.
17. Save at Six Flags
When it comes to fun things to do, Six Flags is at the top of many people’s lists. Fortunately, it can get expensive quickly.
The good news is that there are a lot of easy ways you can save money at Six Flags.
For example, did you know you can get a discount using a Coke can?
There are many other little hacks and insider tips like that. Read this to learn how to get discounts at Six Flags.
Save Money on Books and Magazines
Reading is a great way to spend your downtime, but the cost of books, whether that’s hard copies or eBooks, and magazines can add up.
Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to save money on books and magazines or even get them for free.
18. Read Books for Free
Watching TV shows and movies is great fun, but sometimes there’s nothing better than curling up with a good book.
If you love to read in your downtime, you don’t have to pay for the privilege. There are tons of places that offer free books, and we’re not just talking about your local library.
Of course, many sites give you free eBooks, rather than physical copies. However, you still get the book for free.
Here are a few places to check out for free books:
And, don’t forget to check out our list of 100 places to find free books.
19. Subscribe to Magazines Online
If you love to read magazines, then you might want to consider getting them online instead.
Online, you can get magazine subscriptions at a much lower rate.
Here are a few to check out:
- Discount Magazines
- Best Deal Magazines
- Magazine Discount Center
20. Or read them for free online (or get free hard copies at your local library)
The sites above are great for saving money on magazines, but what’s better than saving money?
Getting something for free of course!
There are a few websites where you can find free magazines, such as:
Like reading magazines the old-fashioned way? Me too! Consider buying a regular subscription instead of purchasing them at the grocery store. Subscriptions are generally at least 50% cheaper than the in-store price.
And if you want FREE subscriptions, find out how we get several free magazines each month.
21. Join Kindle Unlimited
If you’re an avid reader, then you should definitely check out Kindle Unlimited.
It gives you access to more than one million titles in the Kindle Store, including:
There’s a free 30 day trial available as well. After that, it’s $9.99 a month.
If you buy 3 books a month, priced at $4.99 each, then you’d spend $14.97 a month.
So, if you subscribed to Kindle Unlimited, then you’d save $4.98.
If you read a lot, then it’s definitely worth signing up to.
Tips for Saving Money on Miscellaneous
Above, we’ve covered how to save money on specific things, from watching television to dining out. In this section, we offer tips on how to save on a mix of things.
22. Ask about Discounts
A lot of places, such as theme parks, museums and restaurants offer discounts to:
- Military and veterans
So, it’s always worth carrying your ID with you just in case.
Brands, like Disney and Harley Davidson offer military discounts for example.
Some places will even offer free admission to members of the military and students.
23. Host a Potluck Dinner
Dining out with friends or family is a lot of fun, but it can get quite expensive.
A good way to still enjoy time with friends and family is to host a potluck dinner.
Doing so is great fun, and cheaper since you all get to split the cost of dinner between you.
24. Host a Game Night
This can be so much fun, but it’s a super inexpensive way to spend time with your friends and family – much cheaper than going out to dinner!
Invite your friends over for a game night.
Ask everyone to bring a board game, and add some of your own – you can sometimes find them cheaper online if you buy them secondhand.
And, if your guests aren’t into board games, then consider having an Xbox game tournament.
Or, play a free game, like the post-it game. Each person has to write down the name of a person – real or fictional.
And, then give it to another person, who sticks the post-it to their forehead, and is unable to see the name.
Then, each person has to guess who they are. This is a really fun game that will have everyone laughing.
Also, ask your friends to all bring snacks or drinks too, and provide your own.
25. Visit your local Library
If you’re looking to save money on entertainment, then we’d highly recommend visiting your local library.
It is a great place to find free books, DVDs, music and magazines.
B6, that’s not all.
At your library, you can also find details about local events, and sometimes host classes and events.
For example, there may be:
- Author visits.
- Lessons on things, such as crafts or technology.
- Book clubs.
- Story hour.
- Summer reading programs for kids.
So, the library really is a great place to find free stuff to do for you and your family.
26. Have a Date Night at Home
Going out for date night is great, but it’s also expensive.
A good way to lessen the cost is to have a date night at home, rather than going out.
It’s cozier and a little more relaxed than going out.
Watch a movie together – leave your smartphones in another room, and just enjoy quality time together.
27. Check out the Home Depot Workshop
Home Depot hosts free DIY classes for adults.
What’s great is that they offer free classes for kids too. You can earn skills, like painting, and make items too.
We have a review of the Home Depot Workshops, which you can check out here.
28. Get out in Nature
Sometimes people forget that simply going outside can be a great way to spend your time.
Whether it’s visiting the woods, a lake or a walking trail, getting outside is great fun, and it’s good for you!
It’s a great way to de-stress after work too!
So, consider visiting your local park, woods, lake, etc.
29. Shop on Cashback Websites
On cashback websites (here’s a list of the best ones), you can find great deals on games for the PlayStation, Xbox and other devices.
You can also get kindle devices, iPads and other mobile devices that you can use to watch movies, read books and listen to music, at a much lower price.
Just visit the cashback website, type in what you want, such as Xbox games, or Kindle, and you’ll see a list of stores where you can buy those items.
Shop at a store, and you’ll receive cashback.
For example, on Ebates, when you enter the term “Xbox games” into the search bar, you get a list of stores on the site where you can purchase them.
The top store on the list is GameStop – you can get 2.5% off.
Here are a few examples of cashback stores you can check out:
- Desktop version: https://www.ebates.com/
- Download Ebates for Android devices here.
- Download Ebates for iOS devices here.
- Download the Ebates browser extension here.
- Desktop version: https://www.shopathome.com
- Download ShopAtHome for Android devices here.
- Download ShopAtHome for iOS devices here.
- Desktop version: https://www.topcashback.com/
- Download TopCashBack for Android devices here.
- Download TopCashBack for iOS devices here.
- Desktop version: https://www.couponcabin.com/cash-back/
- Download CouponCabin for Android devices here.
- Download CouponCabin for iOS devices here.
30. Check out Deal Websites
On deal websites (find the best ones here) you can find great savings on entertainment and recreation.
One of the things you can save on is local events and attractions.
For example, at the time of writing, you can get 42% off the Chicago History Museum on Groupon.
Here are a few places that offer discounts and deals on museums, concerts, zoos, and more:
- Groupon – Concerts, museums, theme parks, festivals, sightseeing tours and sports activities. Just browse the “Things to Do” section in your area.
- Living Social – Festivals, tours, zoos and concerts and other activities.
But, that’s not all…
On deal websites, you can also find great offers and discounts on:
- Games, including Xbox and PlayStation games.
- Electronics, like Xbox consoles, PlayStation consoles, and Kindle tablets.
- DVDs and Blu-Ray.
- Movie tickets.
- Entertainment services, like Xbox Live Gold Subscription.
Here are a few to visit for great savings:
31. Join Prime
We briefly mentioned Prime above, when we talked about streaming services.
But being able to stream movies and videos isn’t the only benefit that Prime has to offer.
With Prime, you also get access to free music and free books through Prime Reading.
With Prime Reading, you get free books and magazines and can listen to audiobooks.
Plus, Prime gives you access to free shipping – so this can save you money if you’re buying something like a game or DVD.
Check out our Prime review and see how much you can save as a member.
32. Shop at Wholesale Clubs
Wholesale clubs, like Costco (use these tips to save even more at Costco) and Sam’s Club, are a surprisingly good places to get great deals on entertainment, and recreation.
At these stores, you can often find things like discounted:
- Movie tickets.
- Theme park tickets
- Restaurant gift cards.
And, you can buy them in bulk, so if you have a big family, then you can find some great savings.
Also, these stores also offer electronics, such as games consoles, books, movies and games at a lower price too.
And, our final tip is to volunteer.
If there’s an event that you really want to attend, then you can get in for free by volunteering at the venue.
Of course, you will have to work while you’re there, but you’ll still get to experience the event.
Whether it’s dining out, reading a good book, watching a movie, having fun at the amusement park, or visiting museums, you don’t have to spend a ton of money on entertainment.
There are so many ways to save money on entertainment and recreation. So, follow our tips, and have fun, without sapping up your budget!
And, of course, feel free to let us know if you have any tips for saving in the comments section below.