Saving On Fun
Having A Great Time Without Great Expense
February 24, 2016 by Mark Dye
It’s Military Saves Week! This year, we’re focusing on how you can have fun without breaking the bank.
If you’re like most people, your budget has lines for utilities, food, or a car payment. What it probably doesn’t have is a line item listed as “Fun Funds.” Instead, we tend to just spend money on our rest and relaxation time as it comes rather than really thinking about it ahead of time (and, sometimes, that can lead to a host of financial sadness down the line).
It’s important to not only budget for the things you enjoy, but also to find ways to save on them—and here are a few ways to do so.
Get your game on
Video gaming has become huge business, generating more revenue than Hollywood has for the past several years. The problem is that the systems can be expensive, ranging from $300 for a console to a few thousand dollars for a good gaming PC, and the games themselves can add up quickly, costing anywhere from $30-$60 each (and that’s without any additional downloaded content).
You can save on systems by buying a used or refurbished console, or through building your own gaming PC rather than buying it pre-done. And you can get all kinds of games on the cheap—sales on PC games through Steam are a regular thing, Microsoft has its “Games with Gold” program, and Sony has PlayStation Plus for its members. And that doesn’t even include places that offer used games, such as GameStop or Ebay.
Make it a movie night
Whether it’s the latest blockbuster, or some art-house flick, movies can get pricey, but finding ways to save is quite easy:
Join a rewards program—If you’re a movie buff, joining one of these (if available) can save you hundreds during the year.
Check to see if they offer pre-sale discounts—These are usually offered online.
Wait a bit and catch it at a discount theater—The movies aren’t brand new, but tickets can be just one or two dollars.
Eat before you go—Some might suggest bringing your own snacks to save on concessions, but bringing your own treats is often frowned upon and you can get kicked out of the movie.
Hit the drive-in—Yes, they still exist! And they often offer you two movies for less than the price of one at a normal theater. (And most allow you to bring in your own treats and drinks!)
Sporting events can be memorable and exciting … and very expensive (especially for the “big four” sports). We're talking at least $100 for an NFL game, and nearly that much for the NBA.
Thankfully, sites such as StubHub and Ticketwood exist and can help you find good deals on the events you want. Craig’s List is another good choice (most tickets for sale on the site are from people with scheduling conflicts who want to get rid of the tickets as fast as possible), as are season ticket holders (some of whom might also have parking passes, which can save you up to $50 depending on the sport). Also keep in mind that while court-side seats to an NBA game are nice, getting seats a bit further back from the action are always more affordable. And some sports, like football, are better viewed from a bit farther back anyway.
Another way to save is to get all your food and drink in beforehand through the time-honored tradition of tailgating. Doing so can save you quite a bit of money, especially on over-priced drinks and food of often questionable quality. (Do check, however, on any laws pertaining to the venue, as some places might not allow grilling, while others might not allow tailgating of any kind.)
Live concerts have gotten very costly in recent years, especially for top acts. One part of that cost is the service charge applied by many ticket retailers, which you can often save by purchasing from the box office at the arena/stadium itself.
Where you sit is another consideration. Much like sporting events, being in front might be nice, but will cost you. And, depending on the band or artist you’re seeing, being on the floor might not be the best choice. (While you might love heavy metal, think about whether or not you want to spend your evening in a mosh pit.)
You can also check out lesser-known or up-and-coming bands for a lot less money at local bars or smaller venues, while some places even offer free shows, especially around colleges and universities. So if you love music, keep an eye out for these opportunities—you might even discover the next big thing before almost anyone else.
Amusement parks offer a full day—or several—of family fun, but often at the cost of your budget. Buying your tickets online is a surprisingly easy way to save some cash on admission, as is getting a multi-day pass if you plan on visiting for several days in a row.
The trend of “overpriced concessions” continues here as well, so finding ways to reduce that are always good. Some parks (such as Worlds of Fun in Kansas City) allow you to bring food to a designated park-like area where you can have a picnic of your own making.
Of course, no matter where you go or do, always ask about a military discount. Most places will reduce the price by up to 20% for military members, or give you some other sort of perk as long as you have your military ID (or DD214 if out of the military).
So go out there, save some money, and have fun!
For more information about Military Saves Week, visit www.MilitarySaves.org. To get more savings tips, strategies, and information, check out some of our past blogs: