Ask the Readers: How Do You Save on Entertainment?

By Ashley Jacobs on 22 January 2013 72 comments
Photo: yves Tennevin

Editor's Note: Congratulations to Bethany, Mary, and Linday for winning this week's contest!

Most people factor entertainment into their budget. Whether it's heading to the movies, going to a concert, or hosting a party, we all need some room in our budget to keep us entertained! However, sometimes entertainment can be a bit costly, so it's important to find ways to keep costs down!

How do you save on entertainment? Do you take advantage of free admission days at local zoos or museums? Wait for movies to come out on DVD? Take advantage of AAA discounts? Or do you have other strategies to save on entertainment?

Tell us how you save on entertainment and we'll enter you in a drawing to win a $20 Amazon Gift Card!

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Guest's picture

We grease the bird feeder pole. It provides hours of family entertainment for pennies.

Guest's picture

Years ago, when the cost of our internet and cable kept rising, we did a brave thing and cut off the cable, and switched to a DSL line. We saved about 60%, and used that to subscribe to Netflix streaming, which is all we use now. Maybe once a month we'll go out to a movie, but we rarely rent from stores anymore -- it's all through streaming. That gives us a nice opportunity to read more, too, with the occasional purchase, but mostly based off of the local library.

To allow some variety, we still go out to live shows -- maybe once a quarter, and we try to keep it local rather than going up to the big city.

Guest's picture

I live in a rural area so saving on entertainment is tough, there's barely any entertainment. Mostly I use rewards for entertainment, like cashing in MCR points for AMC theaters and Live Nation Cash, we get restaurant gift cards from relatives on holidays, look for free and discounted days and coupons for the zoo and museums, and have a lot of pot luck type parties and barbecues in the summer. My local mom and pop drug store also sells discounted tickets for the local not-a-chain movie theater, and the local library has sponsored events like magicians for the kids.

Guest's picture

We save on entertainment in several ways. For dining out, we take advantage of coupons and senior pricing. On the rare occasion when we go to movies at the theater, we go to early showings of movies for the matinee price or use the senior discount, whichever saves more. We bring our own snacks and water. I have also purchased theater gift cards at a discount. For outings to the zoo and museums, where we go often with grandkids, we purchase a family membership. This saves money per visit, and we bring picnic lunches along. We also keep our eyes open for free or low cost things to do, such as touring the farm that supplies our CSA box or attending concerts or movie nights in the park.

Guest's picture

I use the library for movies and books. In nicer weather, I use beaches and parks. And there's always free concerts in the summer

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Lani C

We use the library for movies :)

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We don't have a TV service, and watch all shows and movies online for free on YouTube and Hulu

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Mary Happymommy

I save on entertainment by winning Redbox codes and watching free movies at home.

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Catherine Robinson

We take advantage of Groupon deals and deals. We also have potluck meals at home. For seeing movies, we often borrow DVDs from friends. Our concert going is usually when someone offers us tickets, and that happens with amazing frequency! My husband and I both have Kindles and enjoy reading a great deal, but we both subscribe to BookBub, which allows us to get books for free and greatly reduced rates. Travel is usually by car with a cooler in the back seat.

Guest's picture

My favorite way to save money on movies is to go to early shows. Most major movie chains have a pre-noon discount, which can be about half price. If your show starts at 11:30, its' not too different from having it start after noon. Or go to a 9:30/10 am show, and get out just in time for lunch!

Guest's picture

My favorite entertainment savings is to use the website Goldstar Events ( No, I don't work them, but love them. Membership is free. There are Goldstar sites in most major cities and they offer half price, sometimes free tickets to concerts, theatre events and sporting events.
Other ideas: free concerts in the park in the summer, student rush tickets at Broadway shows if you are a college student (half price or less) and of course, the "lottery" that is held prior to many Broadway shows in NY and LA (you go to the theare a couple of hours early and they sell the unused cast seats -- the best in the house -- for $40). Here's an article on how the tricks of seeing Broadway shows on a budget:

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Rachel R

My laptop is hooked up to my tv. Most shows can be accessed online, so I no longer subscribe to cable which saves about $600 a year.

Guest's picture

buy groupons and goldstar trickets for entertainment...may not be the best seats in the house, but usually still a great experience and at greatly reduced prices

Guest's picture

I hang out with a people who have similar spending habits so we find really fun free or cheap things to do, like small local concerts, art walks, and discount movie theaters. We also cook a lot together rather than going out for food.

Guest's picture

We love to go to the movies but that can be a real budget buster so we try to make sure we catch the first daily viewing since that time slot is the cheapest at our theater, that alone saves us $3-4 a ticket and then we usually bring a little snack from home instead of getting gouged on the concession stand prices. We also use Redbox and try to primarily get rentals when I find a freebie code to use on the machine.

Guest's picture
Ryan McGillen

Our primary entertainment expense is movies. We go probably once a week on average. We have a few ways of cutting down on the expenses.

1. We go to a smaller, independantly owned 1st run theater whenever we can. They only have 4 screens and the seats aren't super comfortable, but they show 1st run movies for 5 bucks before 6 PM and 6.50 after. In Chicago where the average ticket price is 11-12 dollars, this is a huge savings.

2. Shhhh, we sneak in candy.

3. We enter a lot of contests with local movie blogs that host preview screenings for critics and use winners to fill the theatre. We win about 50% of the time, so we get to see a lot of the movies we want to see for free.

Guest's picture

Buy sports tickets at the box office to save the online ticket convenience charges. Wait for movies to come out as rentals. Buy a section higher/farther away than I'd like for concerts, or only go to small-venue concerts, which are usually cheaper.

Guest's picture

I use the free version of Hulu to stream TV shows, and rent 1-3 movies from Redbox or the library every month. I also take advantage of free days at the museums. Very worth it!

Guest's picture

Reminding ourselves that we should be social an acceptable amount, not constantly, has helped (a hard lesson to learn in your twenties). That means staying in most Fridays and not beating ourselves up about it (we're exhausted anyway).

Guest's picture

We save on entertainment with Groupon, military discount, and dollar theaters! Also we try to be outdoorsy and do free stuff instead of paying to do stuff.

Guest's picture

For books and movies, we borrow from the library. We tend not to go to the movie theater often. We also get museum passes from the library. There are free, local events in the papers or online and we take advantage of those. If we can use a AAA discount, we do. The only way we aren't able to really save is on concerts and sporting events.

Guest's picture

We save by staying home and enjoying family time together most of the time! When we do go out, it is usually for something special and something we've saved up for. Eating out is a rare treat, so it is something to look forward to as well. When you do something often, it becomes commonplace and the "specialness" is lost.

Guest's picture

We cut the cord and got rid of cable. Saved $85 a month by getting an HD antenna + netflix + hulu plus.

Guest's picture

We tend to look for free things going on around town. When it comes to movies, we use Netflix, but also go to a local place that is dinner & a movie. For $50 we can see a new release movie, get a pitcher of soda, large popcorn and large pizza for a family of 4. We also take advantage of all the parks we have around & purchase a yearly pass for the state parks.

Guest's picture

I go to free movie screenings and rent video games to save on my entertainment budget.

Guest's picture

I use every excuse to hold a cheap party. We have game nights and pot luck dinners. Halloween in my neighborhood is huge--we had 800 kids this year. We invite friends from rural neighborhoods and have everyone bring candy. Everyone has fun and we don't spend hundreds of dollars on candy.

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Marcie Lynn Florance

We belong to Social Living, Groupon, and a couple other 2-for-1 sites to get some serious discounts on local activities.

Guest's picture

We use our cc rewards card for everything and use the points to take the family on a trip every year.

Guest's picture

Wait for movies to come out on DVD. We have a Netflix membership for that, 10.99 a month; at that price only one in family could pay to see a movie & with Netflix we can watch as many as we want in a month, for the whole family.

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Lori P

We use the public library for books, cds, and movies. Most of our magazines I've gotten for free through Rewards Gold. We go to the fair on a day that we can pay discounted admission and see a free concert. We usually see movies only when we get gc to the local theater or when I have been able to get free tickets through giveaways or contests. Discounts tickets to local museums and events help. When we go on vacation or to amusement parks we use my husbands government rate if available if not we use AAA.

Guest's picture

I try to find Groupon and Living Social deals that interest me and use local business coupons whenever possible. We are also big on outdoor activities which tend to be low-cost or free!

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Jason E

One word ....Netflix!!!

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Brenda Faulkner

I take advantage of twofers and coupons whenever possible.

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I go to my local library and get movies on dvd and request museum passes for the weekend.

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I'm a library fanatic! I check out movies from the library and magazines which saves roughly $20/month. Besides that instead of cable my husband and I watch shows and movies available for free through or

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Lisa B.

I count eating out as part of my entertainment budget, and I save on that in a couple of ways: I never buy soda or other drinks, just get water for free. I also sign up for loyalty programs and e-clubs for my favorite restaurants. I've recently gotten a free bagel at Bruegger's, a free pita sandwich at a local Greek restaurant, and a free sandwich from Which Wich. When it comes to eating out, I try to decide what I really want and am willing to spend money on. A great sandwich? Sure. A microscopic bag of chips that's way overpriced? Not so much.

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Library or free movie screenings in the local newspaper

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Reiney Mundy

My husband and I watch YouTube instead of television - there are a lot of great shows and weblogs for free (search for Crash Course, The Game Station, Flog, or The Lizzy Bennett Diaries to see our favorite shows). Also, we like to spend time with other people. I go to a writers group Wednesday nights (we sit in a friend's living room and read what we've written over the past week or so and give encouragement and critique). We have a big family and friends dinner Saturday nights (burgers, pizza, and macaroni and cheese can be cheap ways to feed the crowd of ten or so that show up). Tuesday nights, I play Dungeons and Dragons, which is a great outlet for creativity and we can all share the books, so the cost outset was small compared to the amount of use we've had. A friend and I also write a story that we share on Google Documents and tag each other by email or text message when we've added to it. Creativity is the best way to save money.

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Melissa K

We wait to rent movies instead of going to the theater. We wait to buy video games until they are on sale. We read books from the library. We play board games and have potlucks with friends.

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Happy Love

We rarely watch movies in the theater any more (and then it's at matinee prices). We typically just wait for them to come out on Netflix.

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Tabathia B

I save money by renting dvds from the library for free or $1 from blockbuster

Guest's picture

We do lots of things to save on entertainment.

We go to free events around town - Portland, OR has several free events all year long, but in the summer there really are a ton (concerts, plays, music, etc.).

We get DVDs from the library for free. We use local buy 1 get 1 movie theatre tickets. We try to go to museums and gardens on free days and nights.

We also sign up for local contests and have won several concert tickets for free over the pas few years.

Guest's picture

We go to local college sporting events for free. Men's and women's basketball are especially enjoyable - great seats with a crowd of maybe a couple hundred - small schools need the local support unlike the national hype of big Division I colleges. Check it out!

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Jamie DeAngelis

I use the internet to the MAX when trying to find cheap things to do out! Yelp, Foursquare, Drink Philly, Uwishukno, and Phillyfunguide all tell me about great, cheap events!
I try to take advantage of my student ID whenever I can which usually gets me something.

I have completely stopped going to the movies, I would so much rather wait until it's on RedBox or Netflix. I'm patient.

Guest's picture

I get books, music, and movies from the library for free. I'll also be getting a free glass museum pass there as soon as it's available. My cats are also a very high source of entertainment; watching them watch the birds feed outside, playing with them, watching them get excited about box flaps and crinkly packaging paper.

I like to watch the birds and squirrels. There's so much drama. Sometimes the squirrels will tease my cats by running down a tree branch to entice them, then run back up before they can wiggle their little bums to jump up to get them.

And I read Yahoo! news articles for the comments. Quite a few gems there...

Guest's picture

I watch my Korean dramas for free via or!

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The library!! I love getting movies, books and music from the library for free! But if you can donate to them you really should!

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I borrow books and movies from the library and follow blogs and facebook pages from my area that regularly list free and low-priced events.

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Emily Randall

My husband and I love movies and old television series, especially the British ones. We don't have cable, but we do have library cards. We can choose from movies and boxed DVD sets at several different libraries, and frequently use inter-library loan to get hard-to-find titles. We can enjoy a classic series like 'The Jewel in the Crown' over the course of a few days. And the icing on the cake ... no commercials!

Guest's picture

im a big fan of music and nothing has provided more value for me than Spotify. At $10 a month, for someone like me who uses it all day at work and on my commute to and from work, it's a no-brainer. i get much more bang for my buck out of Spotify than Netflix.

Guest's picture

We save on entertainment by checking out movies at the library, using buy-one-get-one coupons at restaurants, signing up for rewards cards at places we plan to frequent often, and looking for free or low cost entertainment in our community. Our library promotes several events every month that have broad appeal to all ages, so that is a great starting point when planning what to do.

Guest's picture

entertainment coupon books, netflix, ath-home game nights with friends!

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we wait for dvd's to come out and we take advantage of free days

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We save by doing some simple things like:

1. Entertainment 2013 books (
2. Groupon
3. The Friday newspaper usually advertises local events, sometimes free.
4. Living Social
5. Matinee movie prices (average in Hawaii is $10)
6. Purchasing event tickets online to take advantage of any student discounts.
7. Asking for any kama'aina discounts, which is for local residents interested in activities for tourists.

Guest's picture

We use Boxee, take advantage of our Amazon Prime membership, and borrow DVDs from friends. It's worked for us for the past couple of years.

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I go to my public library for books and dvds.

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Mary Ann

I usher at several venues and get to see the shows for free.

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Discount coupons and I've purchased a few discounts off of Groupon

Guest's picture

Fortunately we're not fans of organized sports, so we never buy tickets to those games. We rent one good movie per week. We watch a lot of good movies on TV. We watch free or low-cost movies on the computer or Kindle. We do go to a movie theater about once a month, so that doesn't add up too fast. Overall we find generally inexpensive ways to entertain ourselves. We like to dine out and do that about once a week. We have library cards and make good use of them: libraries have not only fine books but also a host of other great materials, CDs, movies, audio tapes, and so on. We get books on Amazon, but usually order about $25 worth to save shipping costs. We read a lot.

Guest's picture

I live in NYC and most of my friends like to hang out on the weekend what I have started to do is meet up with them at the end of dinner when it's time for dessert that way I still get to spend time with them and not waste a large amount of cash on a meal. Also I only order water as my beverage.

Guest's picture

Prioritizing and patience... rating events on a scale of 1-10 and only spending on 9's and 10's for the most part, and being willing to wait for things to be less expensive. Regular (free) Hulu means a month's delay on our favorite shows, but once we forget about that it is just as entertaining. :) Waiting for movies to get to the dollar theater or hit Redbox, attending free concerts unless it's a favorite group, sharing meals at nicer restaurants and using Groupons. Free admission day at the State Fair was great, and extra tickets a client had for the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta meant this was the year to attend!

Guest's picture

We finally gave up cable TV. I thought it was going to be really hard at first, and I do sometimes miss my favorite cable channels, but we've been making do with regular broadcast TV for a few months now and have lived to tell the tale. We don't go to movies often, and we prefer to wait for the drive-in season when we can see three movies for the price of one and bring our own snacks in the car. (Added benefit: our dogs get to come along too!) We don't go to concerts anymore. Got all that out of our systems in our younger years. We do enjoy sports, but we only go to a few baseball games a season, staying home to watch them on TV most nights.

Guest's picture

I always seem to find free Redbox codes - cheap date nights!

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We find cool places that you can walk for free and then go as a family. Around here there is a beach 5 min away that has boardwalks and a wetlands that has boardwalks plus picnic areas.

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I go to church! If you find a place of worship that you truly love, it's an awesome source of friendship and entertainment. My church is part of an association of churches, and we frequently host events for each other and cook banquet dinners. The food is wonderful, the friendship is fantastic, and the music is inspiring. Best move I ever made! And the price is flexible. ;)

Guest's picture

we use the free days at the chicago museums, the chicago kids great pass! from the chicago public library, park there at a metered spot (on a weekday) to avoid $20 parking at the lots. amazon free streaming movies, redbox, movies from the library, pandora for music, goldstar or hot tix for shows. no need to spend alot of money at all for a fun time!

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I'm cheep & saving up for a Wedding. So I don't do much. But when I do, I usually use Groupon for meals. $5 Tuesdays for Movies in theaters. And, we pay $7.99 a month for netflix. :)

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Rebecca B. A. R.

We have AAA, and take advantage of their discounts (and services) when we have needed them. We also just switched to Amazon Prime tv streaming and dropped Netflix tv streaming to save money.

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We love live theater and are lucky to live within range of a number of places to indulge our passion. We buy season tickets to a couple small community theaters -getting to see five productions for the price of one of the big shows downtown. Another theater offers half price tickets after noon for that evening's performance. The plays at a local college are also reasonably priced.

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Debra K

When we want to go to the movies, we usually wait until a movie has hit our cheap ($2) theater to see it. Otherwise, we wait until it comes out on DVD and put it on hold at the library. We go to sporting events when we get free tickets to do so. We got rid of our cable and use Netflix and Hulu Plus instead.

Guest's picture

We do a lot more of at-home entertainment. I can't tell you the last time we attended the theater or went to a movie

Guest's picture

we have started using netflix and we cut back our satellite package. we also rent videos on other platforms besides PPV