How to Save Money on Entertainment
You can save money on entertainment—potentially a lot of money—if you are willing to be intentional with your spending in this area of your budget.
According to the latest information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average American family spent a little over $3,200 per year on entertainment, which was about $300 more than the year before. I believe that it’s important to spend time together and have fun together as a family—a family that plays together stays together! Some of my fondest memories as a kid and youth were on fun family vacations.
However, I also know that the stark reality is that most Americans live paycheck to paycheck, have very little retirement savings, and have way too much student loan, car, credit card, and other consumer debt. And entertainment is something that you can do for free or close to free super easily! Check out these 70+ ideas for fun activities you can do with your family for free or for cheap.
So if you have debt, no emergency fund, or little retirement savings or if you are living paycheck to paycheck, love your family well by reducing your spending on entertainment and beefing up your savings or your debt reduction plan. And then when you’re doing great financially, after you follow the principles I teach on this blog :), you will have plenty of money to play with in the future to keep your family entertained.
But in the meantime, here are 12 areas where you can cut money on entertainment-related costs. (I admit I opted to use a pretty broad definition of entertainment so that I could include things like cutting your smartphone bill—because really, that’s not so much a utility bill anymore as it is an entertainment bill. Calling people is the last thing most individuals do on their phones these days. 🙂 So let’s call it what it is.) Given my broader definition of entertainment, I bet if you really focused your efforts you could cut your entertainment budget by $300 to $500 a month pretty easily—temporarily—while you work to get your family on firm financial ground. So let’s get to it!
1. Save money on entertainment by reducing your spending on restaurants and takeout.
One of the best ways to save money on entertainment is to be mindful about your money spent at restaurants and on takeout. The average American family spends about $3,000 a year on eating out. Even though you’ll have to replace some of that cost with the cost of buying food to eat at home, the savings here can be amazing. (To learn how to save money on your grocery shopping, read this article with more than 50 ideas for slashing your grocery spending.) For more than 10 years we’ve spent less than $200 a year on eating out for our family, and I know that that has been part of the reason that we’ve been able to reach other financial goals that we’ve set. Read this article to learn how we save money eating out.
2. Save money on entertainment through cheaper alternatives to cable or satellite.
You can also save money on entertainment by reducing or cutting your cable or satellite bill. There are a lot of free or cheaper alternatives to cable and satellite, so try pulling the plug on these services and banking the savings. With digital TV through a standard antenna, there are many channels available just on your regular TV. If you haven’t checked them out for a long time, you should! And if you can be a little patient, the library also carries many of the programs you regularly watch, for free. (That’s what we do! We haven’t had TV since we moved to our current home almost eight years ago now.) But if neither of those options works for you, you can try Netflix, Hulu, Sling, or other similar inexpensive options.
3. Save money on entertainment by cancelling unneeded magazine, newspaper, or online subscriptions.
For those you don’t use, and even those you do, cancel them. You can likely find free versions or similar free offerings online.
4. Save money on entertainment by reducing gym or club membership fees.
Same thing applies here. Especially for those you never or rarely use, cancel them. Even if you do use them regularly, at least look into free or cheaper alternatives. For example, maybe your workplace has a gym and might even offer free fitness training, so why are you paying for a membership and personal trainer somewhere else? (And yet I have coworkers who do just that because they didn’t know that we have free fitness trainers available at our on-site gym.)
5. Save money on entertainment by reducing your spending on electronics and toys.
I know that it’s fun to have the newest iThing or the latest video game or motorcycle or ATV or game system, but so is financial security! So is watching your debt go away and your net worth grow! And so is doing one of many, many free things that don’t involve gadgets or toys at all. Even if the electronic or toy is for your kids, you can refrain.
I know for some of us it’s harder saying no to our kids even than saying no to ourselves, but even fairly young children can understand why you can’t buy something if you explain that you’re working toward other important financial goals instead. In fact, I know of instances where parents have explained their financial situation to their kids, and the kids are sometimes the ones to keep the parents in line and remind them not to buy something because it’s not in the budget or because they’re working toward something more important instead!
6. Save money on entertainment by reducing your cell phone bill.
You can save money on your cell phone or smartphone by not paying for features and services you don’t use. And if you really need or want to cut your monthly expenses, trade your smartphone for a cheaper smartphone (such as Republic Wireless, Mint Mobile, or Xfinity Mobile) service or for a basic cell phone. We currently pay only $3.51 a month for our unlimited talk and text (with limited data) plan through Xfinity Mobile—learn how here! Use referral code 1RQ4SP when you join to get up to $100 for signing up for their awesome internet or mobile service.
Or trade your cell phone service for a very cheap pay-as-you-go cell phone service such as TracFone or even a super cheap internet home phone service such as ObiTalk. We love our Obi service, which requires nothing more than the purchase of a $50 Obi device and an internet connection. No monthly or yearly service fees ever!
For more information on how to reduce your cell phone bill, read this article.
7. Save money on entertainment by reducing your internet bill.
If you’re paying more than $40 a month, you can likely lower your internet bill. Even though you might not get super high-speed internet for that price (at least, not without bundling with other services you don’t need), and even though super high-speed internet is really convenient (so I’ve heard—we’ve actually never had it!), so is money in your wallet.
*UPDATE*: As of September 2018, we’ve switched to Xfinity internet. We currently pay $40 a month for high-speed internet (60 Mb/s). And I love (love, love!) all of the free Wi-Fi hotspots around our area. They are virtually everywhere we go! If you’re in an area with Xfinity internet, check them out! Use referral code 1RQ4SP when you sign up for their service and receive up to $100 off!
8. Save money on entertainment by spending less for birthdays, weddings, gift giving, and the like.
If your budget is really tight, explain to your friends and family that you’re going to have to postpone spending money on gift giving for a time. If you do it with the right spirit, and if they’re truly your friends or if your family relationship is a healthy one, they’ll understand and they won’t worry about it. Your participation in the special event (wedding, birthday party, or the like), not a gift, is what truly shows your love and support.
For information on how to save money at Christmas, read this article.
9. Save money on entertainment by reducing your personal spending money.
While you’re working to build more room in your budget (by decreasing your expenses and increasing your income), you might want to significantly reduce or even cut for a time your personal spending money (your fun money).
10. Save money on entertainment by spending less on movies.
Another area where you can reduce your spending is by reducing the number of times you go out to the movies. Instead, find things to do with your spouse or family that are free or cheap (check out this list of 70+ ideas). There are so many fun activities that you can do for little or no money that reducing spending in this area really isn’t very hard. Turn movie night into what it used to be—an occasional splurge—by going to the movies just a few times a year and waiting to see the rest of the movies you want to watch either at home from the library (free!) or from Netflix or a similar service.
11. Save money on entertainment by saving money on vacations.
To save money when vacationing, try going on a stay-cation, where you vacation at or near your home. No matter where you live, you can still find tons of fun things to do in your own backyard! Chances are there are tons of things that travelers come to your area to do that you have never even done—so check them out! You can also save money by staying at people’s homes through Airbnb and by staying in hostels. And by camping.
We’ve been staying at places through Airbnb for the last couple of years, and it’s been great. It’s how we’ve done most of our vacationing during that time—even more than camping. Sign up for an Airbnb account and receive $40 to use toward your first stay. Pretty sweet!
And I just have to include a shameless plug for my angel mother, who has been renting out spare rooms in their beautiful southern Utah home (not an affiliate link :D) for the last couple of years. If you’re in the area to play at Lake Powell or hike in one of the beautiful national parks (like the Grand Canyon) or other scenic areas nearby, look them up!
12. Save money on entertainment by saving money on Christmas shopping.
I love Christmas as much as the next guy or gal—really! But the spending on Christmas these days is just over the top! It’s one day of the year! Granted, it’s a very important day of the year. If you’re Christian like me, it’s one of the very most important days of the year. But it’s not because of the tinsel and shiny baubles and gadgets and all the stuff. The average American family spent about $970 on Christmas last year. That’s about $750 more than we spent on Christmas for all of our gift giving. And that’s not because we’re scrooges but because we want to make sure that what we spend our money on has lasting value and that it aligns with our values.
For example, we maxed out our three children’s education savings accounts last year. Now, that is a gift that will keep on giving throughout their lives. And because they are still very young (5 years old and three years old, respectively), that money will have close to two decades to grow and benefit from the amazing power of compound interest. We also maxed out my Roth IRA and invested in my company 401(k) up to the match and beyond. We paid for some major home renovations with cash. If we had just been average or normal (which when it comes to your money, you really should try not to be normal, since normal isn’t a great place to be when it comes to your finances—normal is living paycheck to paycheck), we would have had $800 less to spend on those important things.
When our kiddos have no student loans, no car loans, and no credit card debt (because we’re going to work hard to teach them the power of being content and of not being attached to stuff), I don’t think they’ll mind that we didn’t have extravagant Christmases. In fact, I hope one day they will thank us. 🙂
Read this article for information on how to save money at Christmas.
I know reducing your spending on entertainment (and other expenses!) isn’t easy—believe me. If it were easy, we would all be wealthy (at least eventually) and no one would live paycheck to paycheck. But being broke isn’t easy, either! In fact, I think it’s harder. And despite the fact that reducing discretionary spending is tough sometimes, when you have a strong motivation and the right knowledge and tools, you really can reduce your spending and change your money habits to begin saving and investing and work toward achieving your financial goals and dreams. And I want to help you do it!
Invitation to Share
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