Entertainment On A Budget

When my husband and I were in college, we were living off of two part-time incomes.  Most of our money went to food, rent, and utilities, so we didn’t always have a lot of extra cash to see a movie every weekend.  We were always interested in free or low-cost entertainment options and dates.  Now that we have 3 kids, we find many of the same options are great for them as well.  Paying for 3 extra movie tickets or skate passes gets expensive!  The occasional splurge is okay, of course, but these are some of our go-to family entertainment options that are free or low-cost:

Get a Library Card
From a college student to a tired mom looking for SOMETHING for her kids to do, my local library has never failed me.  Many libraries now rent new release movies and allow patrons to download music and stream videos for free online from home.  Not to mention the free programs libraries put on for kids.  Weekly story time is something my boys always look forward to.

Online Television
Many of you probably do this already: instead of spending $50 on your cable TV bill every month, you can spend $9 a month and have access to all of Netflix’s shows and movies.  We also keep up with current TV on Hulu.  You don’t have to have a paid membership to watch most recent shows on your computer, and it’s a lot cheaper than paying for a DVR. We’ve probably saved thousands by cutting cable over the last few years.

The Dollar Theater
Many cities have discount movie theaters, where you can get tickets for $1 or sometimes even less!  They make taking my kids out for a special “movie night” affordable and fun.  Since we save on the tickets, we usually don’t mind buying the full-price movie snacks, but (although it isn’t encouraged) it wouldn’t be too hard to sneak in a few homemade treats in a diaper bag.

Museum Memberships
This suggestion has a higher up-front cost, but the benefit over time is well worth it.  Our local children’s museum has a yearly membership equivalent to the cost of a family of four visiting the museum twice in the year.  Since we are a family of five and have visited about once a month, our membership paid for itself easily.  We also enjoyed many members-only events throughout the year.

Local Parks

Photo credit: TheExaminer. Eden Park, located in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Photo credit: TheExaminer. Eden Park, located in Cincinnati, Ohio.

My last suggestion depends partially on your location, but almost every city has local parks that you can visit for hiking, playing, fishing and just being outdoors.  If you live somewhere with great state parks (like Colorado), you may want to invest in a yearly park pass.  The Metroparks of Dayton, OH are free to get into and many parks offer free educational programs for children and adults.  Exercise, beauty, and family time all wrapped into one!

What are some of your favorite low- or no-cost entertainment options?

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