We Americans love our televisions. The average U.S. household now has more televisions than people, and we spend about 8 hours a day with it blaring. There's a lot of controversy over how much screen time (if any) is healthy for us, but we'll save that debate for a different day. This posting is all about how to save you money while keeping you well entertained.
Ditching Cable (or at least getting a better deal on it)
If you're looking to ditch your expensive cable habit (one friend spends $200 every month, which quickly adds up to $2,400 every year!), there are a plethora of great alternatives. Check out the many money-saving options below to see how you could cancel cable and still get all the entertainment goodness your heart could desire. If, unlike the last few hundred generations, you cannot survive without cable television, then there is still hope. Usually when you sign up for cable/satellite, they will give you a promotional price for a few months or a year, and then hike up the price again. If you call and tell the company that you're going to cancel their service, they will often continue the discounted price. Pitting different companies against each other is another great way to save money; we use this method to get the best deal on internet and save about $100 every year because of it. The worst they can say do is refuse, which may just be the prompting you need to ditch the expensive cable habit and try some of the following alternatives.
If you haven't watched a Ted Talk on this non-profit website, you're missing out! Thousands of videos await you; they include nearly every subject you can imagine. From humorous presentations, to educational videos, this site will keep you entertained for YEARS, and even better yet is that every talk I've listed to thus far would be appropriate for middle school age children and up (and most are little kid friendly too). This is a totally free website that could be part of the puzzle in saving you money while still keeping you entertained, and perhaps even make you smarter simultaneously!
There are a few sites where you can watch television shows for free online, and Hulu.com is one of them. While you could shell out more money and watch nearly any show you'd like by subscribing to this site, you can also view thousands of television programs for absolutely free! For the most part, Hulu offers the latest 5 episodes of nearly every popular show for free. This is how my husband and I watch a few hours of TV a week. If you have internet, this is a great way to make that internet dollar stretch farther.
You've probably heard of Netflix if you aren't already subscribed to it, but this is another source you could go to that is significantly cheaper than general cable TV. There are different subscriptions to chose from (we do the least expensive one that gives us unlimited online access to thousands of videos because our TV is hooked up to the internet). Again, this service is WAY less expensive than cable or satellite, but it still provides hours of entertainment.
You could rent a movie/game every single day from Redbox and it would still be less expensive than the average cable bill. If you sign up for their emails, you can also get a totally free rental each month. They will send you a code to use to get the free movie or game rental, and as long as you return it the next day, you won't be charged a thing! This is yet another great way to still see the current movies/play the newest games without having to break the bank in the process.
A Night at the Movies
Going to the movies costs about $20 PER PERSON for the average US citizen now, which is crazy. A few simple steps can save a significant amount of money though. First, eat before you go to avoid paying an arm and a leg for a candy bar, or $8 for 20 cents worth of popcorn. If you find it to be ethical (which I do), you can also bring in some snacks of your own at a far lower cost. Try to find a theater that has slightly older movies for less (like Northern Lights Theater Pub in Salem, Oregon which is only $3 for any movie and plays them about a month after the other theaters do). Buying tickets before hand, buyin bulk tickets (Costco sells them), or signing up for the theater's rewards program can all help you save money as well.
Instead of sitting in front of the tube for hours, you could read a book aloud with your loved ones, get outside and get some exercise, join in a rousing chorus of song, tick off a few things from the old To Do list, complete a craft project, catch up on yard work, etc. If these forms of entertainment were good enough for people to enjoy for the last few thousand years, they are probably good enough for us. Screen time may be one arena where you want to be below the national average, because it might help you be above the average for productivity, financial security, intelligence, etc. :)
How do you save on entertainment costs? What strategies do you have for making your entertainment dollar stretch further? Leave a comment below and share this with a friend who might like a little extra money each month. Happy saving!