Leisure time is necessary for physical and mental well-being. If you do away with entertainment and relaxation completely, it will impact your health.
However, many people spend a lot of money on leisure activities. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Americans pay an average of $243 per month for entertainment. That translates into $2,900 annually.
You may be surprised by this amount. Perhaps you do not document these expenses as thoroughly as monthly bills or spending on necessities. Awareness of every aspect of your personal finances is the first step toward saving money, getting out of debt, and reducing finance-related stress.
Before you can move on to steps like building an emergency savings account, consolidating your debt, or making a major purchase, you first need to document your spending and create a realistic budget.
Since entertainment spending is important, you should include it in your budget plans.
Once you document your leisure-related expenses, you can easily find ways to reduce these costs. Every dollar saved will help improve your financial situation.
Here’s a look at 10 different ways you can save money while partaking in experiences you need to maintain or improve your quality of life.
How to save money on going out
The average household spends more than $2,300 a year on dining out or ordering takeout. This figure is hard to count because it straddles the line between necessity (you must eat) and leisure (you do not have to eat at restaurants or get delivery). However, it illustrates the point that leisure spending adds up to a significant amount.
If you go out, even occasionally, you can use the following strategies to reduce your entertainment spending and keep more money in your pocket. Also, if you charge your nights on the town, lowering these costs can help with credit card debt or remove some of the overall financial burden you could be experiencing.
Cheap or free local events
If you know where to look, it’s easy to find free or cheap local events. If you want to take advantage of these offerings, you may need to schedule your leisure time around them. However, this extra step could be worthwhile because you will be saving while also remaining active.
Many museums, cultural centers, and zoos host free days or family days during the month. At these times, the venues waive admissions fees or reduce them significantly. Though the promotion could draw large crowds, it also allows you to have experiences you would have to pay for on other days.
Community festivals, concerts, and artistic and cultural events are other examples of free or cheap happenings. Though there are usually vendors at such celebrations, they are designed for the community, so admission is free or cheap. If you can limit spending on extras like food or merchandise, you can be entertained and mingle with neighbors without having to spend a lot.
Coupons and deals
Instead of avoiding spending, you can find ways to reduce leisure costs by clipping coupons and looking for deals and promotions. The advantage of this strategy is that you can apply it to all sorts of leisure spending.
Sites like Groupon and LivingSocial offer discounted event tickets. Businesses sponsoring events may also have reduced cost admissions if you purchase directly at their location.
Another approach could be to pick the event you’re interested in, and then search the internet or local news sites for coupon codes or discounts. Physical newspapers are another resource for coupons and discount announcements. These publications are ideal for discounts on necessities. Clip grocery coupons in the Sunday paper every week and significantly lower your food spending.
Finally, if you eat out, select restaurants based on the availability of coupons or promotions. This may be a matter of timing. Most restaurants offer promotions at some point, so you just have to plan your visit for a day when the discount is in effect.
Ask for discounts
Some businesses have ongoing discounts. The most common of these is happy hour at bars and restaurants. Food and drinks are often cheaper on weekday evenings or early on weekends. Cinemas have a similar arrangement; they reduce prices for daytime movies (matinees).
Other venues reduce prices for certain demographics at all times. For example, you might have a discount if you are an older person (over 55 in many cases), a member of the military, or a family with children.
Sometimes the only way to find out about these savings is to ask. The business may require you to produce an ID to show your age or armed forces status to get the discount.
Find outdoor activities
The great outdoors is (almost) always free, though some parks may fund maintenance and conservation efforts by charging an admission or parking fee. These fees may be different depending on whether you live in a rural or urban area. However, they are typically quite reasonable.
In cities, you can visit urban parks or outdoor spaces with events like concerts, sports games, farmer’s markets, or cultural shows. Park spaces may also have playgrounds or walking, biking, and skating paths. If there are parking fees, avoid them by riding a bicycle or taking public transit.
In rural areas, state or national parks serve as venues for hikes, bikes, or picnics.
Some of these outdoor activities are seasonal. For example, go to public beaches in the summer, outdoor skating rinks in the winter, and forests with changing leaf colors in autumn.
How to cut entertainment costs at home
Home-based entertainment expenses are easy to overlook. In addition to the costs of ordering takeout and related “extras,” most people have multiple TV, music, and gaming services.
If you’re trying to reduce spending to improve your finances, streaming services are the perfect target. Unlike groceries, rent or mortgage payments, vehicle loans, and insurance premiums, they are not necessities. That said, completely canceling your entertainment budget will reduce your quality of life and have a negative impact on your mental outlook.
The best strategy is to reduce spending rather than eliminate it. Here are some tips on how to do that.
Cancel or share streaming services
Cancel steaming services you don’t use. You may subscribe to see one show, but keep the streaming service once it finishes. An audit of your watching habits will help you find subscriptions you rarely use so that you can eliminate them.
If you share a home with other adults, you can each get one service and share the passwords so that everyone can enjoy the streaming without having to purchase multiple services themselves.
Finally, you should assess your internet needs. You should have a connection that is fast enough for work and your entertainment habits. However, you do not want to overdo it. Unless you have a large household, chances are you can reduce your internet speed and get a cheaper service without impacting your entertainment.
Use free music streaming services
Most subscription music streaming services have a free option. Spotify, Pandora, Tidal, and Amazon Music require a subscription for their content. However, if you are willing to listen to ads, you can hear a large portion of their music catalogs for free.
Some services, such as iHeartRadio, are free for all listeners, as are many podcast providers. Some podcasters or musical acts will offer audio streams for free on their websites, so you can create your own playlists of your favorite commentators or musical acts.
Make food at home
Cooking at home can lead to significant savings. As we already pointed out, the average household spends well over $200 per month on eating out or food delivery. Forbes found that it was nearly five times more expensive to order delivery than to cook from scratch at home. The extra time spent cooking will save you $160 for every $200 spent on takeout or restaurant meals.
There are several other advantages to preparing food at home. You can make cooking and meal time an event by allowing household members to plan a menu, share in the meal prep, or invite a guest to dinner on the weekend.
There are also health benefits to using fresh ingredients rather than relying on processed, pre-prepared foods, which contain preservatives and other unwanted extras.
Have a game night
Invite family and friends over for game night. Such events allow you to socialize and relax without having to spend excessive amounts of money.
Games, whether popular board, video, or traditional games like cards or chess, allow you to create your own entertainment without additional spending.
Reduce costs further by having everyone bring a drink, dish, or snack so that the host does not have to bear the full financial burden of the evening.
With these strategies, you’ll reduce your entertainment costs without sacrificing the things you enjoy–and keep up with social situations that ensure a good quality of life and mental outlook.