The first and most important step to making the most of every dollar that you earn is creating a budget that will work for you and your family. One of the main categories in our budget (and most budgets) is the category of "Entertainment". For us, this money includes eating out, date nights, and any other entertainment type expenditures including our Netflix subscription.
This category is one of the budget areas that is hardest to control because we love date nights and we love going out to eat (like most other couples). We've learned some good strategies to help us have a lot of fun with a little money and stay on track with our budget! I would love to hear any additional ideas that your family implements in the comments section below!
We don't have cable
*gasp* I know. I never grew up with cable so this was an easy thing to cut out for me- my husband, not so much. We've compromised by getting Netflix and an antennae. The cost is a fraction of what we would pay for cable, and honestly, not having as much TV has forced us to be more creative with our time together. We get a couple shows we like and the Broncos games, and, really, what more do we need?
We are hardcore Grouponers
For those of you who have never heard of Groupon (or other similar sites like Living Social), they are websites where you can purchase coupons for restaurants, services, and products. Usually it's something along the lines of you pay $12 but get $20 of food at the restaurant that the Groupon is good for. We do this all.the.time. It's awesome because one, we save money, and two, we're forced to try new restaurants that we wouldn't normally try. I've used Groupon for places to eat with girlfriends, different salon type services (think manicures!), and I would say 80% of the time my husband and I are out, it's because we have a Groupon. They save us major bucks- we love them!
We go out for dessert instead of dinner
You can have a ton of fun doing at-home dates, but sometimes you've just gotta get out and go somewhere! When we get the itch to go out, a lot of times it will be for dessert not dinner. One of our favorite things to do during the summer is go to McDonalds (we're high class, people), split a frappucino and take it with us on a drive or walk. This is, of course,after we've eaten dinner at home. Dessert is soooo much more affordable, but is still a great way to get out of the house. If you have a lot of kids, this can be a really affordable way to go out for a treat without the $60 restaurant bill.
We sign up for promotional emails
Most of you are saying- huh? Why would I intentionally sign up for junk email? Well let me tell you why- because you can get a lot of free stuff! Alex and I set up an email that we use solely for the purpose of signing up for promotional emails. We sign up on lists of our favorite restaurants, stores, and entertainment places. For example, we haven't paid for a Red Box movie rental in months because we get codes for free movie rentals in our email all the time. The free meal coupons we get in our birthday months are totally killer, and the coupons we are sent can make a not-so-affordable date completely reasonable.
We take those surveys!
I don't know if you've ever noticed, but often there are surveys that are on the bottom of different stores' receipts. A lot of times if you take these surveys, you'll get a coupon code for something free or discounted the next time you come into the store. We take these surveys all the time. We don't usually spend time on a survey if it's just for an entry into some sort of sweepstakes, but if it offers us something for free, we'll totally do it! We've gotten free breakfast at Chik-Fil-A, free cookies at Subway, and a free entree at Panda Express doing this (just to name a few!) Time is definitely money here, though, and if it's a 30 minute long survey, then it may not be worth it.
We shop around
This is really one of the overarching themes of how we make it (comfortably) on a single income. My husband is the coupon master, and has found us great deals on internet, TV streaming products, and restaurant deals. If you're willing to have a little bit of patience and a lot of self restraint, doing a little research before you buy or go out can save a lot of money. I've saved us money by shopping around for tickets to basketball games (one time we got free dinner for being one of the first 500 in the door!), and we often try to coincide our dates with different promotional events.
We are 100% the couple who pulls out the coupon almost every where we go, but as a result we have a lot of fun on a small budget.
What are other ways you save money on entertainment?