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Entertainment Budget Basics

Set a budget to save on the things you love. Follow these tips to cut expenses on movies, cable, dining out and more.

entertainment budget

When you’re a young professional, the financial obligations of life might be a constant irritation, but they really become a challenge when you have kids. Although health care and housing predictably take up the bulk of the spending in American households, the cost of entertainment is one area that many families neglect to take into account when laying out their budget.

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The fun things you do with your family provide bonding opportunities as well as a respite from the day-to-day stresses that life sends your way. So, since research indicates a year-over-year increase in entertainment-related expenses, we’re offering a rundown of some tips you can use to offset those costs and keep enjoying what you love.

Movies and music

For many American families, watching movies and listening to music are among the most popular forms of entertainment. But even these expenses can be reduced with a bit of strategy involved.

For instance, before you head to your local theater, check for any student and/or senior discounts that might apply to your family. Most chains also offer regular deals on tickets and concession items as well as rewards programs. AAA even offers discounted tickets at some of your favorite movie theaters.

As far as how to satisfy your music needs, the solution is simple. Rather than buying music online, sign up for a free, ad-based music service. Some premium services may cost as little as 99 cents for the first three months.

Books and magazines

It might seem like obvious advice, but for families who are avid readers, look no further than your local library. In addition to physical copies of both new and classic books, libraries often have an impressive selection of periodicals, making it easy to catch up on your favorite magazine or newspaper without spending a dime.

Many major markets also offer electronic libraries through which you can borrow eBooks, audiobooks and even videos. The New York Public Library, for example, uses a system called Overdrive that uses your library credentials to set up an account. Other than libraries, you could simply opt for eBooks in general — since they’re often much cheaper (and more convenient) than hardcovers — or pay a visit to a used bookstore, where you’ll be able to find a surprisingly wide variety of titles for incredibly low prices.

Cable television

You might not be able to imagine a world without cable television. Chances are, however, that you’ll soon be joining the 13.5 million households that no longer pay for a traditional cable package. And why should they? Even for the most dedicated couch potatoes, it’s a brave new world filled with streaming services, network-specific apps and on-demand cable alternatives.

Many major networks offer free full episodes of current shows within days of the initial airing and sports deals to ensure that you never miss a game. It’s easier than ever to select the shows you want a la carte. So consider cutting the cord and embrace a more streamlined approach to the television you pay for.

entertainment budget

Sports and other events

Whether you’re interested in attending a local sports game or some other event, you’ll likely find easy ways to save money if you know what to look for. Much like the discounts we mentioned earlier at movie theaters, many organizations offer lower prices for students, seniors and members of the military, and even if they don’t, they may feature special deals on designated dates.

Do your research before you buy tickets for anything. But if you’re really wanting to have fun on the cheap, look into what is going on in your community. From sports to the arts, many cities host events for little to no charge to boost attendance, build word of mouth or simply as a fundraising effort. Lastly, you might opt to volunteer at a nearby theater or sports venue, since you’ll be able to get involved in something you love and perhaps score some discounts or free tickets in the process.

Dining out

Going out to eat isn’t exactly an entertainment cost, but considering its prevalence as a family activity, it’s still worth mentioning here. The average American family spends a bit over $3,000 every year at restaurants, a statistic that likely also factors into the national obesity rate.

Our best advice for how to curtail your dining budget? Rather than going out to eat, try designing a weekly menu and cooking at home more often. This will ensure that you don’t buy more groceries than you need and prevent food from spoiling. You could even involve the whole family and make preparing meals a group activity. If you make extra food, you might have enough for lunch the next day, thereby preventing the temptation to buy more food during the work day. It might take a bit of planning, but making your own meals isn’t only more cost-effective but healthier too.

Every little bit helps

Now that you have some new ideas for how your family can trim entertainment costs, you might be able to direct your newfound extra funds toward building your savings. The AAA and Discover deposit program can help you get there. With four high-yield savings products to choose from, you can maximize your savings account and accelerate its growth at the same time, allowing a much faster development than you’ll find elsewhere. Interested in getting started? Just visit our website for more information, and let’s get you on the road toward a more prosperous tomorrow.

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