7 Easy Entertainment Trade-Offs

We all want to live our lives to the fullest. At every major life stage, whether a birthday, New Year, or even a tragedy, you likely ask yourself whether you’ve really been enjoying your life as much as you could be. Think about—or better yet, write out—a list of activities, items, interests and goals that you’d like to liberate from your daydreams and make a reality. Do you want to visit a tropical island, buy a new mattress, spend more time with your loved ones, or learn to salsa dance? After you write your list, then estimate the cost, in money and time, for each item.

Here are seven ways to cut costs, along with ideas to "invest" that money to yield a more exciting, fulfilling life—without going into debt to do so.

1. Cut your cable, save $10-$120 each month.
My local cable company actually calls their bare-minimum cable service “Lifeline.” Fortunately, there are so many other ways to stay connected to the outside world that don't involve staying inside to watch it on TV. Here are some amazing things you can do with all of that extra time and money you’ll have if you ditch the cable, movie channels, and/or satellite dish service:
  • Learn to dance. The cost of group dancing lessons range considerably, but can start as low as $7 per class. You’ll make friends, get exercise, learn some new steps, and still come out ahead financially.
  • Attend a gallery opening. These are usually free, and usually provide free refreshments and music. With the time you save not watching TV, you can meet people, please your eyes and ears, and have fun.
  • Watch a play or concert. Before radio, movies and television, plays and concerts were "it." Every performance is different and the energy is intense. Of course this costs more than your average pay-per-view, but quality is more important than quantity. Without paying for cable, you could attend at least one performance each month—talk about something to look forward to!
2. Stop buying magazines, save $5 or more per week.
The headlines on newsstands are meant to reel you in and encourage you to buy on the spot. But magazines are expensive when you buy them at the store—nearly $5 or more each! And after a single reading, they get discarded. So what can you do instead of buying the latest gossip rag? Read more books. Someone once said: If you want to read more books, read fewer magazines. Good literature is usually found in hardcover form, not in the pages of a glossy magazine. If you need motivation or inspiration, join a book club. Remember to tote your book with you to the doctor’s office, the school car line, and you’ll become more literary by the minute.

3. Stop buying music, save $12 or more per month.
No, we're not advocating illegal downloads, and you don’t have to stop buying music completely. Continue supporting your favorite artists, but set a limit on your spending. With the money you’ll save, you can learn to play an instrument yourself. Guitar and piano lessons will increase your appreciation of music, exercise your brain, and teach you a new skill that you can share with loved ones.

4. Reduce your cell-phone plan, save $10-$50 per month.
How many of the calls you made within the last week were absolutely essential? If you use your cell phone only in cases of true emergency, you could cut down on your cell phone minutes (and texting surcharges) and put that money to a new use: like learning a foreign language! Knowledge of Spanish is becoming increasingly necessary in many professions, and knowing a foreign language broadens your travel options, too. Get even more bang for your buck by tackling that new language with a good friend. You’ll save money (split the cost of the book or lessons), be more likely to stick with it, and have a built-in practice partner.

5. Skip the movie theater, save $8 and up.
Tickets to a new release at a movie theater cost around $8. But throw in popcorn and a drink and you’re looking at over $25 for a movie for two. Instead, hit your local video store and pick up a flick for $5, or even better, your local library, which "rents" movies for free! Besides saving money, you'll have more quality time with your friends or family members, access to healthier (and cheaper) movie treats, and all the leg room you want. You can socialize before and after, pause for bathroom breaks, and laugh as loud as you want. Plus you won’t feel so guilty about neglecting your cable-free television set.

6. Eat in, save hundreds of dollars per month.
At first, skipping the restaurant might sound like you’re missing out on fun, flavor and atmosphere. But restaurant food is notoriously high in calories, fat, and sodium, too. So if you replace those restaurant meals with healthy home-cooked ones, the only one thing you'll be missing are a few extra pounds from your frame! Use the money you save to pay for a series of cooking classes, or to take that vacation you never thought you could afford.

7. Don’t be a clotheshorse, save $700 per year.
Sure, we all like to look our best, but it’s easy to get carried away and spend way too much money on our wardrobes. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Americans spend more than $700 on clothes every single year. And the truth is that most of us wear 10% of our wardrobe 90% of the time anyway. Instead of dropping cash on a designer T-shirt, you could be splurge on a new haircut, gym membership or monthly massage. You’ll look and feel 90% better in that 10% of your wardrobe.

Finding the money to live all of your wildest dreams may seem daunting or even impossible, depending on your circumstances. But with a little creativity and brainstorming, nearly everyone can find a way to cut back on spending on certain items to try the activities and experiences you thought you couldn't afford.
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Member Comments

Great! Report
Good tips Report
Really nothing new here for those of us that have lived a while, but might remind someone who is a spending that these things are extra and not necessary. I gave up cable tv when it cost 21$ so that was a long time ago. Eating at home is all there is in my area. oh well. Report
I never go to the movies I wait till it comes on dvd and then have a movie night at home with rented movies.If I rent 3 movies for $10 someone else buys snacks and we takes turns that way.

I don't have cable or satellite I use internet to watch shows and such for phone and internet its only $100 something and that's with long distance.

And I only buy magazines like allyou when there are good coupons inside because otherwise I read my favorite magazines online. Report
This article was truly sub-par. Sorry. Report
LOL We are already at the bare minimum of all of those topics and I am a frugal shopper. We aren't into trendy clothing and choose classic styles, shop thrift stores, factory close-outs, etc....We don't eat out except twic per year after my daughters piano recitals (and her lessons are $120 a month--which kind of blows the theory of saving money by learning to play an instrument). Report
I'm with most people - I already do a lot of these and there are a couple of things that just won't happen. Sometimes I remember something my mother used to jokingly say - The harder I try, the behinder I get. Report
When there's something we "just gotta see in the theatre", we joined the Kerasotes Theatre's Five Buck Club. (Not sure how many cities they are in). It's a free program and we get a weekly email telling us what is available & what the times are. The only stipulation is you have to wait a couple of weeks after the movie has been released. We may not be the "first on our block" to see it but we still get to see it on the big screen for less than half what most people paid.

If we desperately feel the need to see something opening weekend on the big screen (hello, Star Trek!), we will usually go see a matinee or my youngest brother that works for an AMC theatre can get friends & family in for free. (Yep...If you know someone who works for an AMC, seriously, start schmoozing the hell out of 'em and get in on that action!)
We never fell into the cable tv crowd - too expensive. Cell phones? We have prepaid. Restaurants? Too expensive and they suck anyway. Clothes? Thrift stores! We've followed all those suggestions for years - I guess we were in vogue and didn't know it! Report
$700/year on clothes?!? Wow. It takes me about 3 years to spend that much... I buy things only on sale and/or at discount stores.

Yep, I never "Cut out" any of this, because I never had it in the first place. For the money most people spend every year on cable TV, I take a 2-week trip to Japan (staying with friends). Anything worth watching comes out on DVD and I can rent it anyway. I also sometimes watch cable or network programs online - on the cable that my brother/neighbour split the price of.

I ONLY use my cell phone, and actually did lower my minutes this year since I use the unlimited texting so much more often these days.

I used to buy 1-3 Grande Soy Lattes per day, and last winter I switched to making my own coffee in the mornings, and when I do get afternoon coffee, I get Americanos instead, cutting my spending in half.

My friend volunteers as an usher to get to see plays for free.

Our city has many neighborhoods that each hold a monthly Art Walk, in which many galleries participate. Meet people, see art, get deals on treats, art, etc. The major museums also have free entrance on those days, and also have half-price and discount days and events.

Apparently, one can download just about anything on PodCasts. TV shows, Exercise programs, dance lessons, musical instrument lessons, car repair lessons....

My car is 11 years old.

My PC is 9 years old.

Most of my clothes are anywhere from 1-5 years old.

I think there are a lot of folks out there like me....

Some aspects of this article remind me of an episode of Oprah that showed how to save money, and the tips were things like: "I started going to the nail salon every OTHER week instead of every week, saving myself $300 per year!" Yeah. Not applicable... LOL Report
This may have already been offered up, but if you want to save on music or other audio entertainment and you have internet, download iTunes and subscribe to podcasts; most of them are free and you can search for ones that are in your interest areas. My personal favourite musical podcasts are the "CBC Radio 3 Podcast with Grant Lawrence" which features independent Canadian artists and "NPR: All Songs Considered" with Bob Boilen as the host. I also subscribe to a knitting podcast because I'm that kind of girl (limenviolet's podcast), but also to one that has various artists tell unscripted stories (The Moth Podcast) that are often a little uncomfortable in their honesty but fascinating. Report
I didn't read all the comments, but it seemed like a lots of readers felt this article was a list of "Don'ts", including many activities they'd already cut back on. Here are some suggestions for things to "Do" for free, or at lower cost. Local organizations are usually up to something good, and the Internet has free resources you might not have come across.

1. If you're near a university or community college, see what movies and speakers are scheduled. Usually these events are not limited to enrolled students. Admission is typically low since the target audience is on a "student budget."

2. If you're lucky enough that there's a music or dance department at the college, pay special attention to "senior" and "graduate" live performances at the end of the semester. The students will be THRILLED that someone other than their immediate family or friends took the time to see them perform. The performance will be free, you can typically dress as you like (unlike at a stuffy and expensive symphony or opera), and the atmosphere is so easy-going. The same goes for art showings, and often there are plays put on by the drama department. And of course there are always sports events. I'm just not into team sports, so I don't know if most sports typically charge admission, like college football. What about swimming or gymnastics????

3. Try your local churches and schools for any of the above. Even if you and your family don't attend a particular church or school, why not enjoy the performance and help make for a larger and livelier audience. It means so much to the kids and adults who worked hard on their show.

4. Free Books at Project Gutenberg -- Reading a book on your PC is not for everyone. Because of the formatting, it can be a distracting hassle to constantly scroll through each "page" of the book. But, free is free :)). Go to www.gutenberg.org
. The organization's mission is to scan books that are in the public domain and make them available on the web for everyone. You can download the book ... Report
I too was hoping for some ideas for free or low cost entertainment not a bunch of don'ts.
Or perhaps instead of cutting out your cable you can let people know that they can negotiate with their cable company for a lower rate. If you subscribe to a magazine your cost per issue is usually much lower. There are plenty of ways to save money without completely cutting things out of your life, most of which were overlooked in this article. Report
These are good suggestions for someone who has AND spends a lot of money wastefully, but frankly I don't...and can't relate to the amounts listed. Report
sorry. not gonna give up cable. a better option woukd be to cut part of your service if you signed up for a bundle of phone, cable, and internet. giving up the phone and just using your cell is better. Report


About The Author

Liza Barnes
Liza Barnes
Liza has two bachelor's degrees: one in health promotion and education and a second in nursing. A registered nurse and mother, regular exercise and cooking are top priorities for her. See all of Liza's articles.