As someone with a very small entertainment budget, I’m a big promoter of cheap or free forms of entertainment. It’s a must for me because I don’t have a lot of extra money to spare right now and frankly, who does in this economy? The following examples are of things I’ve done to keep within my entertainment budget and as you will see it’s not at all about deprivation. It’s about playing it smart and making your wallet happy.
- Morning Movies – It’s not about staying away from the theater; it’s about when you go to the theater. Movies can be budget friendly. Morning movies at most movie theaters are more than half as cheap as going at night. A child ticket and an adult ticket usually cost the same in the mornings too. Why spend $20 on a pair of tickets when you can get into the show for only $8? You might live in an area though, where the difference between normal times and matinee times is only a dollar or two, still savings is savings. And as an added bonus, there’s usually more available seating at early showings compared to other times.
- Loyalty Programs – You should belong to the loyalty program at every theater in town and carry the cards in your wallet at all times. There was a Regal Cinemas in my college town but not one in my hometown and stupidly, I took it out of my wallet where I promptly forgot all about it. Recently, I took a trip and brought all of my movie theater loyalty cards but the Regal Cinemas and guess what was there? Regal Cinemas. It was also the day for free popcorn if you present your loyalty card. So not only did I miss out on gaining points toward concession discounts and free tickets, but I also missed out on free popcorn. I could have kicked myself.
- Sneak Concessions into the Theater – Yeah, it’s a little ridiculous, but have you seen the prices at the concession stand? Date night could easily cost you $40 alone when it comes to popcorn, candy and drinks. Girls have it easier when it comes to sneaking in concessions because we carry purses, but guys if your pants have big pockets you can still bring in a soda can or bag of candy. Use your concession discounts from the loyalty program to buy the popcorn. I know of people who have brought pre-popped microwaved popcorn with them to the theaters, but this is not something I have done or plan to do ever. I’m a purist. I like my theater popcorn to be hot, buttery, and extra salty.
- Summer Kid Films – During the summer there are free or $1 showings of previously released kid films. Not all titles will be for you, and you will have to weigh the pleasure of getting into the movie for so cheap versus the amount of kids at the theater, which could drive you nuts. Of course, if you’re bringing your own kids you won’t care. Be on the lookout also for themed movie showing programs on much older films. Some theaters host these during the summer too and offer seating for them for much less too.
- Listen to the Radio – You can win free movie tickets by listening to local radio stations. I’ve yet to win any myself, but plenty of other people are scoring gift cards. Why not you? You won’t win if you don’t call the station. [Editor’s Note: I’ve called a radio once to win tickets (though concert tickets) and won. I’ve since retired happy to see Pearl Jam in their heyday.]
- Library – Why belong to Netflix or Blockbuster when you can check out movies for free at the library? Sure they have fewer copies and your time on the wait list is longer and you can’t keep the movie out indefinitely before remembering to send it back in, but you get what you pay for and it’s a damn good deal since it’s a free service. It also helps your library out by showing good circulation. It’s a win-win as far as I’m concerned.
- Go to a Friend’s House – Want to watch movies on the cheap? Go to your friend’s house and watch some of their movies. Your collections might have a lot of overlap but I bet you can find something you both want to watch.
- Host Movie Night at Your House – On the reverse, you can host movie night yourself and invite your friends over to watch. Tell them you’ll supply the popcorn and drinks if they get the candy. You can do a marathon of Harry Potter or Twilight or Lord of the Rings or Star Wars or your favorite TV show. You’re only limited by what you have and what you can get from the library.
- Watch Your Premium Channels – If you’re already paying for HBO, Cinemax, Showtime, Starz, or any other movie channel network, you should be watching them. If you can’t find anything to watch on currently check their On Demand version of their channels. Select and start your movie on your own time and watch as your own pace. Is a phone call coming in? Hit pause. Have to run to the bathroom, but don’t want to miss the good part? Pause again.
- Go to the Drive In – As Lazy Man has pointed out previously you can save money at drive-in movies
These 10 tips only scratch the surface of saving money, but combine them and you’ll find that your pockets instead of feeling lighter are actually a little fuller. Well… at least until you hit another budget buster, but it won’t be for movies!