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"Getting money is like digging with a needle;
spending it is like water soaking into sand."

Japanese Proverb


Save Money on Dining Out and Entertainment

Finding fun things to do doesn't have to be expensive. Reading, biking, hiking, putting together a puzzle, learning to cook an exotic dish can all be inexpensive ways to have fun.

Entertainment Tips

teo children on a bench reading

1. Download and read books online at no cost. As of this writing, Project Gutenberg has over 17,000 out of copyright books books in their online catalog, including many classics and children's books.

2. Discount Movies - Almost all movie theaters in our area offer discounted matinee prices for movies 2:00 PM or earlier. Often you can get better seats during the day time, too. Some people like to buy tickets online, but be aware they charge a service over and above the price of the ticket. I think it is better just to go to see movies at off times. We went to see the much hyped final Star Wars episode for the 2:00 showing at our local theater on the Saturday of the opening weekend and had no problems getting choice seats.

Our local Costco also sells movie tickets for the price of two movie tickets for $15 with no restrictions at all. So you can even see a new release movie on a Saturday night using these tickets.

For movies at home, Netlix as of this writing is only around $8 a month and has thousands of videos available for streaming included in that price. So gather the family, pop some popcorn, spread out blankets on the floor and have a super frugal family movie night once a week.

3. Buy a puzzle and complete a family puzzle together.

Half Price Theater Tickets - many large cities and tourist areas areas have half price theater ticket centers. If there are unsold seats on the day of the performance, you can often get tickets that same day for half the cost. My husband at I were in London a few years ago and saw many wonderful plays at greatly reduced prices. We found only the newest plays with very good reviews to be sold out and unavailable at the discount prices.

If there is a certain hot play you and everyone else has been dying to see, you may not find tickets at the outlets. However, if you are flexible about what to see and just want an evening out, half price ticket booth prices are hard to beat. Las Vegas also has a discount ticket booth. We found our half price tickets there at a booth in the Fashion Mall.

5. If you are a nature lover, enjoy the outdoors, or are concerned with the environment, join the Sierra Club. In the San Francisco Bay area, they have subgroups for camping, hiking, canoeing, etc. with many no charge or nominal cost activities including pot lucks, hiking, day trips, camp outs and more.

6. Watch the entertainment section of the local paper for free activities. Many museums have free days each month, libraries often have free author book readings, etc. For example, a local historical ranch near our house has special weekends with free crafts, music and children's activities. This site has a list of free and low cost events in the San Francisco Bay area.

gardening tools and plants

According to Dr. Thomas Stanley, co-author of The Millionaire Next Door, most millionaires actually have inexpensive hobbies such as gardening, coaching or watching their kids play sports, and involvement in church and civic groups. You can read more about millionaire hobbies on Dr. Stanley's blog.

Dining Out Tips

Eating at restaurants is one of my nonfrugal guilty pleasures. For me it is one discretionary expense that is worth the money. However, I still try to stretch my restaurant dollars as far as possible, and rarely eat out for full price. Listed below are some of my tips for frugal dining.

1. Go to restaurants for lunch instead of dinner. This past week my husband and I went out to an Indian buffet for lunch. The food at lunch buffet is exactly the same as the dinner buffet, but the lunch price was $9.99 while the dinner price was $14.99. This price differential often holds true at many other restaurants as well. The food is usually the same but often much less expensive during lunch hours.

2. See if your favorite restaurant offers an early bird special for early diners.

3. Get on the mailing list for your favorite restaurant chains. Places like Fresh Choice, IHOP, Denny's and Red Robin regularly sends out special discount coupons to those on their mailing lists. We also sign up for free meals on our birthdays - a feature available at many of the popular chain restaurants. This past year my husband and I each had free birthday meals at Red Robin and IHOP, plus a bunch of other birthday coupons we didn't get a chance to use.

4. Avoid ordering drinks and dessert. Most restaurant meals come with more than enough calories just with the entrees alone.

4. Have a snack before you go to the movies, or at least go out afterwards for a snack some place other than the movie theater snack bar. The snack prices are very high at most movies where the audience is a basically a captive market.

5. If you feel like you need to have a drink when dining out, try ordering a nonalcoholic version of your favorite cocktail. You'll save money as well as wear and tear on your liver.

6. Keep a supply of interesting food on hand at home for brown bag lunches so you won't be tempted to go out for lunch. A bowl of yogurt with pistachios and raisins or a pasta salad with roasted vegetables from home is cheaper and healthier than most restaurant food, especially fast food.

girl drinking a soda
  If you order a drink when you eat out, get it without ice so you get more actual beverage for your money.

  A bargain is something you have to find a use for once you have bought it. ~ Benjamin Franklin

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