Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Entertainment on a Budget

Lately, we've had little time for entertainment with all of our various house projects. Somehow, I think becoming a "grown up" means you have less time for "entertainment" and more time to cross items off your to-do list. At any rate, we do our best to find time to take a breather and keep our entertainment budget to a minimum and here's how:

1. We don't have cable or satellite. I know to some people, this is almost inconceivable, but we've done it for over two years and have found that we end up spending more time talking, doing things as a family, and being productive, rather than wondering where the time's gone by watching TV. We still certainly have a TV, but find other ways to use it. We get our media fix through Hulu (as long as it's still free), Pandora, streaming radio (we're NPR junkies), and podcasts. Benny's found some good programs for streaming radio and organizing podcasts so that they're easy enough for me to use and still fill his need for electronic organization.

2. We make use of our public library... a lot! The public library here is fantastic and has a wealth of resources, from DVDs to magazines. We can check out up to five DVDs per week, with a one week renewal period, meaning that we can keep them for up to two weeks. This is often our Friday night date night (along with something yummy for dinner) at home. I love the magazines at the public library, but have learned that I need to keep all my library materials in one basket or bag, otherwise, I end up having something stacked away with our things and accrue late fees, which isn't budget friendly. The magazines are back issues which we can check out and our library has several home and garden type magazines, as well as some great cooking ones. We also enjoy making use of the books and books on CD (great for road trips). I find that checking out the cookbooks is a great way to assess whether or not I want to purchase a cookbook. If I find that I'm checking it out again and again, it's worth my paying for a used copy on Amazon to add it to my collection. (It hardly makes sense to pay for a new copy if I'm just going to mess it up in the kitchen. However, if I'm giving it as a gift, I'll spring for the new copy.)

3. We love to cook and cooking together has become entertainment for us. We enjoy trying new recipes and playing with new ingredients. It's also a great way for us to reconnect after our days at work and how I wind down, which is nice. (The dishwasher definitely takes a great deal of the work out of the cleanup.) We love to invite friends over for a potluck dinner on the weekends. It's far cheaper than eating out and it's a fun way to spend time with friends. By making it potluck, it's easier on everyone's budgets and no one feels like they need to "return the favor" (although we certainly enjoy that too!).

4. Crafts are a great way for me to entertain myself, although Benny prefers surfing the web. Many of my crafting items are cast-offs from friends (goodie tins to redecorate, yarn to crochet, old picture frames to refinish, etc.) Since we have laptops, I can do my stamping or painting at one end of the table while Benny plays on the web, which means that we can still spend time together while doing different things. I also enjoy browsing blogs and window shopping on websites during my spare time, which provides me with fodder for my creative endeavors.

5. When the weather is pretty, we enjoy taking walks with the dog through the neighborhood. In late July and August, we'll spend hours strolling with our blackberry bowls and pails gathering berries (Lavender will eat the ones close to the ground), which we'll then eat or freeze for later use. The warm spring and summer breezes really make these walks enjoyable, and we're getting our exercise when we walk back up the hill.

6. I love to window shop in our local arts and antiques stores. Sometimes, I'll find a deal on some pottery that I can't pass up, but most of the time, I just enjoy seeing what's out there. It's easy to window shop if you leave your cash at home or set a limit for yourself (I often set a $5-10 limit for myself before I go, just in case I see something I can't live without.)

7. Enjoy the local scenery! Grandfather Mountain offers April Dollar Days to local residents, which means we can get into the park, see the visitor's center and museum, and hike many trails for $1 that would cost us $15 a person most days. We're also fortunate to live close to the Blue Ridge Parkway, which means that we have wonderful parks and overlooks to check out on beautiful weekends. There are times that we'll plan a group outing with friends for a cookout or pack a picnic lunch to go after church on Sundays. Price Park and the Moses Cone Manor and hiking trails are some of our favorite spots.

If you enjoy eating out or going to the movies, there are almost always coupons and deals out there. On ASU's campus, there's a $1 movie theater which shows documentaries and other movies that would be popular on a college campus. You might check out your local university to see if they offer something similar. Remember to check out Restaurant.com for deals on eating out, or check into the fundraiser coupon books students often sell at high schools to raise money for band or sports. If you're a student, many restaurants in your area will offer a 10% or greater discount, which is really nice.

So, what about you? How do you entertain yourself and your family on a budget? What do you do for fun that doesn't cost a dime? I'd love to hear from you!

Sharin' the green love and savings!

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