Reduce Your Family Entertainment Cost

There are a few TV shows I love. I make an appointment to watch them every week, but I don’t watch much TV beyond those. But now I have a problem – because of the writer’s strike, most of those shows I watch are off the air. A few of them have only recently started, but I know they’ll be gone in a few weeks, too. I’m so accustomed to watching TV at a certain time that I find myself endlessly channel surfing just looking for something to watch. That has to stop, but I don’t want to spend a lot of money going out to movies. It’s too cold to engage in outdoor activities, so I’m stuck inside looking for stuff to do that doesn’t involve the computer.

Here are a few of the ways I came up with to reduce my total entertainment cost now that there’s so little good TV to watch:

Subscribe to Netflix or Blockbuster Online
There aren’t many TV series I want to watch that I haven’t already seen, but you can get full seasons of TV shows from Netflix or Blockbuster online. I’m thinking of adding season one of “Psych” to my list because I’ve only seen some of them. Then you can watch them one hour a day to fill a slot where you used to watch some other show. You can also catch up on all those movies you’ve been wanting to see, but missed in the theater. I figure that we can watch 100 movies this year if the strike goes through the fall TV season. It’s certainly better than “American Gladiators.”

I know, a lot of people don’t like to read. Fortunately, I’ve been a voracious reader my entire life. Currently, I have a pile of 26 books that I’ve been meaning to read. I own them, but I got most of them for free at various events. The local library is one reason I haven’t gotten through them. Whenever I hear about a book, I order it online from my library system, and then I can pick it up a few days later. The downside to having such a huge library system available is that I’ve ordered so many library books that I haven’t had time to burn through my TBR pile!

If your kids think reading is boring, let them choose the book, and then read it together as a family. You can all read aloud, or you can read one chapter a week together and set a time to discuss it. I hear the latest Caldecott winner, Brian Selznick’s “The Invention of Hugo Cabret,” is a big hit with kids. Your library may have a waiting list for it, but the librarian can recommend alternatives while you wait.

Take Up an Inexpensive Hobby
Besides, reading, you could also take up a few inexpensive hobbies. If you’ve always wanted to learn to cook, get some cookbooks from the library and teach yourself. Visit an art store and buy inexpensive art supplies to practice painting, ceramics, or another hobby. I don’t recommend scrapbooking if you want to be frugal, but you can find other options.

Since there’s nothing good on, why not go to the gym? If you have a low stool and a couple free weights, you could work out at home instead. My cable provider offers free exercise classes in the OnDemand section. You can also find free online routines at many women’s magazine sites like Self and Women’s Health. You could test-drive videos through your Netflix or Blockbuster account or the library. I use a printed out routine and watch the Food Network while I workout at home. For some reason, it motivates me.

Play Board Games
I have several board games, ranging from Checkers to Risk. If you have a simple dominoes set, you’ve got several games right there. These are fun all night long and also count as quality family time. Schedule a game night with some good munchies and I doubt you’ll hear many complaints. I loved playing games with my family when I was a kid. I still do.

Attend a Free Cultural Event
Sometimes, the local symphony will hold a free family night, or the library or bookstore will hold a reading. Pack up the family (for family appropriate topics) and take everyone along. If it’s just you and your spouse, you have more options to choose from. Find a free local paper and check the calendar section for upcoming events.

Invite Friends Over for a Potluck
Entertaining can be expensive, but not if you ask everyone to bring something. Every time I have people over, they always bring food even if I don’t ask. This way, you can suggest a course so you don’t have six entrees and a bottle of wine. As a bonus, you can keep the leftovers and have food for a few more days!

These are just a few things you could do to reduce the entertainment cost section of your budget. I’m sure if you get off the couch, or away from the screen, you can find a few more frugal ways to entertain yourself and your family when there’s nothing to watch on TV – and even when there is. Consider this your opportunity to wean yourself from the box.

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