Family Budget Makeover: Entertainment
- Eat ethnic. Sushi is no bargain, but four bowls of Vietnamese pho soup, brimming with meat, fish, noodles, and vegetables -- plus a pot of tea -- typically costs under $30. Not bad, considering it's more nutritious than most take-out or fast food.
- Avoid alcohol. There's a reason they say "Anything from the bar?" right when you walk through the door! Have cocktails or a nightcap at home and save big when the check arrives.
- Order more appetizers and split main entrées. Even pricey restaurants will generally allow diners to share an entrée (tell your waiter you're not terribly hungry, if you feel you need to offer an explanation!).
- Hold the dessert. Coffee and fancy desserts are big budget-busters, too. You can save by enjoying ice cream and coffee or tea when you get home.
- Many local libraries throughout the United States have free museum-pass programs; patrons check out a pass just as they would a book, and then use it for free admission to local museums.
- Almost every museum has an afternoon or evening when admission is free. Often these are "unadvertised specials"; call a museum and ask for details.
- It pays to "sneak in" your own food and drinks. Do your kids really need those huge $2 candy bars, when you can pick up a 60-cent version at the drug store, and stash it in your bag?
- Keep in mind that matinees are cheaper than evening movies; that second-run theaters are about half the price of regular theaters; and that kids under a certain age qualify for a discount on ticket prices.
- Libraries often show classic kids' movies for free and some cities have free outdoor movies when the weather's warm.
- Shop around; some major chains offer two-for-one kid videos, and/or bargain nights, while others have no customer incentives. The best deals on rentals aren't always found at the store closest to home.
- Talk with your kids and agree on "house rules" for video rentals (in other words, reasonable limits!). If you have two children, perhaps they could take turns choosing a favorite movie, alternating each week.
- Check your local library for videos. You probably won't find the latest releases, but if you're in the mood for Mutiny on the Bounty or a National Geographic film on whales, you might find it here for free.
- Consider obstructed-view seats. You can often save 50 percent or more on the cost of a ticket if you are willing to settle for a less-than-perfect view of the stage. It rarely means you can't see anything; and if the cultural event isn't a sellout, you may be able to move to a better seat before the curtain rises.
- You may be able to find half-price tickets at the box office on the day of the play.
- Check your local listings -- regional theaters or high-schools often offer fun, inexpensive, and kid-friendly productions.
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