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Smart and Affordable Entertainment Options

Summer is in full swing and my wife and I are enjoying ourselves with a lot of new activities. My wife and I recently decided to create a fun budget and this has changed how I understand spending money. I used to be a tightwad. Mostly out of necessity, but not always. I loved saving money and putting it to good use. The only problem was that I was obsessing over the numbers and missing out on a social life.

Instead of understanding budgeting as a way to avoid spending unnecessary money, I now see it as a way to prioritize your money. I used to think that I was being irresponsible if I was buying something that I didn’t absolutely NEED. I soon realized that this was a very boring way to live. I wasn’t having any fun. Now, I see spending money on entertainment as important. Budgeting in entertainment and/or fun activities is important because it creates balance in your life. Giving in to your urge to spend in small amounts will not only prevent you from going crazy and spending all of your money at once, but it will also help you enjoy life right now.

Yet, I realize that it’s still difficult for those, who like me, are addicted to keeping a strict budget. It takes time to find the appropriate balance of enjoying yourself now, while also prioritizing long-term financial goals. A great way to prevent yourself from going over-board is to look at entertainment options as long-term investments. Even with that bit of advice, it’s not always easy to find cheap entertainment options. Here are some of the affordable entertainment options that I have been considering:

Canoeing / Kayaking – I recently went with a good friend of mine on a canoeing trip. We both wanted to get away from the busyness of life and be outdoors. We have done several backpacking trips together, but wanted to experiment with a river trip. We mapped out our 20 mile adventure and reserved our canoe with a local outfitter. We decided to go with a rental because we weren’t sure that we were going to enjoy the trip and didn’t want to buy a canoe prematurely. More importantly, it is much easier to coordinate transportation if you have someone to drop you off with your canoe. Then, you paddle down the river to where your car is parked and you’re finished. The only downside to a rental is that it’s quite expensive. It cost us $180 for two of us for a two-day trip. If we were to buy a used canoe from craiglist, it would pay for itself with three uses (or less). Since I love being on the water, my wife and I are currently considering buying a tandem kayak or canoe for long-term. Even if we use it 2-3 times a year, it would be well worth it and would provide us cheap get-a-ways for many years to come.

Movies – Going to the movies is never a cheap option. My wife and I always grit our teeth when we fork over nearly $30 every time we go to the movies. We have never been a couple to want to get a big TV, but we recently thought about how nice it would be to have a decent size TV for watching movies. Our current TV is a whopping 19 inch TV and we absolutely hate watching movies on it. With how far our couches are away from the TV, we would much rather watch movies on our laptop than anything else. If we were to invest in a TV for the sake of replacing our movie-going-experiences with watching rentals, we could recover our costs with about 10 movies or so (and have a nice TV). Talk about a win-win!

(Comment from Derek: My wife and I actually just bought a TV with these savings in mind! I found a 51″ projection HD TV for $80. It’s a beast, but it sure is fun to watch when we want to have a movie night!)

While I consider this method as a healthier way to approach entertainment costs, you still need to keep yourself in check. Before you know it, you could fill up your house with rarely-used items all for the sake of being a long-term investment. Make sure to ask yourself if this is something you will use and enjoy. Once you figure out which hobbies interest you the most, don’t hesitate to invest in your happiness.

This post was written by Corey, a staff writer from 20′s Finances. He blogs to give young adults the materials needed to conquer financial challenges.

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My name is Derek, and I have my Bachelors Degree in Finance from Grand Valley State University. After graduation, I was not able to find a job that fully utilized my degree, but I still had a passion for Finance! So, I decided to focus my passion in the stock market. I studied Cash Flows, Balance Sheets, and Income Statements, put some money into the market and saw a good return on my investment. As satisfying as this was, I still felt that something was missing. I have a passion for Finance, but I also have a passion for people. If you have a willingness to learn, I will continue to teach.


  1. Glad you spend the $80 on the TV. There is budgeting and then there is let’s get with the program.

    Here is the kicker… There is nothing on TV to watch.

    Thankfully you have movie night.

    • haha – true. There are very few good shows anymore. 😉

    • Yeah, I think we’ll only get the basic channels for things like the Olympics and other major sporting events.

  2. Smart buy on the tv! I think the fun budget is important for people monitoring their finances because it let’s them spend the budgeted money without guilt!

    I’m looking into some kayaking in my area too, they have fairly cheap evening and day trips around some local islands!

  3. Derek- how did you get that TV for $80?! We found a group in our town that meets once a month to kayak and they always have extra kayaks- so we went for free last week! We started with $40/month for entertainment when we were paying off student loans. Since we became debt free we bumped it to $100/month but we always find ourselves creeping just over the limit. We’re trying to figure out what to do about it!

    • Yeah, it’s always hard to set a figure for entertainment, especially because some months you will spend more than others.

    • Haha! The power of Craigslist of course! The kid was moving out and just wanted to get rid of it for $100. While I was there “contemplating”, he decided to drop the price down to $80 without me saying a word! Lol. I love it.

  4. We have a $2 theater in town that plays newish movies. It is sad dollar theaters no longer exist but that is inflation for you.

    • That’s a nice deal. I can’t even find a theater under $10 per ticket.

  5. Wow $80 is a steal! How’d you manage that?

    And I really want to go kayaking soon, so much fun!

    • Craigslist of course! It happens to weigh 176 pounds, which is a turn-off for many. But, I managed to get it into my basement, and that’s where it will stay for quite a few years. 🙂

  6. That is definitely thinking outside the box! No pun intended. I reduced my movie costs by buying group discount ticket. It costs me $6 for each ticket which approximately 50% off.

    • That’s not bad either. $6 sounds like a great deal for going to the movies.

  7. I’m still hanging onto a 27″ tube television I snagged from Freecycle. It suits me just fine.

    I actually still enjoy the movie experience. I usually find discount movie tickets from daily deal websites. I haven’t paid regular price for a movie ticket in ages.

    • You might as well hold on to it for as long as possible because technologies change so fast.

  8. We love canoeing together; unfortunately, the only way we can do it with both the kids in tow is to get one more person in the boat so the baby doesn’t try to jump out! Active pursuits are great because they are inexpensive AND healthy for your body. What more could you ask for?

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