Frugal Person: Entertain Thyself

Books HDThis is the second post in a series about commonly-used things we don’t buy or that we’ve replaced with cheaper alternatives. Last time I talked about personal care products we no longer buy. Today’s post focuses on the entertainment category. We enjoy hiking, video games, movies, books, coffee and good conversation. If we do something that isn’t free, we want to find ways to spend the least amount of money on it that we reasonably can. Call us cheap, but we call each other frugal

  • Data plans on our cell phones: Adam and I both have “dumb” phones. We definitely enjoy texting (well, I do), but can’t seem to justify paying $37/month for internet at home and then pay another $30 each/month for internet on phones. We always get the “free” phones with our carrier and have pretty basic plans. It’s all we need. And, oh yes, I do get made fun of for my “archaic” phone. The two college girls that do our running at the law firm where I work both have iPhones and when I start to explain to them how to get to their next errand, they always look at me and say, “I have GPS on my phone.” Ha. I still just print off Google Maps directions.
  • Cable/Netflix/Hulu Plus: We just don’t see the point of paying for cable when there are so many options for online streaming. We do have a $39/year student Amazon Prime subscription. It comes out to about $3.25/month for unlimited streaming TV and movies, almost a third of the price of Netflix, plus we get free shipping on a lot of stuff from Amazon. We also catch up on new episodes of shows we like on standard Hulu.com, and our Blu-ray player can stream YouTube, so we catch movies and full TV shows there, too.
  • Coffee Shops: We used to live down the road from THREE Starbucks’ and Adam, the resident coffee drinker, had a $2.00 a day coffee habit. He enjoyed being a regular at the coffee shop — the baristas recognized him enough to start pouring his coffee as soon as he walked in the shop. He enjoys people-watching and says he found the community aspect of the coffee shop atmosphere to be welcoming. We know it’s cliche to say, “Just stop your Starbucks habit and you’ll save TONS of money!” But with coupons, Adam can find an entire bag of coffee beans for less than the price of one cup of Starbucks coffee, so we’re definitely saving money by brewing at home. Our town is getting a Starbucks soon, according to local reports, so we’ll see if he factors this back into his life on a smaller level when that happens.
  • Full Price on Magazines: I do enjoy reading several magazines — call it a guilty pleasure. Every so often, Amazon has a $5 magazine sale and that’s usually when I’ll buy a couple of subscriptions for myself and often some for family and friends as Christmas gifts. This pays off in several ways — 1. It’s a cheap gift that lasts all year long and 2. Magazine swap!! I often swap with my best friend and my mom so that we can all get plenty of magazines without ever buying a duplicate subscription. For example: I have Every Day with Rachael Ray, Dwell and Allure, my mom has Good Housekeeping and Women’s Health, and my best friend has Glamour and Lucky. It works out to everyone’s advantage.
  • Movies: Can I tell you how happy I am that Redbox exists? Remember going to those rental stores and paying $5 a night to rent a movie or video game? Whew. Adam and I don’t go to movies in the theater very often at all — we’ve seen three together since we started dating in 2011 — and we try to save that expense for movies we’re incredibly excited about or for special date nights. (The jury’s out as to whether we’ll budget to see Catching Fire when it comes out later this month. We don’t have a super cheap matinee in this city like we did in our old one.) When you sign up for Redbox Text Club, they send out a promo code once a month for a free DVD rental. We always take advantage of that. If we decide to upgrade to a Blu-ray, it only costs us $0.31 extra, and, depending on the movie, that’s well worth it to us. We have also found Redbox promo codes on ice cream boxes, soda bottles, and even some online sites that cultivate lists for everyone’s use.
  • Books: Neither of us buy new books very often. I buy the occasional World of Warcraft book, more from a collector’s standpoint than anything else. Adam will sometimes pick up a book from the thrift store or the library bookshop if he can get it for less than a dollar. We actually sold quite a few of our books to a second-hand store before we moved and only kept books that were important or sentimental to us. These days, we get free Kindle books through our Amazon Prime membership, and we spend a lot of time at the local library (although their collection isn’t as diverse as the one we used to visit in our old city).

Here’s where I ask you guys, the readers, about your habits. How do you save money in your entertainment budget category?

Photo by Abhi Sharma

Posted in Our Personal Finance
8 comments on “Frugal Person: Entertain Thyself
  1. Jen @ Frugal Rules says:

    I am not one for the modern gadgets that the modern world offers nowadays. I get by with the old ways to entertain. Call me old school but for me, it’s books. Speaking of being frugal, am I glad that I can find books that I like, written by the best writers, at a second-hand bookstore here in our place. Believe me when I say they’re cheap…they really are! And I am a happy camper! :)

  2. Groupon sometimes has great deals on magazines. I’ve paid $7 for a YEARS subscription to a few. But now that I read so many blogs, there’s really no time for magazines anyway :)

  3. AbigailP says:

    I got my guilty pleasure — US Weekly — with a LivingSocial deal. So a discounted rate (though still appalling to my sensibilities) plus a little cash back.

    We’ve just made the switch to Hulu, and we’ve used Netflix for years. We haven’t seen much difference. There are a couple of shows we miss, but that’s about it. We also use the gaming console to watch YouTube on our TV. They have some pretty entertaining channels that aren’t cat videos or fail videos.

    We do still sometimes go to the movies, but we use GCs we get from holidays/birthdays. If we run low on those, we buy discounted GCs ourselves. But at this point we have to agree that it’s something that needs to be seen on the big screen. Like our recent viewing of Thor.

    I don’t like paying for books at all, so I mainly use our digital library. I use the physical one too, sometimes, but I have energy issues. So the late fees can stack up. Digital is great because they just disappear, rather than run up fees. And the Phoenix library has a surprisingly good online collection.

    Finally, I’m all with you on dumb phones. Currently, we don’t have any cell phone because I work from home and my husband doesn’t work. But we should get a prepaid one for emergencies and such. Point being, we’re home all the time so it’s silly to pay for a data plan.

    We do use my huband’s iPod (aka his memory and our MP3 player) to map out directions digitally. iPods have most of the same functionality as iPhones, as long as you’re in a wi-fi hotspot. Tim’s new one even has Siri. He needed a new one because the original was so old that most of our apps are too upgraded to work on it. But the music, Kindle and white noise app all still work, so I’m happy to use it.

    • These are all so great — I especially love the digital library loans, myself. Loans straight to Kindle are great. And I have an older iPod touch that is my Kindle, music player, podcast player, even YouTube-video-player, so I completely understand!

  4. eemusings (NZMuse) says:

    We don’t have Redbox or Netflix in NZ so our options are pretty limited, and also broadband plans generally have data caps. I do try to save on movies by only going a few times a year and using credit card rewards dollars when we do.

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