Cutting the Cost of Entertainment

By Catherine &  James Hill

Frankly, it often costs a little money to have a good time. In this post, we hope to give you some ideas on how to keep the costs low while providing entertainment for the occupants of your little castle because the family that plays together stays together. Please also check out the accompanying podcast.

The weekend is coming and you want to cure the ennui of the workweek with some R&R, but the funds do not seem to be there. It seems like every time you go out it is $20 for the gas and $50 for the movies. So it’s a soda and the sweats on the couch for you and the family. We believe that with a bit of planning, you can find a different way to spend your time and a way that won’t cost a ton of dough. We’re not going to say if you’re bored it’s your own fault. That is what Catherine’s dad would say right before the laundry folding became her new activity. She didn’t find her pop’s words to be helpful, nor did she find the laundry folding fun.

Keeping it frugal with entertainment is difficult no matter if you are a family of one or six. We find many of our friends from all over the world saying two contradictory things. Either they say, “Our town is small there is nothing to do that is cheap so our family is forced to put down a lot of dough just to keep busy for an hour.” Or they might say something like, “Our town is so big and expensive there is nothing cheap to do at all!” These both can’t be right. But they do both have a grain of truth. In small towns you may have less options, but what makes that statement false is that you still will have your imagination and budgeting skills to fall back on and you do not have to spend money on anything – you have choices and you can choose not to spend. In a large town, all things tend to cost more, but you’re going to have more choices as a consumer and you will still have your imagination and budgeting skills to fall back on and again you choose how to spend your money. Here are some ideas to get you thinking about ways you can change your habits that might be costing you a lot of money.

Things to do for fun

  • Go to a movie theater that’s a second run theater or a theater that is community run. In our podcast, we talk about the price difference from the large movie theater complexes to these sorts of theaters. Consider this, in summer in some cities there are movies in the park for free. It takes some planning and usually getting there super early for best seating, but hey guys it is free!
  • Why would you buy something when you can check it out? Think about checking movies and music out from your local library instead of buying them.
  • Make a scavenger hunt with love notes for your honey. Or make a quest scavenger hunt for your children with riddles or simple directions. You could make for each step of the quest a thing to wear out of paper and found objects from around the house.  For really little ones we suggest numbering a bunch of cards in envelopes 1-10 and place them around a single room. Have them go find them all then put them in order. On the reverse side of the cards beforehand draw a picture or write a secret message to be revealed only when they assemble the cards correctly. This activity should take a half hour to an hour for you to enjoy depending on the age group and how complex you make it. It can take as little as 15 minutes to set up if you don’t care about it being clever or cute. If aesthetics matter, we’d set aside 1-3 hours over the course of a few days to work on it.
  • One of our favorite things to pass the time is to make something we haven’t made before to eat or use, or to make something time consuming that takes a long time but requires little work and lots of waiting and watching. For example, let’s take porch tea. All porch tea is is tea bags and a large pickle jar and sugar syrup. Adding lavender, lemon slices or mint sprigs to the jug are a nice touch too. There is never a need to complicate things if you haven’t got these extras on hand. This was one of Catherine’s favorite things to do when she was in college living alone. She found her big pickle jug on the recycling free table in her apartment complex. There’re stores that sold jugs meant for making sun tea, but she was too art-school poor, (too cool) for that. Anyway, Catherine would take the jar, fill it with water and add a box of really inexpensive tea bags either green or a breakfast tea. Then she would set the jar in the sunniest window, then read a book or listen to music. She’d check on it periodically and see how it was progressing. Then she’d make a simple syrup and add it to the mix. She would ladle out a good portion, add ice and enjoy it. In Portland, it is fall and winter for most of the year. But this works even in bad weather. It makes for a quiet solo kind of entertainment but it is a very nice way to have a lazy day. BTW For those adult castle occupants, bourbon is nice in sun tea too with a little soda water 🙂
  • Consider playing a game outdoors. We love Bocce ball. We don’t even have our own set, but our friend does. This game is mighty fun as a double date activity as well. You can enjoy a potluck in a park and not spend a ton of money. There are many inexpensive games you could pursue. James goes to the driving range and hits golf balls. You can rent clubs and get a bucket of balls cheaply.
  • Catch up on some reading. Books are cheap and reading flexes your brain muscles.
  • Write a blog! We do this because we want to help others and for fun, and it’s something we work on together. We keep to a schedule for the most part. We enjoy writing for our blog reader, and this fills up our time. It makes us slow down and consider what’s important.

We hope that these ideas can get you started on imagining ways to have fun and keep that wallet fat. Keep in mind, saving money on entertainment can be time consuming as a result. However, for your health and happiness, we believe slowing down will help you to better enjoy that R&R time.


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