I think we are all looking to maximize our budgets, whether we are paying down debt, going through college, raising a family, or in any other period in our lives. Even beyond that, we are all looking for ways to maximize our lives. Let’s face it, we are only on this earth for a short period of time. Studies show that buying objects doesn’t give us nearly the amount of happiness as spending money on experiences. So how can we get the best of both worlds? That is, how can we keep ourselves happy by continuing to have fun experiences without breaking the bank?
Fortunately, I’ve had a lot of experience with finding free and drastically discounted entertainment. Let me show you how you can do the same:
Seek Donation-Only Events
I’ve taken to seeking out donation-only events with my husband lately. When we go, we are sure to donate, however, the amount we are asked to donate is often substantially lower than what we would pay for at a similar full-priced event. You can do the same!
To give you an example of how we have maximized our experiences on very little money, this coming week the Rothko Chapel is hosting a Cuban band with free beer and food donated from local vendors that we’d like to attend. The suggested donation is $10. Last year, I found out that a Swami from India who travels across the U.S. giving free seminars was coming to our city. At night from 6:30-9:00, he led the group in yoga, meditation, and a lecture. Then everyone gathered for a meal of homemade Indian food (yum!). This was an incredible opportunity for such a small cost (you can even see if he’s coming to your city anytime soon). What events can you find that are donation-only in your area?
Sign Up for Newsletters from Free Venues
Locate some free venues as close to you as possible (to save on gas!), and then sign up for their newsletters. I have been pleasantly surprised by some of the experiences I’ve had thanks to this strategy. For example, the free Holocaust Museum here in Houston alerted me several months ago about a reception for a photo exhibit opening. Not only could you see the photographs for free — very gripping photos from Soviet Jewish photographers on the front line and in the aftermath of WWII — but there was also a free reception including beverages and appetizers. By signing up for newsletters you could find free invites to things like lectures, book signings, art exhibit openings, and any other number of events waiting in your inbox.
Sign Up for Newsletters from Experiential Stores
Stores have caught onto the trend of engaging their customers more creatively in order to increase goodwill and overall sales. This is great for people looking for free entertainment, as there are many opportunities that will fit the bill for non-impulse spenders. Over the last several months, I have enjoyed free chair massages courtesy of IKEA, free cooking demonstrations at Central Market, and free wine tastings at Spec’s Wine and Spirits. Check out the websites of your favorite retailers and see if they offer any free events. If so, be sure to sign up for their newsletter so that you will be alerted to future good times.
Meet-up for Happy Hour
Most bars offer drinks at a discount during certain hours of the day. While these are typically less populated times, they represent a great opportunity to meet up with friends and order a few rounds before the price balloons. Even the difference between a $2 beer (or appetizer) and a $6 one can make an impact on your budget.
Volunteer for an Event to get a Free Ticket
Oftentimes you can volunteer at an event in order to score a free ticket. What a great deal! Not only will you meet people and have a deeper experience of the event, but you will gain entrance to the event for free and have the extra money remaining in your pocket to pay off debt or go into your savings account.
Participate in a Theater Lottery
Live theater plays, Broadway musicals, and operas can be really expensive. When we heard that the musical Wicked was coming to town, my husband and I got really excited… until we saw the price tag of $100+ per person.
Fortunately, I found that there is a lottery each night for 20 tickets in the orchestra section. You come to the theater 2.5 hours before the performance and put your name down for these tickets. Half an hour later, they shuffle the tickets and pick ten people who are able to purchase two tickets each at $25 per ticket. Pretty great idea! Unfortunately, we didn’t score any that night. But I am hopeful for the future. Check with your own local theaters and see if they offer a lottery of some sort as well.
Looking for more ways to decrease your entertainment spending? Here are 9 fun things to do for free. Also, please leave your own suggestions and experiences in the comments below!
Image credit: beyrouth