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A Dozen Cheap Thrills: Family Entertainment on a Budget

Living on a budget doesn't have mean cutting out the family entertainment.

Frugal living and family entertainment often feel like terms on the opposite end of the spending spectrum. But if money's tight, it's important to plan some fun into those sunny weekends and summer vacation, otherwise life can get a bit dull and frugal living can seem more like a straight-jacket rather than a means to help you reach your financial goals.

Here are a few simple ways to save a few pennies on common entertainment expenses:

1) Be patient and wait to see new movies on video. Some communities even offer free video rentals at local libraries and will order new movies if library patrons request a certain title.

2) Check to see if there are any discount movie theaters in your area. Most of these places show movies just before they're released to video. A family of four can go out for an evening at the movies and only spend around $10 for a fun family outing. Keep a list of movies you want to see, and then check the discount theater listings each week. These theaters often keep the movies for just one or two weeks, so stay alert to what's playing.

3) Go to the first show of the day at first-run theaters for the best prices (and shortest lines!).

4) Check your area for free days at museums, zoos, etc.

5) Rather than buying separate admissions to different educational or fun family destinations, buy one yearly family pass to either the zoo, the aquarium, or a theme park. Go repeatedly to that one place each time you want a family outing. You will easily save the cost of the family admission, plus you'll have the benefit of not feeling pressured to see everything in one day. You can always see what you missed the next time you come. Next year, buy a pass somewhere else.

6) Check for free concerts, plays, and other live family entertainment in local parks.

7) Call and find out if your local college stage production group, ballet or orchestra will let you watch them rehearse for free.

8) If you want to eat at an expensive restaurant, go for lunch rather than dinner. The menu is usually the same, but the prices are often half.

9) When dining out, drink water only. Ask for a lemon or lime wedge if you want to make your drink seem special. This trick can easily cut $10 off your family's total dining bill, which could mean the difference between going out for a fun meal or staying home eating frozen egg rolls again.

10) Go fly a kite. Literally!

11) Make the most of any available student discounts. Show your child's school ID at museums, zoos, galleries, theaters, etc.

12) Instead of an expensive day of professional sports, go to a high school or community college game.

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