One of the biggest expenses that American homes have relates to entertainment, and media in particular. We spend hundreds of dollars a year on TV and streaming packages, and when you add cinema tickets, shows, and more to the mix, it stretches into four figures and beyond.
These services are not getting cheaper either, and many families are deciding that the best option is to give up on them altogether. We have even recommended this ourselves in previous guides to living frugally. But if you’re reluctant to give up your TV then there are ways you can get all this entertainment for free.
1. Use Your Library Card
Libraries are not simply places to borrow books. They have embraced the digital age and offer a wealth of services to their communities, including a host of streaming services. The vast majority of Americans have not stepped foot in a library since their college days, and if it’s been several years for you as well then it’s time to drop by and see what they have to offer.
You’ll be pleasantly surprised, and even if they are stuck in the dark ages (don’t assume that will be the case simply because you live in a small town) then you can still pickup some books and magazines.
2. Use the App Store
There are lots of great apps that you can download for free on the Apple and Google app stores. There is a misconception that only paid apps are worthwhile, but this is simply not true. There are terrible apps that cost money and there are fantastic apps that are free. The price is not an indicator of the quality, and there is no shortage of great apps to pickup for free.
3. Pay Attention to Promos
Every major entertainment provider, from the app stores we mentioned above to your local cinema, has days where they offer reduced prices and even freebies. And these don’t always fall on the dates that you would expect (Black Friday, Christmas, etc). Keep an eye out for promotional leaflets, social media announcements and newsletters to make sure you learn about these offers when they occur.
4. Get a Kindle
The Kindle is a fantastic device if you love to read. Not only can it be purchased cheaply (even less if you buy it used) but it gives you access to millions of free books and massively discounted books. There are Kindle books that are not available in print, and there are Kindle books that cost less than 50% of their print price.
There are still some big publishers trying to fight the digital age (even in 2018) by charging the same for an eBook as they do a paperback, but you can ignore these and focus on the millions of great authors and publishers who understand fair pricing.
5. Take Advantage of Free Streaming
There are a number of websites that provide streaming content for free, and we’re not talking about those questionable websites that give you viruses and nothing more. The likes of Crackle and even Youtube have a wealth of free and legal content for you to view, from TV shows to films and more.
Sure, you have to sit through ads, but we’re been watching TV with ads for decades. There’s no change there.
6. Use Free Trials
The majority of streaming services, including Amazon Prime, offer free trials that give you access for a month or more. There are so many free trials offered by so many different providers that you can get at least a year’s worth of free TV simply by moving from one free trial to another over the course of a year.
Just make sure you note down the date of the subscription so that they don’t take money out of your account and you can close your account first. If they require you to jump through many hoops in order to quit, as some of these free trial services do, then simply send them an email to note your intent and then cancel your payment.
7. Always Look for Discounts
There are many ways that you can save money at the cinema. One of the easiest is to look for discounts made available to seniors, veterans, and those in the public sector, but you can also cut coupons out of promotional flyers (or find them online) visit during off-peak times and days, and drop-by during certain promotional holidays.
It can be very expensive to watch a film at the cinema these days, which is why you should never pay full price. And make sure you stock-up on cheap candy while you’re at it, because the concession stand is where these places really make their money.
8. Checkout the Summer Movie Clubhouse
During the summer Cinemark runs a Summer Movie Clubhouse where kids can watch a number of movies for $1 a piece. If your kids are constantly asking to visit the cinema and you’re worried about the high prices, this is a great alternative. It will keep them happy and it will ensure that your bank balance doesn’t take too much of a hit.
There are similar programs run by other chains as well, all of which are geared towards keeping the little ones happy during the long summer months. It’s worth noting, however, that the concession stands go all-out during this time, so you’re going to have to turn their little heads away when you walk through those big double doors.
9. Look for Gift Cards and Specials
Gift cards are usually never a good idea when you’re trying to save some cash, but they can be if you use them right. CostCo sell gift cards for movie tickets that can save you a small fortune if you use all of them, and there are also sites out there where people sell gift cards they no longer need. You can use these sites to save up to 30% on tickets, and that’s before you factor in the additional savings that you can make by visiting at the right time and using whatever coupons you can find.
If you’re going out for dinner as well then look for combination packages and deals, including gift cards that offer you big savings if you pay for a movie and a family dinner on the same night. These are sold by big chains as well as sites like Restaurant.com.