by Dr. Charlotte Gorman
With summer coming and the uncertainty of the international
people are searching for ways to cut back on expensesparticularly on
entertainment expenses. Below are some tipson how you can make your
entertainment dollars go farther and still have fun by participating in free
or low-cost "Public" activities.
1. Always keep your eyes open for free or inexpensive entertainment. Such activities might include a lecture on the "heavenly bodies," a demonstration on cake decorating, a talk on the latest computer technology, a training workshop on ways to save on your income taxes, a presentation on nuclear energy, or a program on investment strategies.
Dozens of free and low-cost activities are normally available at any given time. They may be offered by various organizations, clubs, or groups; colleges and universities; government agencies; individuals; and businesses. The less you pay for entertainment, the more money you will have to spend for other items or to put in the bank.
2. See free exhibits in shopping malls. For example, this week there may be an exhibit on solarenergy. Next week, local kitchen dealers might have an exhibit of contemporary kitchens. Another week, fishing boats may be on display.
3. Participate in free or inexpensive activities conducted in shopping malls. For example, this week local beauticians may be holding free personal makeup consultations. Next week, graphologists may be giving free individual handwriting analysis.
4. Go window-shopping. It is not only free, but it can be fun, also. Window-shopping can help you keep informed on such things as the latest clothing fashions, current trends in home decorating, and new innovations in home office equipment. For example, information gained through the above window-shopping will give you ideas on how to update your present wardrobe, how to modernize the furnishings in your home, and how to change your home office for more efficiency.
5. Spend time at your local library. You can read books, magazines, and newspapers; listen to cassette tapes and records; and watch video tapes without having to buy them. Check with your local public library to see what free services it provides. Some public libraries may not provide all of the above services, while others may provide these and many more.
6. Participate in various free activities at your public library. For example, some libraries provide "story time" for young children and lectures for adults. Check with your local library to see what activities are available, ask to be placed on the library's mailing list to receive activity announcements, or watch your local newspaper for such announcements.
7. Visit public art galleries. Admissions normally are free or relatively low in price. If there is no admission charge, most art galleries provide a container in which you may place a donation to help defray operating costs. A modest donation is all that is necessary.
8. Visit public museums. Admission normally is free, or only a small admission fee is charged. If no fee is charged, you may wish to drop a small donation in the container provided to help with operating expenses.
9. Go to open houses and grand openings. For example, there may be an open house conducted by the local historical society offering free admission to the history museum and free refreshments; or a new furniture store may be having a grand opening with free gifts, door prizes, and free refreshments.
10. Tour new and used homes which are for sale by going to free residential open houses held by owners or real estate agents.
11. See the exhibits at your county and state fairs. There are usually commercial, home economics, agricultural, and 4-H Club exhibits, in addition to various other exhibits. Normally a small admission fee to the fairgrounds entitles you to see all of these exhibits.
12. Exhibit, free of charge, your own items (such as flowers and vegetables you have grown, clothes you have made, furniture you have refinished, and pictures you have painted) at county and state fairs. Contact your Land Grant University's County Extension Service or the county and state Fair Boards for details. You might even win ribbons or money on your exhibits.
13. Visit your State Capitol. Admission is free. Most state capitols have various permanent and temporary exhibits. Guided tours and informational literature are available at some state capitols. Visit the U.S. Capitol whenever you have the opportunity.
14. Tour a fire station, factory, radio station, television station, winery, police station, and other interesting places if such tours are possible. The tours usually are free. Some of the places may even provide free souvenirs and/or refreshments. Call the place you wish to visit in advance to find out when such a tour can be arranged.
15. Go to the movie theater when the tickets are less than full price. For example, tickets usually are cheaper for the matinee. Also, some theaters reduce the price of admission on one designated night of the week. Take advantage of these "specials."
16. If you plan to attend a concert, symphony, or ballet, where different priced tickets are available based on the location of the seat, buy the least expensive ticket. In addition, tickets may be cheaper for matinees and for certain nights of the performance. Also, ask about special discounts for senior citizens, students, and groups.
17. Play tennis on free or low-cost public courts. Check to see if reservations are required or recommended.
18. Attend church activities. Some churches sponsor potluck dinners; picnics and various other outings; educational classes on a wide range of topics; plays; movies; musical performances; special activities for youth, singles, and senior citizens; and classes for widows, widowers, and divorced persons. Many churches may have several activities going on at the same time. You can make your own selection. Normally, there is no charge for participating in most of these activities. If there is a fee, it usually will be low.
19. Utilize church recreational facilities such as basketball courts, indoor gymnasiums, tennis courts, swimming pools, bowling alleys, and baseball fields. Usually, these facilities may be used by church members at no cost.
20. Join several clubs and attend club meetings and various other inexpensive club activities. Limit yourself to clubs with low membership fees.
21. If a public beach is nearby, visit it. You could go swimming or wading, lie in the sun, picnic on the sand, look for sea shells, or just walk along the beach. (Caution: Based on the results of research on the relationship between sun exposure and premature wrinkling of the skin and skin cancer, many medical experts recommend that people apply a sun screen when they are outdoors.)
22. Visit community, city, state, and national parks. Some may be free, while others may charge relatively low entrance and/or activity fees.
23. Check with the National Park Service or Forest Service for information on special, free, or low-cost permits to visit historical sites, parks, monuments, and recreational areas administered by the federal government.
24. Visit the zoo. Some zoos provide free admission on certain days of the week or at certain times of the day.
25. Go on a picnic. You must eat anyway, so why not make the occasion an enjoyable, inexpensive form of entertainment?
26. Go on a hike. If carefully planned, a hike can be very inexpensive or even free if you already own your hiking equipment. It can also be exciting and enjoyable.
27. Take a nature walk. Not only can it be inexpensive or free, but it can be a lot of fun.
28. Participate in free or low-cost trips offered by various organizations, groups, clubs, churches, and colleges.
29. Check out possible savings on "off-season" travel, hotels, and tourist attractions. Check with your travel agency or directly with the airlines, hotels, etc.
30. When planning any entertainment activity which requires the outlay of money, always ask about special fees and discounts for senior citizens, students, children, physically challenged persons, families, and groups. You may not be told if you don't ask. You could save on your entertainment expenses.
*Dr. Charlotte Gorman is an Extension Agent, Family & Consumer Sciences, Texas Cooperative Extension, Texas A & M University System. She is the author of The Frugal Mind, The Little Book of Living Frugal, and Speak for Yourself. firstname.lastname@example.org