KEEP YOURSELF ENTERTAINED WHILE STRETCHING YOUR DOLLAR
With the prices of movie tickets always on the rise, video games continuously threatening to break the bank, and even comics coming in at $4 a pop, you would be excused for thinking that in order to enjoy the latest entertainment you need deep pockets.
This is often sadly true.
There are, however, also tons of ways to get the most out of pop culture and entertainment on even the strictest budget.
In some respects it’s never even been easier.
Here are a few useful tips to make your dollar go as far as possible while keeping yourself entertained.
Online Video Games
If you have a PC or even a smartphone with a working internet connection, you can find plenty of awesome video gaming opportunities for extremely low prices, often even completely for free.
There are even some cheap online casinos if that’s the sort of gaming you prefer and it fits in your monthly budget.
It’s also not just browser-based JAVA games that can be enjoyed on a tight budget.
If you know where to look, you can get some world class PC and video game deals that allow you to play a wide variety of video games for next to nothing.
The gaming portal, Steam, is at the highest end of buying and playing games online but they still offer plenty of specials on even the most commercial games. And they’re not alone.
Just recently, in celebration of Batman day, Steam’s best-known rivals, Epic Games, offered six critically acclaimed and insanely popular Batman games to download and play for free.
You only had a week to take advantage of this crazy deal but it was heavily advertised and if you turned up on the site within that week in September, you could legally own the first three instalments of Lego Batman and the first three Arkham games without having to pay a cent.
Keep your eyes on the better video game news sites out there and you will find plenty of offers of this sort.
If you don’t restrict yourself purely to blockbuster commercial games, you have even more options at hand.
Steam, for example, also offers hosts of indie games for free or for next to nothing.
These may not have the most advanced graphics or big-time celebrity voice-acting but if you want fun, snappy and addictive games, they often have little trouble holding their own against their more famous competitors.
Then there’s those mobile games available from the iOS store or Google Play.
These can cost a small fortune too if you keep pumping money into them but most mobile games are free or very cheap to download and play.
Stream that Music!
If video games offer more options than ever, being a music fan has unquestionably never been cheaper than it is now in all of the history of recorded music.
Whether it’s better is up for debate, of course, but it is almost criminally cheap.
Unless you’re a Vinyl head, of course.
Those things are crazy expensive (though even here you can find cheap second-hand copies of most albums) but if you’re happy to go digital, there is no form of entertainment cheaper than music right now.
Even spending $20 on a premium Tidal subscription gives you an entire library of music for what you might pay for a single CD, all at the exact same sound quality of a CD and often even better.
Better yet, if you don’t mind slightly lossy music (mp3s and AACs, basically) that are at high enough a bitrate that most of us won’t notice the difference, major streaming services like Spotify, Google Play Music and Apple Music offer you an even greater range of music for as little as $10 per month.
Don’t want to pay any money at all? Spotify offers their entire library, albeit with certain limitations, for free. Better yet, though, is the undisputed king of streaming services, YouTube.
YouTube not only features officially released music videos and audio-only tracks, it’s a veritable goldmine of bootlegs, live performances and b-sides from any artist you can think of.
There are paid (but cheap) varieties of YouTube music that eradicates adverts from their videos but there are even perfectly legal ways to enjoy hours of ad-free music for precisely zero dollars
Libraries of the Future
Reading is, sadly, a form of entertainment that is often neglected but for voracious readers, nothing beats it.
The only catch is that unless you rely on increasingly scarce second-hand or budget book dealers, books are very expensive.
Again technology has helped matters by introducing the world to e-books but, again, they’re not much cheaper than their physical counterparts. And, interestingly, they haven’t come close to eclipsing physical media – unlike movies, video games and music.
Buying books at any price, though, is hardly the only way to read them.
Libraries remain an incredibly under-appreciated resource for those on a budget.
Along with the usual ability to borrow books for free from real-world libraries, libraries have started to really do their utmost to stand up as an invaluable resource in the age of Wikipedia and Audible.
Good brick-and-mortar libraries are stocked with a wealth of books of every genre and subject but their websites are often even better.
The better library websites offer things like audio books and encyclopedias for free and tend to stock everything from the latest fiction best-sellers to extensive selections of biographies and even impressive graphic novel sections.
If you do still prefer to own your books, the internet age also offers online second hand stores, to say nothing of books at all prices through sites like eBay.
Movies! Movies! Movies! (And some TV too)
Yes, the price of a movie ticket at theatres isn’t just expensive, it’s often entirely prohibitive when you pair it up with the ludicrously overpriced snacks available at most cinemas across Canada.
Cineplex Prices for a Movie if you’re an adult can range between $10.99-$12.99 with Tuesdays being the cheapest day to go.
Add in a small popcorn for $6.00 along with a small soft-drink at $4.50 and the night becomes expensive for 1 person.
It’s rough for a single person, but much worse for families who want to enjoy a night out with the family.
There are, however, plenty of options for more cash-strapped cinephiles.
Most multiplexes offer serious discounts at certain times for certain movies and the best of them even offer “season tickets” that allow you to see as many films as you want for a set fee.
Independent movie houses are even better, though, at keeping prices relatively manageable.
Again, though, the cinema isn’t the only way to see movies – though, come on, it’s still certainly the best.
Home theatre systems can be expensive but whether making the best of a budget set or simply budgeting to pay it off over months or years, you can go some way in reproducing the cinematic experience.
You don’t even need to buy physical Blu Rays any more because, once again, the internet has come to the rescue.
There are legal ways to rent the latest home releases to watch online and, if you like old movies, there are even sites that offer these for free and at no cost.
Most importantly, though, streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime (to say nothing of upcoming services from NBC, Disney and Apple) offer tons of content for a very reasonable monthly price.
You still have free network TV and cheaper satellite or cable packages but there’s a reason why Netflix has completely overtaken traditional forms of TV.
Not only can you watch any of their many TV shows and movies whenever you choose, companies like Netflix and Amazon ensure that you will always have something new to watch by flooding the market with original content.
What they charge for even a premium account is more than reasonable enough for what they offer in terms of content but the fact that you can share a single account between families and friends makes the whole thing even more of a bargain.
Entertainment may not be at the top of your budget if you’re at all sensible with your money but it’s getting to the point where it really doesn’t need to be.
It has never been easier to enjoy tons of content for little to no money.
Which is just as well.
No matter what your form of entertainment is balancing your budget and happiness is worth the effort.
In these trying times, entertainment has never been more vital, no matter how much spare cash you have at your disposal.
Discussion: How important is it to you to have an entertainment budget? What do you call entertainment?
Leave me your comments below as I’d love to hear your feedback on this topic.