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Slashing Expenses: Cheap Entertainment in Our Home | Preserving Pennies
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In order to reach our goal of financial freedom, we are increasing income and slashing our expenses.  We will be sharing ways that we’ve successfully decreased our expenses in order to help you cut your own costs.

Entertainment is one area in which we’ve never spent a lot of money (unless you count dining out… when that was a big problem for us I usually lumped that in with food costs).  My husband and I are both total home-bodies.  We like the idea of going out but are really much more comfortable at home. We are lucky in this regard as we generally don’t spend money at bars/clubs, expensive attractions (though we are considering a pass to the zoo this year),  and even movie dates are a rare occurrence (haven’t been to a movie in over 10 months).  We do like to be entertained when we are at home though and have tried to do everything we can to keep that as inexpensive as possible.

Growing up, we never had cable. We had a TV tower taller than our home and got exactly 6 channels (channel 10, 18, 32, 40 42, 69). As a kid these channels kept me more than busy. I would park myself in front of our one household tv in the morning for my regular lineup- Romper Room (guilty pleasure- it was for babies but I liked it anyways), Fred Penner, Mr. Dressup, Under the Umbrella Tree (if I was lucky- it wasn’t on every day) and Sesame Street. My mother even used TV as a way to make me wear the patch over the lazy eye that I had- I wasn’t allowed to watch unless I wore that stupid patch (thankful now though as my eyes are fine now and I haven’t worn glasses for many years).

One day when I was a bit older my Dad decided that we watched altogether too much TV and ‘cut the cord’.  These days you read all sorts of posts about ‘cutting the cord’ pertaining to cable but we were unlucky enough that in our case this meant the cord to the TV antenna. Now, not only did we not have cable, we didn’t have any TV channels. We got creative and found other ways to stay in touch with the entertainment world of our peers. I had a video tape that I would give to my best friend who would tape whatever she watched and then give it back to me when it was full. I’d watch the tape and send it back over to her to be re-taped. We watched a lot of movies and when my older sister moved back home and brought a TV with her we snuck a pair of bunny ears into her bedroom to enjoy a contraband show here and there.

I really didn’t mind not being able to watch a lot of TV when I was younger and now I’m thankful that I don’t feel the need to pay for cable.  We were lucky enough to enjoy free cable (at our landlord’s expense) for about a year when we lived in a basement apartment. That was fun and at first I couldn’t tear myself away because there was just so much to watch but eventually that got old and most of what was on I had already seen.  When we moved out of that apartment and into our own home, we were so busy renovating that we barely noticed the loss.

Now that our home is renovated we have time to enjoy a few TV shows again. We use a TV antenna to get local channels. Since we live in a city now we get a lot of channels over the air- I think 10 or so. We even get a few channels out of New York because of our close proximity to the US.  We use a simple bunny ear set up.  It has just recently started getting poor reception and we are looking into better options. I am not sure what happened to change things.  I only watch a few shows using the antenna- mainly Dr. Phil.  I also turn on the local kids’ station sometimes when we are hanging out down there because my son likes to dance to the music.

We got Netflix about a year ago when they were running the 30 day free trial.  We really loved it at first. My husband and I both enjoy documentaries and it took us quite some time to get through the bulk of the good documentaries that Netflix has to offer. Once we finished watching all of the ‘good’ stuff though, we kind of ran out of stuff to watch.  We considered cancelling our subscription but at $8/ month we really wanted it to work out and kept it a bit longer.  Soon afterwards Netflix started adding a lot more stuff to watch and the selection has gotten a lot better! We use it fairly regularly again now.  It’s also great when we have kids over as they have a whole host of children’s material to choose from.

By far the way that I watch television the most is simply streamed right off the internet. We have computers hooked up to both of the TVs in our house so we can watch shows off of the Internet right on our 40″ flatscreen. Most television channels offer most or all of their content for free online and this is my preferred way to watch television. Shows are usually uploaded to the channel’s website the day after they air so I don’t have to wait a year for Netflix to put an entire season up.  I keep fairly relevant this way as well- I can talk about shows with my friends at work and such and not feel so out of touch. Even if I had cable I would probably still opt to watch shows this way because the television channel doesn’t dictate to me when I have to watch it- I choose based on what works with my schedule.  I do have to watch commercials this way, but generally there is only one or two quick commercials instead of several like on TV.

The lack of commercials is perhaps the best side effect of our cheap entertainment fixes. Even the online channels show the same commercials over and over again for quite some time so we are only exposed to a couple of different ads this way. Since our exposure to marketing is severely decreased we don’t find ourselves lusting after new toys or feeling like we need to see the latest and greatest movie at all times.  We don’t feel like we’re missing out because of our low spending budgets because we don’t even know what’s available to be had at any given time!

I know that cutting cable and using some or all of these alternative methods of entertainment isn’t for everyone and perhaps it’s been a bit ‘overdone’ in the PF blogosphere. I would urge you to give it some thought though as I doubt that most people realize what’s available to them for free- and this could save you some serious coin!

 

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8 Responses to Slashing Expenses: Cheap Entertainment in Our Home

  1. TB says:

    It’s a great post, but what I wanted to comment on is just a little part of it. My sister had to wear a patch for a lazy eye, too. I just barely remember it because we were so little, but I remember her stomping around and crying because she hated it so much! And I teased her too, which probably didn’t help.

    • Marianne says:

      Yeah the whole patch thing is no fun but thanks to my mom’s insistence on wearing it, my eye repaired itself. I wore glasses from the time I was 2 to age 16 and then decided to stop wearing them because I really didn’t feel I needed them anymore. My optometrist gave me her blessing but told me I’d probably need to start wearing glasses again by age 20. 10 years later and still no need for glasses. Good thing I wore that stupid patch… :)

  2. Andrea says:

    I’ma big fan of cutting the cable. And now with internet, I don’t know why anyone would pay for it. Like you, I get most of my streaming online. For the most part, I can watch all the shows I like online. Of course, there are some I can’t find immediately or at all (eg, The Learning Channel does not stream their content) but I can live without.

    Friends ask us all the time why we don’t get Netflix. I think it’s great for the price and availability but it just doesn’t make sense for our lifestyle. We have three children in the house part-time (shared custody) and they have Netflix in one home where they get to watch tv and with us, we have two video game systems and we tend to more outdoors and sports activities. When it’s just my husband, we rarely have time for sitting down.

    All the same, I find out entertainment lacking lately and the answer for me is not something more where I sit down (eg, tv or movies). And we live in a very small rural village so what’s available locally is much different than in the city – we work in a large metropolitan area.

    So our solution for the spring, aside from more walking/running after work each day, is to sign up for ballroom dance lessons. Our community centre is hosting 2 four-week series to two different dance styles — for free! We haven’t a lick of dancing talent among the two of us. I’m sure I can step on my own toes while dancing! But the idea that we can learn something, get a good laugh, and meet new people doing it is great for us.

    Something else we’ve found when we do want to watch something(we did just take everyone to see The Hunger Games and I highly recommend it for teenagers and up!) is the local library. We have a great networked library system in our country and access to everything old and new that comes out and again, it’s free.

    • Marianne says:

      I do find it annoying that I can’t watch TLC shows. There are other ways to access them though (Youtube among other things) and so if I really want to check out a TLC show I can still usually find a way. Ballroom dancing sounds fun! My husband and I did prenatal yoga together when we were expecting our baby and it was tonnes of fun- and something my husband would never have volunteered to do had I not had some pretty good leverage- giving birth to his child and all…

  3. We love to go to the movies, so we try to save by buying tickets at Costco. It costs $8 per ticket instead of $10-$12 at the theaters.

    • Marianne says:

      That’s a great idea! We are looking forward to getting out to a movie sometime soon. Having a baby is our #1 tip for cutting down on entertainment costs. :)

  4. We canceled cable over a year ago and don’t miss it at all. To be honest, we rarely watch tv and when we do, online downloads work just fine.

  5. Sheryl (Cdn Gwen) says:

    I’m currently in a contract for my cable (should be out of it in Nov) and will be cancelling it then. Most shows I want to see I get off the internet or Netflix as well.
    The biggest part of my entertainment budget is the monthly fee for an online game my boyfriend and I play (which is also why we don’t watch much TV). The fee is $15 per month, and I figure we play for an hour a day (sometimes more, sometimes less) and at that rate it is 50 cents an hour. I’m much less tempted to go out and find things to do having this as a pastime.

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