How to Get the Most Value From Your Entertainment Budget

Finances

Using citywide activity passes can help families save money on local attractions, such as museums and aquariums. (Getty Images)

Many households have entertainment funds built into their monthly budgets, but it seems like that budgeted amount always runs out sooner than they want. Of course, you don’t want to sacrifice your fun, but a lot of activities you do in any given month often have a cheaper (and possibly better) alternative. Read on for tips on how to trim down that monthly entertainment budget without cutting back on your actual entertainment.

Get movie passes for cheaper screenings. MoviePass is popular for a reason, and although it has gone through some cash-flow struggles recently, it’s still a great way for movie buffs to hit the theaters without breaking the bank. Right now, the pass comes in two flavors. The traditional pass, now known as MoviePass Unlimited, costs $9.95 per month and lets you see a new movie every day. The standard-issue MoviePass, on a limited offer of $7.95 per month, allows you to see three movies each month and gets you a free three-month trial of iHeartRadio All-Access.

With either option, there are a few downsides: You won’t be able to see any title more than once in theaters and you can’t buy tickets earlier than the day of the showing. Still, these passes make it so going to even two movies in a month will more than cover the monthly cost of the MoviePass. And you won’t have to limit yourself from keeping up on all the new releases.

Some movie theater chains now offer their own version of the MoviePass, such as the Cinemark Movie Club, but none of them is nearly as good of a deal. That’s mainly because they can only be used at their specific chain and typically cost more on a per-movie basis.

Use streaming services to save on TV. The high prices of cable contracts have been making a lot of news, and it makes sense: Cable subscriptions are expensive and rigid and often gobble up a large chuck of your monthly budget. Fortunately, there are many options to score content for cheaper than a typical cable bill. That’s true whether you’re looking for live channels or shows on demand.

For live channels, a subscription to a service such as Sling TV or PlayStation Vue can give you access to a ton of channels in real time. There’s certainly a range of prices, but many of the most popular live-streaming services start around $40 per month.

If you want on-demand content, a service like Netflix or Hulu can give you access to a whole library of content, accessible at any time. There’s a range of prices here, too, but many start for less than $10 per month.

If you want free TV, a digital antenna can provide access to many network stations and local channels. Once you purchase the antenna, there’s no additional charge. You can pair it with some ad-supported streaming services, such as Crackle or Pluto, for even more free channels.

Explore your city with an attraction pass. If you live near a large city, that city probably has an attraction pass. Generally, these passes cost a flat rate and give you a few options for activities to do for that price, which costs less than buying tickets for each attraction separately.

One of the most well-known attraction pass programs is the CityPass. Available in many major U.S. cities, the CityPass offers several options for purchasing passes. If you’re in Chicago, for example, you can visit everything from The Field Museum to the Art Institute of Chicago. In Atlanta, you can go everywhere from the Georgia Aquarium to CNN Studio Tours. Each supported city has its own CityPass with unique offerings at different price points, but they are a great way to pack in a lot of activities for a low price.

Many cities not included in the CityPass program have passes of their own. For example, Salt Lake City’s Visit Salt Lake Connect Pass allows purchasers to choose passes that last between one and three days or for a full year at different corresponding prices. Included are some of the city’s top attractions, including the Natural History Museum and a tram ride at the Snowbird ski resort. Many other cities in different states offer similar passes, and they’re a great way for locals and visitors alike to save money while having a good time.

Whether you want to enjoy a day at museums, visit a movie theater or just tune into your TV at home, your entertainment budget should allow you to have a good time with your hard-earned money. With movie passes, streaming services and city passes, you can keep entertained without breaking the bank.

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