Last month’s challenge went fairly well and we’re ready to kick off another.
This month is an interesting one as we’re going to be on the road for a portion of it on our annual summer family roadtrip. With that in mind, I’ll be taking a slightly different direction with this month’s challenge.
The last few months, I’ve focused on categories where our family has significant room to improve and tried to provide methods to myself and you to improve in these areas.
Given that we won’t have a normal month of expenses, we’re going to take this month and instead take a category where I think our family does particularly well, providing insights from our own approach and others to help you along your way.
I won’t be planning on a mid-month update as I want to make sure I get enough non-challenge posts in, but you can still expect final results around the end of the month or a couple days after.
With all this said, our category for the month is … entertainment
This category include music, movies, TV, books, magazines, games, software/apps, and tickets to events. This isn’t all-inclusive, but it’s a pretty good set.
Note: don’t confuse this spending with hobbies, which I consider separate. Hobbies includes clubs, activities, and supplies for those activities.
If you’re having trouble drawing a distinction, entertainment is more passive (others entertain you) where hobbies are more active (you entertain yourself).
As always, keep the following guidance in mind:
- The whole point of the experiment is to make sustainable changes — shortcutting in an area one month only to have it explode in the next doesn’t get you closer to your goals.
- Part of the fun here is pushing your boundaries and seeing what you can do without. Don’t be afraid to stretch outside your comfort zone; you never know what you might find!
- Don’t get discouraged if you don’t achieve every goal — any progress is a step in the right direction
- Be creative and have fun :)
Helpful Resources & Ideas for Saving
There’s a magical place that will literally give you stuff for free. All you have to do is agree to bring it back in a reasonable time and they’ll give it to you absolutely free.
If you aren’t using your local library, you need to go and get a card and get started.
Libraries aren’t just about books either - you can get music, movies, even software. Some even provide passes to local museums and seeds for your garden.
Keep in mind that most library systems have kept up through the digital transition and now provide access to ebooks and audio books as well. It may take you a few minutes to figure out how to get them on your Kindle, phone, or computer, but it’s well worth it!
The biggest leap about using the library is that you probably will have to ditch your artificial sense of urgency about needing to get the things you want now.
A bit of patience is a good thing to develop, so use your library as a way to build your character and protect your wallet :)
Selling Your Information
If you own an Android phone, I really recommend downloading the Google Opinion Rewards app.
In the most transparent terms, you fill out surveys and basically sell your information for credits in the Google Play store.
While you can’t convert to cash, credits in the play store are good for apps, movies, music, games, and books.
In the two years I’ve been using the app, I’ve earned $54 for probably about an hour’s worth of time total.
It’s not mind-blowing, but it means that I haven’t ever paid for an app on my phone (despite having some good ones) and I’ve gotten quite a few movies and books for free.
Free in Your Town
One thing that has really helped in keeping our entertainment spending down is taking the time to research the free things offered in our area.
You can learn about a lot of this stuff from your library or checking out municipal websites.
That said, a search of “free things to do in __” is usually an effective way to go too :)
Just picking a few of our favorites over the summer in Madison, we have:
- Free concerts offered around the capitol building every Wednesday for 6 weeks (mostly July)
- Free concerts with face painting and bubbles for the kids every Friday in August
- Free zoo open daily
- Free botaincal garden open daily
- Free geology museum open Monday through Saturday
- Free nature preserve with 20 miles of hiking trails open daily
This is just scratching the surface; throw in all the local parks, festivals, and other free shows and you can easily keep busy without spending a dime :)
Given the strange month for us, I actually won’t be doing the challenge since any spending we do while travelling gets lumped under travel.
That said, I’m still happy to put our baseline out there and let you know what we spend on.
Here’s our Thrifty data from August of 2015 through April of 2016:
Looking at the details in Thrifty, I’ve got a good sense of where our family stands on spending on entertainment for the last 9 months.
We’ve ranged between $0 and $58 in any month and we average just over $15 a month.
Here’s what we have spent on:
- Fixer Upper Season 3 (the only TV show we’ll pay for these days)
- Movie rentals (usually from a kiosk but occasionally streaming)
- A Christian devotional book
- Magazine (one)
- The More of Less (book) by Joshua Becker AKA Becoming Minimalist
- Parking to attend a free concert in downtown Madison
- Entrance fee to a pumpkin patch including rides, corn maze, etc.
- Inflatable ball for the girls
- Barbie clothes for the girls
- Bubbles for the girls
Overall, there’s not a lot here but it’s not because we don’t read, listen to music, play games, or watch TV and movies. We’ve just been fairly disciplined about how we get access to these kinds of things in a low-cost way.
You’ll notice that cable and streaming services (Netflix, Amazon, etc) are all absent from our list; we still watch a bit of network TV streamed free on our laptop. Honestly, we haven’t felt like we’re missing out :)
If you’re willing to be patient, take a few surveys, and do your research on what’s offered to the public in your area, you can get a lot of great stuff for free!
Are you ready to join the challenge? Share your thoughts in the comments below or tweet me with your goals, plan, or progress!