A night out on the
people might think that "penny-pinching" and "nice evening out"
don't belong in the same sentence. Don't tell that to Shel Horowitz.
the self-proclaimed "King of Frugal Fun," and his wife have learned
how to entertain themselves for a fraction of the usual cost.
author of five books, including The
Penny-Pinching Hedonist: How to Live Like Royalty with a Peasant's Pocketbook
(soon to be retitled "Frugal Fun"), Horowitz says they usually spend
$5 to $15 per person on a good dinner and they see lots of concerts and plays
for free. In one week, the strategy saved them $90.
doesn't hurt Horowitz's wallet that he's an unabashed romantic. He can take a
walk down a busy city street and turn it into a stroll in the moonlight. Window-shopping
becomes a fantasy of a lavish lifestyle. Sharing an entrée is transformed
into a time of growing closeness (remember "Lady and the Tramp" and
the strand of spaghetti?). Instead of an overpriced bouquet, there's the understatement
of a single, perfect stem.
makes for a nice, healthy relationship," Horowitz says. "We celebrated
19 years this year. I'm not ashamed to be romantic."
are some of his suggestions for a great evening out without breaking the bank:
- Go early. Many
restaurants offer specials before 6 p.m. It's perfect, Horowitz says, for making
a show on time or for parents who need to make an early night of it. Not only
do you get a discount on dinner, but you'll get a break on the cost of a sitter.
"If you go early, you can get the cheap 11- and 12-year-old babysitters instead
of the expensive 17- and 18-year-old baby sitters."
veggie. Vegetarian entrees are usually less expensive
than ones made with meat.
ethnic. Some ethnic foods are better bargains than others.
You can get a lot of food for the money in Chinese, Mexican, Italian, Indian and
Thai restaurants. You'll pay more in Japanese and French restaurants.
light. Share an entrée or stick with the
appetizer menu. Many restaurants serve portions that are too large for one person
- Go alcohol-free.
The markup on alcoholic beverages in restaurants is high. Instead of having
a drink with dinner, have a glass of wine or some brandy after you get home.
sweet. Have a candlelight dinner at home, and
then go out for coffee and dessert.
- Wait until the
first run ends. Many communities have bargain theaters
that show movies after they've finished their first runs. If you can't wait a
few weeks to see the hottest new flick, at least go to a matinee. Check the pricing.
Many theaters offer the best price on movies that start between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m.
So see a show first and then go eat.
offbeat. If you live in a college town, there's
probably a campus movie theater that shows low-cost art or foreign films. Or check
with your local library. They often have free movie nights.
the munchies. The concession stand is no bargain
even at bargain theaters. If you can't imagine a movie without popcorn and Junior
Mints, get the smallest size and share.
- Volunteer. If
you have a pair of black pants and a white shirt, sign up to usher at shows. Horowitz
and his wife ushered at a sold-out Chuck Berry concert. Tickets were $45; they
got in free. There are usually plenty of seats, but this show was sold out. They
didn't mind having to stand. "We were the only people who got to dance."
Smaller venues and community theater companies are much easier to approach than
major arenas. Once you have that experience, it's easier to get on the list to
usher at the larger shows. They also volunteer at a major folk music festival
each year. They get free admission, food and camping, have minimal duties and
often get to hobnob with their favorite artists.
reviews. If you have a flair for writing (as
Horowitz does), offer to review concerts and plays for a small, local newspaper.
You have to be well-informed about the subject to write a credible review, but
you'll typically get two free seats in the best section of the house.
your phone on speed dial. It's not as tough as
it sounds to win concert tickets on the radio. Horowitz recommends putting station
call-in numbers on your speed dial. If there's a college radio station in your
community, those have the fewest listeners and usually have lots of tickets to
- Support your local
artists. Check the newspaper for performances
by local artists. They're usually low cost or free and often held in coffeehouses,
bookstores or libraries, which are wonderful places to spend some quality time
together. "My wife and I met at an open poetry reading," he says. "You
can't get more frugal than that. They pass a hat and you throw in a buck when
it comes around."