smart spending

11 ideas for frugal entertainment

You don't have to drop the Benjamins or pull out your credit card to have a fun night out, despite what advertisers would have you believe. Nor do you have to stay home reading or watching old movies on the weekends when you can't afford to splurge on recreation.

Frugally savvy folks argue you aren't limited to boring activities when money is tight.

"You either spend money you don't have, which is credit, or you exercise your creativity," says Steve Economides, co-author of "America's Cheapest Family Gets You Right On the Money" and the HomeEconomiser newsletter, with his wife, Annette. "We are sometimes so lazy in America, we think we can just pull out the credit card and that's going to create the happiness and the fun times we want, and the truth is, if we put a little mental energy into it, we're going to have more fun, spend less money and probably learn more. It's being resourceful."

With that mind-set, get ready to rediscover your locality and the resources it has to offer. You might be surprised to learn how much you can do while spending very little.

How to get started

You can find a treasure trove of things to do without traveling out of state.

"How many people live in a state and think they need to vacation some other place and never do the touristy things in their own town or in their own state?" asks Annette Economides.

The frugal husband-and-wife team suggests finding out what's available in your own town by contacting the visitor and convention bureau and asking for some literature, or checking the AAA TourBook travel guide for your state. Annette Economides points out that because historical places don't tend to go out of business, it may prove smart to buy an old copy from a thrift store. You'll get an idea of what's nearby and you can always double-check prices and hours with establishments.

1. Take advantage of community events.

Get added onto your local city or county newsletter list for upcoming community events. "A lot of times, if you look through community calendars, you can find events that are either free or very cheap to start with," says Shel Horowitz, author of the e-book " The Penny-Pinching Hedonist: How to Live Like Royalty with a Peasant's Pocketbook," and owner of FrugalFun.com. He says you can find activities such as lectures, concerts, plays and performances for free or as little as $5.

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Area high schools, community colleges or universities likely have music or drama programs and sporting events, points out Steve Economides. A lot of these student performances and recitals are free and open to the public.

Tip: Contact the parks and recreation department of your city or county to find out how to stay abreast of community events.

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