smart spending

11 ideas for frugal entertainment

2. Get low-cost admission to museums.

General admission can cost a lot at some museums. People need not let their wallets inhibit their love for art or history, though. "A lot of museums under their charter either with the city, state or county are required to provide a free day of access for the public, or at least a discounted day," says Steve Economides.

Museums may also offer discounted or free admission for residents or members of certain organizations on certain days during the month, says Fatima Mehdikarimi, founder of the shopping guide and coupon site, ShoppingQueen.com.

Tip: Annette Economides suggests people check the museum's Web site to find out when the discounted and free days happen. Some museums, such as the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C., don't charge for admission.

3. Volunteer at concerts, games and performances.

Volunteer to usher or help at shows and sporting events and you can sometimes catch a free viewing. Some organizers won't let you watch while you work, but may give you a pass to come back for free at a later date, or let you watch the program if you've signed up for preshow or postshow shifts, says Mehdikarimi.

Tip: Mehdikarimi advises calling the organizer two months in advance of the event you want to see so that you can get more choices in terms of your shift and duty.

4. Tour factories and local businesses.

Another frugal adventure involves touring nearby factories and businesses with your family. "Depending on where you live, there's usually some kind of industry in your area where you can tour a factory," says Annette Economides. Some places may charge nothing for entry, while others may charge a nominal fee.

If the company requires a certain size group to take a tour, invite a couple of your friends' families along to meet the requirements.

Tip: The Economides suggest looking in the Yellow Pages under "manufacturing" to see if there are any factories in your area.

If factories don't dazzle your children, consider their interests and research applicable businesses. In their book, "America's Cheapest Family," the Economides' suggest other possible destinations, such as airplane hangars, dairy farms, courthouses and radio stations.

5. Visit pick-your-own farms.

Grab your kids and head to these farms that allow you to pick your own fresh fruit and vegetables and buy them in bulk at low prices. Some farms will have corn mazes, hayrides, face painting and other family-friendly activities.

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Tip: Find a pick-your-own farm using a site such as PickYourOwn.org or simply do an Internet search for nearby "U-pick" farms.

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