smart spending

11 ideas for frugal entertainment

6. Enjoy local parks.

Don't forget about local parks. They make for soothing walks, scenic bike rides and pretty picnics. Best of all, you don't have to pay to enjoy them.

Don't rule out theme parks or water parks in your area if you can find good deals on season or annual passes or coupons making them affordable.

Tip: Contact your local parks and recreation department to find nearby parks. Keep an eye out for theme park coupons at fast food restaurants, in coupon books and on soda cans, or do Internet searches for the word "coupon" plus the name of the theme park.

7. Research cheap fare for the fair.

When your county or state fair is in town, do some research to find the cheapest days to go. Steve Economides says a radio station always sponsors the first day at his state fair and admission is either free or a dollar.

Tip: Research your county or state fair online and look under "admissions information" to see if there are discounted admission days or information on how to find coupons. Some fairs may provide free shuttle rides for those willing to park at designated offsite locations.

8. Love the library.

Public libraries offer entertainment possibilities for kids and adults.

"Now many public libraries have reading programs for kids during the summer because they want to encourage them to read. A lot of those programs provide prizes," says Steve Economides. He and his wife say their kids have won tickets to Major League Baseball games, movie passes and vouchers for free restaurant meals.

Of course, adults can save money on books and movies by borrowing them from the library for free. Don't let a skimpy selection prompt you to pay money to rent or buy these items, however. Make use of the library's hold system and interlibrary loans.

Comparing the hold system to building a queue of flicks with online movie rental services, Kim Danger, family savings expert for Coupons.com, says when items from her library wish list become available, the library holds the item and calls to tell her as much. "I usually have 10 things on my hold list. I kind of load up on everything that sounds interesting to me and that way when I do go to the library chances are something will be in that I've requested," she says.

Interlibrary loans allow you to request items from other libraries if yours doesn't have a copy. As with the hold system, the library will contact you when the item becomes available.

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Tip: Visit your library in person or go to its Web site to see what services it offers.

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