smart spending

11 ideas for frugal entertainment

9. Go on a letterboxing treasure hunt.

If you have young kids who would enjoy treasure hunting, consider looking into an activity called letterboxing. "Besides the cost of a notebook and a rubber stamp, it's absolutely free," Danger says.

Danger describes letterboxing as "a modern-day treasure hunt" where you print clues from the Letterboxing North America's Web site to find small boxes hidden in public areas in certain cities. The boxes each contain a notebook, inkpad and a stamp. She says the idea is to follow the clues, taking a notebook and stamp with you so that when you find the box you can stamp the person's notebook with your stamp and use theirs to stamp your notebook.

"It's kind of like trading stamps," she explains. "After you've done it a little while, you've got this book, which is kind of like a collection of all the stamps that you've been to, all the letterboxes that you've seen. It's a really family-friendly activity because your kids can do it with you, and my husband and I were really getting involved with it and having fun with it as well."

Tip: Learn more about letterboxing by going to Letterboxing North America's Web site.

10. See movies for less.

Look for discount theaters in your area, cheap seasonal passes, discounted admission for certain days of the week or bulk movie ticket purchases.

AMC Theatres, for example, offers discounted tickets for weekend showtimes before noon at some locations. "If you're willing to go see a movie earlier in the day then you can get it almost at half-price, depending on what the local movie rates are in your area," says Mehdikarimi.

Another movie theater chain called Harkins Theatres offers a summer movie pass for kids that costs $5 to $7 for 10 movies spread out over 10 weeks. "Even if you don't even like all 10 of the movies, even if you went to half of them, it still would be worth it to buy the pass," says Annette Economides.

Movie theaters may also allow you to buy passes in bulk. If you frequent the box office, bulk passes could provide significant savings throughout the year.

Also consider signing up for movie clubs, which allow you to earn points from the purchase of movie tickets to score freebies such as free popcorn, drinks and tickets. To avoid junk mail when you sign up, supply an e-mail address you seldom use.

Tip: Call your local movie complex or look on its Web site to find out about discounted tickets, passes and movie clubs.

11. Kick it at home.

You don't have to go out to have a good time. Experiment in the kitchen with a new recipe, play board games or do art projects with your kids.

The ol' potluck dinner with friends also provides a fun, cheap night at home. "With kids, it's nice to share a baby sitter," says Danger. "If you're having a few couples over, maybe hire a baby sitter and all pitch in on it and share the cost. You can enjoy some adult conversation and your kids get to have fun, too, with each other."

Or allow everyone to get into the act with some comedy improv. Horowitz says all you do is "you throw out a situation, a relationship and you let people act out that situation or relationship." On his Web site, he offers a slew of starter ideas for improv games.

Tip: Dig in your closet for those old board games and challenge your family, friends or the neighbors. Try improv games if you're feeling adventurous.

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