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Back To Basics: Entertainment

content ballWhen considering discretionary categories in our Spending Plan, entertainment, like clothing, tends to get a little out of control.  I am as guilty as anyone when I say I don’t always track our entertainment spending.  Quite honestly, the only entertainment spending that is incorporated into our budget is our family gym membership.  However, when considering the entertainment category, we have to consider other things too, such as subscriptions to the newspaper or magazines, movie rentals, and classes or sports for the kids. 

Smaller entertainment expenses, such as movie rentals, can nickel and dime us to death if we don’t keep track of them.  The total for entertainment spending should be between 5-10% of our net spendable income, but if we’re not tracking it, that can be a significant chunk of change at the end of the month that leaves us with a big question mark as to where that money went.  All is not lost however, since this is another area where frugal measures can be taken.

If you like to flip through the pages of the newspaper or a magazine from time to time, consider making a trip to the library.  Our library doesn’t allow us to check these out and bring them home so I have to plan to spend some time there if I want to browse these items.  Typically I do this when my kids need other services from the library such as reference material for a report, using the computer, and of course, books to read for pleasure. 

I also use the library for other entertainment options.  Books are probably the most obvious choice when going to the library, but we also rent DVDs and CDs from there.  We are able to have the books for three weeks at a time and the DVDs and CDs for a week at a time.  This is usually plenty of time to make good use of the books and DVDs we’ve checked out and it gives us a built-in reason to get back to the library and pick out some new items.

If your children enjoy activities outside of school, it might be worth checking into your town’s Parks and Recreation department first to see if there is anything of interest.  This is probably the least expensive way for kids to try out new activities, especially if they decide they don’t enjoy it as much as they thought they would.  Our Parks and Recreation department usually offers classes in short cycles such as a month or six weeks.  I like this set up because we can take a month or so off if needed.  My son really enjoyed a class he was taking, but it required that he wear a heavy jacket and pants.  Even though his class was indoors, in the month of June he had decided it was too warm so he took the summer off and returned to the class in September when the weather was a little nicer.  Taking a class that ran on a month-to-month basis allowed him to take time off and we didn’t get stuck absorbing the cost of a class that he didn’t want to attend.

Entertainment does not have to cost a fortune—by being creative, our lives don’t have to be all work and no play. God gave us the great outdoors for starters and as long as we know what our options are, it won’t become a burden when someone chimes in with, “I’m bored!”

“This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice in it and be glad.” ~Psalm 118:24

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