Know what’s been on my mind lately? Money. Minnesota has a 5 kabillion dollar deficit and I work for an organization that gets most of its money from the state (although not all so maybe we’re better off than some will be). My strategy is to try to squirrel some money away in a coffee can and hope for the best, which means cutting corners.
Many might be in the same gun boat right now, so I’m launching a series on money-saving tips. First, we visit Entertainment.
Obvious Tactic 1: Stop buying magazines
Ouch Factor: 4 (on a 1 to 5 scale)
Oh, the agony! I look forward to waiting room visits and trips to the salon just to see what mags they have. The alternative to buying them is to go to the library to read them. But really, who wants to read a mag in a hushed room with some old guy who is pouring over Vogue with just a little bit too much interest? Plus, who wants to read mags on some library schedule? Ten a.m. to 6 p.m., noon to 8 p.m., closed Sunday and Monday… this doesn’t work for me. I’m so desperate I almost snagged the latest People from my dentist’s office this week.
Obvious Tactic Number 2: Limit Restaurant Meals
Ouch Factor:Â 3
Where “restaurant” meals really add up are the trips for burritos and pizza when I don’t feel like cooking. Salvation: big pots of soup. Eat it every lunch and dinner until just a whiff of it makes me feel ill. “Please, sir, may I have some more?”
Not-So-Obvious Tactic Number 1: Bring Back the Board Game
Ouch Factor: 0
Forget bringing sexy back. Get into some sweats, and bring the boards back. Have everyone bring some beer and stay in for the night. It’s so nice to actually talk to each other! Games to try: Settlers of Catan (I have this but have only played it once!), Hollywood Dominos ($40 at WalMart, probably cheaper after the holidays), Trouble or Aggravation and other Domino games like Spinner. My husband would suggest some D&D or Axis & Allies. Or card games. Games to avoid because they’re lame: Pictionary, Cranium, Guesstures. Games for two (make a date of it, it’s actually pretty romantic): Othello, Master Mind (the adorable code-breaking game), Scrabble (if someone kicks your ass in Scrabble, don’t you find them just a teensy-weensy bit more attractive?)
Obvious Tactic # 3: Cheap Dates
Ouch Factor: 0
Local weeklies and mags are forever running stories on “cheap dates” but they usually include going out to some Happy Hour for the cheap drinks and “cheap” appetizers like tiny figs stuffed with duck and Gorgonzola cheese. Screw that. Let’s get really cheap.
Go For a Walk – I know, earth-shattering. Bonus: go for a walk in a cemetery and pretend you’re a first-year art student and take photos of grave stones.
Pool Your Music Collections and Make Mix CDs while listening to music, trading stories about the concerts you’ve been to and discussing your intentions to get more into jazz, classical, rap, etc.
Go To a Cheap Theater To See a Movie. The Riverview in Minneapolis only charges $3 for adults for evening shows and a ridiculous $2 for matinees! Kids are always $2. With the money you save you can spring for two glasses of wine at the Riverview Wine Bar across the street AND parking is free on the street. This very weekend you can see Vicky Cristina Barcelona, which is up for some Golden Globe awards but not playing in first-run theaters anymore. And, yes, they do have very good popcorn with real butter. Can’t afford the popcorn? Bring your own snack in your purse or coat. I KNOW. This is a no-no. But come on, we’ve all done it. Tough times call for tough measures.
Shop for Used Books, keeping a $10-15 Limit: Try the Paperback Book Exchange on 50th in Minneapolis, Magers & Quinn in Uptown, Half-Price Books at various Twin Cities locations. More hardcore: hit Savers, Arc or Goodwill and buy up some of the Left Behind series or other dreck and read aloud to each other at home.
Don’t Go Out For Dinner, MAKE Dinner Using Recipes From the Internet You’ve Never Tried Before. Can be as cheap or as expensive as you want. The best is that then, on some sites, you can leave your comments on how the recipe worked out for you and rate it. Be picky and obnoxious, as in, “I suggest a 1/4 tsp. of salt as opposed to the 1/2 tsp. called for.”
Make a Nest and Watch Movies – This is tried and true. Just gather up every pillow, comforter or blanket you have and build a nest or fort and watch movies at home. There’s just something so comforting and intimate about this, especially during a Minnesota winter.
Burn Things – if you’ve got a backyard fire pit, make a winter fire and watch stuff burn together. Mesmerizing.
Art Openings – This one is probably obvious but you can see the art for free, often have free food and cheap wine and people watch. Check your papers for listings and become a regular on the circuit!
Not-So-Obvious Tactic # 3: Use your library’s hold function like a Netflix queue
Ouch Factor: 1
I can’t buy every book I want to read – it would seriously bankrupt me. So I discovered my library’s Hold List. I troll the Internet for good books and stuff just coming out and immediately put it on hold at the library. Sometimes I end up being number 45 out of 50Â and sometimes I get in the front door at number 1. And it’s exciting (in my little world) to get the e-mail from the library telling me I have books waiting for me. And then I look at some of them and immediately put them in the pile to go back. “Ick. Good thing I didn’t spend money on that clunker.” The only problem is that, with so many books coming in at all different times, I find it hard to get them all back on time. My latest fine before paying it off was $15, spare change to the $40 I once racked up a number of years ago. The Ouch Factor here is that you don’t know when you’re going to be able to read a book and you often have to wait weeks for a really hot one.
Not-So-Obvious Tactic # 4: Go To a Dog Park
Ouch Factor: Usually 0; can be a 1 or 2 in January and February
If you’ve got a dog and payed for the license to go to the park, you can go as many times as you want during the year (well worth the money). If you don’t have a dog you can still go and it’s free for humans. The river park in Minneapolis is one of the happiest places on Earth. This is no tiny, fenced in area covered in wood chips. This is full-on river and woods with tons of trails. You can get lost on the “back nine” if you don’t feel like seeing other people or you can go to the main beach areas or “The Point” to watch the dogs play. There’s something about being out there that always restores me. There’s a lot of joy you can feel in the atmosphere. Dogs don’t give a shit about money, which is one thing that makes them so endearing. And while you’re out there, you really don’t give a shit about much of anything except keeping your knees bent so the romping dogs don’t knock you over.