My secrets to spending $0 on entertainment last month

spend $0 on entertainmentLast week, I published our July monthly cash flow statement and a few readers have one big question.

How are you able to keep your entertainment spending at $0?

Well, it’s a combination of things and you might not approve of some of them, but here goes.

Free Entertainment

First off, we are really lucky because we live Portland. The summer weather is moderate and there are a ton of free events and entertainment around town. We also don’t really want to go too long (> 1 hour) events because RB40 Junior would get bored. Short free events are perfect for us at this time.

Here are some free events and local entertainment that we have been enjoying lately:

  • Local splash fountains – Kids love splash fountains, especially on a sunny day.
  • Swimming pool – Our condo has a community swimming pool. Any cost incurred is included in our HOA fees.
  • Library – We have a great library and we drop by every few days to pick up some books and movies.
  • Parks and Playgrounds – RB40 Junior loves to run around outside. He entertains himself with rocks, acorns, pine cones, sticks, dandelions, wild strawberries, and whatever else is lying around. Oh, he is also learning how to ride a push bike which keeps him occupied.
  • Walks and Hikes – Healthy and free. What could be better?
  • Community Garden – We like working in the garden a little bit every week and enjoying the fruits of our labor.
  • Farmer markets – There are 3 farmer markets in the downtown area and it’s a lot of fun to go around and taste different local products. Of course, we spend a few bucks here and there, but that’s in our grocery budget.
  • reduce entertainment budget symphony
    Free symphony!

    Free live music – We just saw the Portland Festival Symphony at the Rose Garden amphitheater last Sunday. There are different free performances at 6pm everyday in August. Our local parks also have many free shows throughout summer.

  • Cultural festivals – Italian festival, Oktoberfest, Bastille festival, Cinco De Mayo, there are a ton of free cultural events in the summer.
  • Free movies – There are free outdoor movies, but they start a bit too late for us. Maybe next year.

There are a bunch more free events that we haven’t able to attend this year. This is why I love summer. It’s just so much fun without having to spend much money.

reduce your entertainment budget

Cash Allowance

OK, actually I did spend some money, but it’s out of our cash allowance pool. We get $80 each per week to spend on groceries and anything else we want. The last time we went to farmer market, I purchased some organic Rainier cherries and I used cash. (Come on, who could say no to $3 per pound of great organic, local cherries?)

We also went out to eat a couple of times in July and paid cash. Cash works well for me because once I run out of cash, then I just have to wait for next week.

Business Expenses

Mmmmm, I did go out a few times in July, but I charged these on the business account.

  • Happy Hour – Met with a friend to talk about blogging and rental properties. He owns a few rental properties and we like to catch up once in a while. I need to re-stain the shingles on our rental house and he said I could borrow a ladder.  I’d sold ours when we moved to a smaller place, so it is great to have a resource for such hard-to-store items.
  • Blogger get together – I took a bottle of wine to the monthly local blogger gathering at Frugal Portland’s new home. We talked business a bit and drank a lot of wine…
  • Meals and drinks during the World Domination Summit – WDS was a great conference and I charged my meals to the business account.

This is one reason why it’s good to have an LLC and business credit card. These are all legitimate business expenses, so why not write them off?

Imperfect Record Keeping

I guess this one is a catch all. We went camping in July and that is definitely entertainment (and a learning experience). We paid for the camp site in June so it didn’t show up in July. We did spent money on gasoline and food. I guess that should have gone into the entertainment pool, but I didn’t do that. I put the gasoline cost in the transportation row and we paid for food in cash.

I think that’s the only mistake in July. I don’t think it’s a big deal, do you?

So these are my secrets to having $0 in the entertainment category in July. It feels a bit like cheating now that I list it out… Did you spend a lot on entertainment last month? I know Financial Samurai spent like $10,000 traipsing around Europe. 🙂

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40 thoughts on “My secrets to spending $0 on entertainment last month”

  1. This is really good. Enjoyment need not be always by paying money or spending lavishly. Being frugal and finding happiness with what you have is important. Actually it is great to know that Portland offers so much of variety at zero cost

  2. My secret is that I choose to mystery shop places in which I get to go out to eat for free or to see free, first run movies. That really helps to keep my entertainment budget down and it’s worth the 15 minutes or so to enter my observations into the computer 🙂

    • Mystery shopping is just too inconvenient for us right now. Maybe once we have more time. It’s probably tough to drag a kid to those assignments too.

  3. Those are some great free summer events! We have a lot in our area as well. There are also quite a few winter events like ice skating, sledding etc. Who needs expensive movies/concerts when the best things in life truely are free.

    • I’d have to be a huge fan to pay for a concert. 🙂 We don’t mind paying for live theater once in a while though.

  4. We had an expensive August and June due to our 20 day vacation! My husband and I traveled all over to visit family and friends. In between travels we did some wild trips just for ourselves and went as far as Dominican Republic! We did a few amusement parks in Orlando, we managed the crowds by taking single rider lane and somehow we always ended up together. We used Spirit Airlines, very inexpensive fares but don’t expect much and they are late most of the time. This airline even sells the water! We had lots of fun and we just made sure that the flight tardiness did not affect planned events. For example the day we arrived we used it to pick up rental car, scout the area, do quick visits to art museums and land marks. Just remember that when you travel with Spirit. All our travels were one way and I thought that was gonna make it more expensive, not at all…one way from Chicago to Las Vegas $89.00, from Las Vegas to Los Angeles $59.00. In Las Vegas we stayed at the New York hotel $47 evening and got two free buffets ($67.00 the hotel gives you multiple choices, we chose the MGM Grand Buffet, it was great! ). I just like Las Vegas to see shows. I wouldn’t mind playing in the machines for a while if it wasn’t for the cigarette smoke, can’t stand it! 3 nights in Vegas is enough for me. Overall was a good place to debrief before heading home. Would I travel again with Spirit? Yes, I felt safe.

    July we did more savings: Free Art Museums in Los Angeles on Thursday, The Skirball has free concerts at night, just need to pay $10 parking and show receipt to the Aug. Thursday concerts, start at 8:00pm, arrive early…at least by 7,food is allowed . Many museums are free in L.A. on Thursday and the Skirball museum has a permanent exhibition “Noah’s Ark”, awesome even for adults! Need to make an on line reservation ahead of time.The Hollywood Bowl has cheap tickets for any of the performances, of course you are pretty far away but the experience is still great, we just attended Lou Armstrong tribute for $15 per ticket, parking was more expensive $18, can have a picnic before the show. One more, the Getty Museum is free all the time, just need to pay for parking $10.

    • Wow, you had a great summer so far. I like the Getty Museum too. 🙂
      I haven’t flown Spirit. I don’t think they service Portland.
      The Louie Armstrong tribute sounds like a lot of fun.

  5. We’ve been much the same way this summer. Having multiple kids really can make it prohibitive from going anywhere for that long. Couple that with many free activities around town, and an unusually mild summer and it makes for very little spent on entertainment.

  6. Love your list!
    We have an entertainment budget of $20 a month. We usually find free activities and fun (nature-geared) activities which are always a fav. with my sons. Although last month we did treat ourselves – because we home school, Great America has a reading reward program…. last month we got our 3 free tickets and went there! We did purchase a ticket for hubby and parking – which meant $75, BUT we brought a picnic, ate in the car and drank water from the fountains throughout the day. I was very happy about my “frugal day”, while hubby just wondered aloud – “Really? Families actually come here, buy tickets at the gate and eat the expensive greasy food? That would be like $400 for a family of 4!”
    Our community hosts free movies in the park, free concerts in August, and of course just going to a B&N to read for a few hours is always a hit for us. 🙂

    Love your blog!

    • I never like going to amusement parks because it’s just so expensive. I also hate standing in line so that doesn’t help either. 🙂
      Thanks for reading! I love free events.

  7. We went away fro the weekend and spent less than $100. I had vouchers for the hotel which included breakfast. We only needed 2 dinners and we had $30 on a gift card t o cover some of it. Not bad!

  8. Having loads of fun is very possible without spending money! One of the keys to living frugally and paying off debt is grasping that spending money and having fun are not one and the same thing.

  9. Totally agree that the kid thing helps keeps costs down — at least when they’re young. For us there hasn’t been too much we CAN do that would cost money. That’s already starting to change, though, as he’s starting to need more stimulus. Next year should be interesting finding low-cost things to do with him.
    We are going to this, though:
    You should think about joining us if you have any reason to come up to Seattle again!

    • Really? What stimulus does he need? RB40 likes splash fountains and playgrounds. Music is good too, but just for a hour or so.
      Caspar sounds like fun. I’ll keep them in mind.

        • Yeah, our guy doesn’t like playing indoor anymore either. We go out a lot though so he could run around.
          I’ll let you know if we make it up there. It’ll be fun to see you guys too.

  10. I definitely dig all the free stuff during the summer.

    Our accounting is a little different how we account for vacation as I just tallied up everything in my vacation post. As soon as I’m on vacation e.g. left the house, I added all expenses up, including food, which I guess shouldn’t count as it’s a fixed cost, but oh well.

    I only spent $9,200 over 4 weeks, so actually a $800 savings! 🙂 But I’m off again for a week today to Tahoe. I no longer feel guilty about spending any money on vacation b/c I’ve swapped funny money with vacation money and it is liberating!

    • Usually I do that too, but this time I got lazy. We probably spent around $100 on our camping trip. 🙂
      Enjoy your trip! You earned it. Have fun while you’re single and childfree.

  11. We regularly have $0 entertainment expense months, especially now that we have our baby boy. I look back at the statements from a few years ago and see hundreds of dollars spent per month on things like bars, restaurants, movies, bowling etc etc. Now we go for walks, go to the HOA pool, ride bikes, go visit grandmas, play dates with other couples with kids, parks etc. I think having a kid definitely affects your entertainment budget and for us it had a very positive effect in that the expenses went way down… Of course your other expenses go up and for us the daycare expense alone is a LOT more than what we used to spend on entertainment. Kids are awesome though and I would not wanna have it any other way!

    • That’s right. Our kid loves running around outside and he doesn’t need to spend any money at all.
      Yeah, daycare is no fun at all. We are starting preschool next month. I’m looking forward to the extra time, but not the bill…

  12. If only I didn’t melt outside in the Summer.

    But there is an unbelievable amount of stuff to do for free, and sometimes for next to free.

    We bought a Summer bowling pass that let’s us bowl for free, every day if we want, and it was only $35.

    Plus the kiddos are free.

  13. That’s awesome! Portland sounds like they have a lot of free events. When I was in college, there were always free events, so entertainment took care of itself. Now that I’m out, it’s a little harder. We went out last weekend to celebrate our 2 year anniversary and we spent $300 on food, tickets, parking, etc. Just thinking about it hurts, but it was a special event we only celebrate once a year.

  14. If we had a community pool, that would be all the entertainment I’d need for a few years 🙂 But free music and events – these are always the answer for free entertainment. And if all else fails, I find people watching (go to a park and simply look at everybody around) quite entertaining!

    • I can’t people watch. I can do it for about 5 minutes and then I’m bored. RB40 Junior is even worse. His attention span is only about 60 seconds. He’d rather be running around.

  15. Definitely one of the great benefits of summer! Although I’ve found it hard not to top off a nice time at the park with an ice cream cone from Mickie Dees (buck a piece, paid with small change)


    • We have been pretty good about not spending extra money. We bring bread, cheese, and fruits for our picnic. By the end, we are stuffed.


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