Category Archives: Frugal Fun

Bye bye, cable

TVLast week, we joined the legions of personal finance bloggers who have canceled their cable TV.

In August, our yearly “promotion” ended, and the cost of our cable and Internet increased from $97 a month to $108 a month. Of course, like a lot of people, we were talked into the digital cable/Internet bundle. We had digital cable with more channels than we ever watched, HDTV even though we have an old TV, and DVR. I have to admit, the DVR was nice. But lately I’ve been thinking about just how much TV we watch.

We have never used the On Demand services, and the majority of shows recorded on our DVR come from regular network stations. Like I said, with our busy schedules, DVR is nice. But here’s the thing: every single one of the shows we watch is available online for at least a week after it airs. We could basically watch them online on our own time without paying for cable or DVR.

When I made the initial call to get some information, they of course tried to talk me into keeping at least basic broadcast channels for $10 a month. What they didn’t tell me is those channels are free with a digital converter box or digital TV.

We’ve been trying to find a way to cut expenses ever further lately, and we’ve always planned on upgrading to a newer TV at some point before we move. Because we plan on buying a new TV in the next year or so, we don’t see any reason to invest in the digital converter box now since we can watch all our favorite shows online.

Canceling cable will save us $60 a month or $900  over the next 15 months. We’ll put that money in a separate savings account and use it to buy a new TV and a Playstation 3 after we move. We’re not big gamers, but we’ve been looking into a digital multmedia player that will function as an external hard drive and allow us to stream Netflix, photos, and music to our TV. Plus we’d be able to rent games if we wanted to. :)

Bonus: we’ll spend less time channel surfing and watching things that we don’t even really enjoy, and more time reading, blogging, and talking. It’s win/win!

I never thought I’d be so excited to cancel cable, but putting that money to good use has really motivated us!

Photo by adspackman

Sign up for a FREE 6-week trial of Blockbuster by Mail

Blockbuster_logo.svgI personally use Netflix, but this deal is almost too good to pass up. Today first-time users can enroll in a six-week trial of Blockbuster by Mail ($26 value) for free!

Just go to, sign up for an account, and use the promo code groupon. Pay attention to the expiration date, though! If you forget to cancel your subscription at the end of trial period, your account will automatically renewed and charged for a month of service.

You can read the terms and conditions here.  Enjoy!

Looking for something to read? Join my frugal summer book club

I’ve mentioned before that Tony and I have been spending a lot of time reading this summer since our entertainment budget is so limited. We’re lucky, because we have access not only to the public library, but also to the much more extensive library at Tony’s university. Because it’s connected to other branches of his college throughout the state, we’re able to borrow from 4 other libraries by requesting books that aren’t available at his school. A few days later, we just pick them up at the circulation desk.

I’ve always wanted to start a book club, but because of time constraints I’ve never been able to get a group of people together to join me. So I thought I’d post my reading list for the summer to see if anyone wants to read along with me. Most of these books are older, so you should be able to borrow them from your library.

As you can see, I have an affinity for non-fiction, particularly memoirs. I love reading about other people’s lives and getting an personal perspective on their experiences. I have a feeling a lot of people who enjoy reading blogs feel the same way. :)

I also recently discovered a really cool social network for readers called Shelfari. It allows you to organize, categorize and rate books you’ve read or plan to read. For the first time, I have an organized reading list. There are many other books on my list, but I’ve decided these are the five I’m going to try to finish by the end of the summer in this order more or less.

If you decide to join me, let me know! If anyone is at all interested, I’ll post short little reviews of my thoughts on the books as I finish them, and we’ll be able to discuss in the comments section. If you have a blog and you’d like to post your own reviews, I could even put up a Mr. Linky so we can share. I’m also open to suggestions from your own reading lists. I’m always looking for good books to read. I do hope you’ll participate.

Rediscovering frugal fun on a cash budget

Photo by qisur

Back when it was easy for us to head out and spend a little extra money on entertainment, we neglected all the free entertainment we have available. Since we started living on a cash budget, we’ve had to get more creative about how we entertain ourselves on the weekends. A lot of it isn’t really creativity, though, as much as it’s rediscovering all of the entertainment right in front of us.

Here are some of the things we’ve rediscovered:

Card games

We picked up a pack of cards on our frugal camping trip last month, and we discovered a website with a huge directory of card games. We’ve been playing together and learning new games ever since. I hadn’t played cards since my dorm room days, and even then it was rare, so this is a really fun new activity. Aside from the $3 we paid for the cards, it’s absolutely free! :) If cards aren’t your thing, you might like to play dice games. My family loves to play an old fashioned dice game called 1000, and all it requires is a pair of dice and a scratch pad for keeping score.

Board games

We have a stack of board games in our coat closet that hasn’t been touched in several years. Scrabble, Monopoly, Trivial Pursuit … we’ve rediscovered all of them. Chances are you have some neglected board games lying around somewhere. Dust them off for some free fun tonight!

Crossword Puzzles

We have a book of New York Times crossword puzzles that we bought a few years ago for a road trip. I think it was about $4. Lately we’re been solving them again. Lots of fun if you like words and puzzles! You can also find free crossword puzzles online.


During our college days, we both amassed a pretty good sized collection of DVDs. We often neglect them in favor of rentals, which isn’t too expensive with Netflix and Redbox. But lately we’ve been dusting off our old collection and rewatching some of our favorites. It’s been long enough since we’ve seen some of them that they feel almost new.


Between the library and our personal collection, Tony and I have been making a pretty good dent in our summer reading list. Books are another thing we both spent a lot of money on once upon a time. It’s a good thing they can provide so much entertainment! We don’t buy books anymore, but we’ve been going through the book shelf reading each other’s collections and checking out a ton at the library.


Now that we’re looking for free entertainment, we’ve found ourselve venturing outdoors a lot more. Whether we’re hiking or heading to the beach, we’re appreciating all the frugal fun that nature has to offer.

I’m actually surprised at how much fun we’re having with these simple frugal activities. They feel brand new, and enjoying them together has brought Tony and I that much closer!

TGIF Link Round Up: Frugal fun edition

This is the beginning of our second weekend living on a limited cash budget. I’m amazed at how smoothly things are going so far, and how inspired we’ve been at entertaining ourselves. Weekends have always been the cause of most of our money hemorrhages. The temporary “vacation” mindset of the weekend would lead us to overspend, and I would dread looking at the budget come Monday morning.

Now that we’re living on cash only, I know exactly what we’re spending, so I don’t dread Monday morning so much. I’m free to enjoy our weekends a lot more without budget anxiety. We’ve also been a lot more creative about entertaining ourselves. Instead of heading out and spending money, we’re looking for frugal, active things to keep us occupied. We don’t have any plans for this weekend yet, but I’m excited to see where it takes us.

Most importantly, we’ve learned that we don’t always have to be doing something or spending money to stay entertained. We’ve both been doing a lot of reading, watching movies we haven’t seen in a long time, spending time at the library, and going outside. It’s been surprisingly fun, and incredibly frugal.

And now for some interesting links:

I’m off to enjoy another frugal summer weekend. I can’t wait to share our successes with you on Monday. Happy Friday!

No spend alternatives to our favorite summer activities

Photo by lonebluelady

We’re only in the second week of our no spend summer, and we’ve already hit some challenges and setbacks. Even though we know it’s worth it, limiting our spending has been really tough. It’s a challenge to keep ourselves from feeling deprived and losing motivation.

There are some things that I associate with summer that we’ve had to give up. Because we miss them, we’re thinking of no spend alternatives to the summer activities we love.

Movies and popcorn

What’s summer without blockbusters? Though we sometimes catch a matinee at the cheap theater for $5.50 a ticket, we still miss the fun of the big screen with a bucket of popcorn. Check your city’s events calendar and see if they’re offering free screenings of classic movies. Our city screens family movies in a park every Sunday night for free. If your city doesn’t offer anything like that, add a little extra fun to family movie night by popping homemade popcorn on the stovetop.

Going out for ice cream

Nothing says summer like a trip to the ice cream parlor. But gourmet ice cream parlors are way too pricey, and even Dairy Queen can add up. Instead, drive through any fast food restaurant with a $1 menu and pick up an ice cream cone or a sundae. I don’t usually recommend McDonald’s, but their hot fudge sundaes taste just like Dairy Queen, and they only cost $1.

Lunch on a restaurant patio

One of our favorite weekend activities when the weather is nice is dining outside on a restaurant patio. But part of our no spend summer plan is no restaurant meals, period. If you really want to sit outside and enjoy the weather, pack a lunch and a blanket and head to the park or the beach.

Summer concerts

Ever since I was a teenager, summer meant live concerts. But concert tickets can cost a lot of money. Again, check your city’s events calendar for free live music. Our city presents a band downtown every Friday night of the summer for free. The next best thing for us is listening to an album we haven’t heard in a long time all the way through, start to finish. With today’s iPod culture, a lot of people are missing out on the fun of listening to an entire album. We make it a point to put on music and really listen instead of putting it in the background. If there’s money in the entertainment budget, you can even download something you’ve never heard on iTunes for about $10.

Summer vacation

It really is true that you can get out of town, or at least out of the house, without spending a lot of money. Camping at a state park is a great, inexpensive way to get out of the house. If even camping is a stretch for your budget, look at your city through the eyes of a tourist with a stay-cation. Check out the art and history museums near you. See if there are any national historic sites within driving distance. Even if you have to take a day trip to the nearest metropolitan area, a tank of gas is well worth that vacation feeling without shelling out for hotels and restaurants.

Frugal date nights for around $10

Photo by justonlysteve

Now that we’re living on a cash only budget for all of our discretionary expenses, one of the areas we’re really cutting down is entertainment. We still want a little fun money, but we’re limiting our entertainment expenses to about $10 per week.

I’ve been brainstorming some things we can do for about $10 a week instead of going out to eat. It’s funny, but these are already some of our favorite date ideas. By cutting out the restaurant meal beforehand, we’re saving $25-$40 a night.

See a matinee.

I realize that in some places, you can’t even get two tickets to a matinee for $10 anymore. Some theaters offer special discounts on movies that have been out for a while or certain showtimes, though. Our theater offers a discount on the last matinee of the day, which brings the matinee price down from $7 to $5.50 per person, so we always go to that show. Find out if your theater offers any discounts, and plan your trips to the movies around their specials.

Pizza and a movie.

If you can’t go to the movies for $5 per person, then just stay in. Order pizza and pick up a movie at Redbox for a dollar. If you use a promo code, the movie is free. Pizza restaurants like Domino’s and Little Caesars are offering large pizzas for $5, making this a $5 date night instead of $10. If you’re like us and you prefer your homemade pizza to fast food, this date costs even less.

Take a drive.

We love to walk our dog around the neighborhood or our city’s downtown on nice nights. But if you’re tired of the same sights, consider taking a drive to a nearby city in the evening. Try to look at the things you may have seen a hundred times through new eyes, or just enjoy a good conversation. Some of our best ideas have come from long car rides.

Add a bottle of wine to a weekend meal.

Wine is one of our favorite ways to dress us a normal meal and make it feel special. There are a ton of good wines available at most grocery stores for under $10 a bottle. Adding it to your regular meal can make it feel like you’re on a date in a fancy restaurant instead of eating at home. Turn off the TV, set the table, and talk to each other like you would at a restaurant.

Coffee and dessert.

If you really want a treat or something to do after dinner, head out for a cup of decaf and some dessert. Sharing the dessert will cut costs and calories, but you’ll still get something sweet. I’ve always thought restaurants were fun, and this is a great way to dine out without spending a lot of money. Sometimes instead of going to a restaurant, we head to Barnes and Noble for a frou-frou Starbucks coffee drink and some book browsing.

What do you do for fun when money’s tight?

The List: Fun goals to accomplish before 2011

I’ve been in a bit of a funk lately. Just generally kind of blah. It’s taken me some time to figure out what could be causing it, especially since everything is going so well for us right now.

I’ve always had a tendency to be preoccupied with the future. Instead of enjoying what I have right now, I’m looking ahead to a new home, a baby, and everything else that’s coming up in the next stage of our lives.

Unfortunately, all this looking ahead is a good way to miss out on what’s good about right now. We have almost two years before we close this chapter in our lives and move on to the next. It’s two years of time together to experience new things and enjoy each other’s undivided attention. That’s a pretty good place to be.

Lately we’ve been talking about ways to make the most of this time. There are so many things we want to do and see before we settle down and start a family, but we’ve been so focused on lofty financial goals and day-to-day life that we’ve lost sight of those things.

We’re in a good place financially. We’re debt-free except for our student loans, and we’ll be paying off that debt for quite some time no matter how I crunch the numbers. That’s okay with me. We’re on track to complete our emergency fund in about a year, and we should have the money saved for our trip to Europe in a little under a year.

When we decided to plan our trip to Europe, it was partly because we realized this is the best time in our lives to do it. With no children and few financial obligations, we have more freedom now than we’ll have for quite some time after we have a baby and buy a house.

Acknowledging this freedom made us start to think about other things we’d like to do. We may not be able to accomplish them all, but focusing on the list will be a nice diversion for me in the coming year and a half while I count down to the next chapter of our lives.

Some of the things on The List won’t cost us a thing; others are quite expensive. We’re still committed to our other financial goals (living debt free, saving for retirement, and completing our emergency fund) and we don’t want this list to distract us too much from those goals. By setting priorities and being more frugal in other aspects of our lives, we should be able to focus a little money on travel and other things we’ve always wanted to do without detracting from our other goals.

I put up a rough draft of The List on a separate page where I can track what we’ve accomplished and add to it. We have about 20 months to do as much as we can before Tony graduates. These are fun things, so you won’t find any financial goals here.

The challenge is to accomplish them frugally without getting into debt or affecting our savings too much. We may discover that some of these things aren’t possible at this point in our lives. We’ll have to examine our priorities and plan ahead to make some of them happen. Whether we’re able to do it all or not, I’m really looking forward to trying and sharing our experiences with you as we cross things off.

What do you think we should do before we settle down? Take a look at The List, and let me know if you have any suggestions!

Entertaining guests for the weekend (again)

We’re expecting visitors again this weekend. Our friends from back home are staying with us Saturday and Sunday nights.

When it comes to entertaining visitors, I tend to have a pretty relaxed attitude. After all, they’re coming to see us, not for a nonstop agenda of activities. But it does help to have some fun activities planned to make sure that we all have a good time together.

Here are some budget activities I’ve come up with:

Give them a tour.

Now is the perfect time to view your city through the eyes of a tourist. Normally mundane things (like your city’s downtown area or landmarks) may be interesting to your guests. Check out museums and historic sites in your area. If you live in a small town, consider a day trip to the nearest metropolitan area.

Take the scenic route.

If you live in a small town, you probably live near some beautiful countryside. Take a mini-road trip through the country and stop for a picnic.

Have a dinner party.

Since your guests have traveled to see you, chances are they don’t live close enough to pop in for a traditional dinner party. Now is your chance to have one. Plan a special meal, break out your best dishes, and have a fancy dinner party.

Play a game.

When all else fails, board games are a good way to keep everyone entertained while continued to socialize. If you run out of ideas, maybe it’s time for Scrabble.

How do you entertain your visitors?