Entertainment is a large category in many people’s budgets. We all want to have fun, after all, with what limited downtime we have after work and chores are completed. The problem is that, “entertainment” money is easy to waste on things that have little lasting value. Now, by lasting value I don’t mean that something appreciates over time, or something that you will always love and never want to replace or get rid of. By lasting value, I mean something that you really want, will enjoy, or that will give you great memories. Maybe you won’t love it forever, but you’ll at least enjoy it for a time.
How many times have you gone to see the latest movie only to come out asking yourself, “Why did I waste money on that garbage?” How many times have you bought something that you thought would be fun only to have it turn out to be a complete dud that languishes in a closet? And how many times have you bought/done something on impulse or out of boredom that you thought would be entertaining and the fun lasted for ten minutes before you started wondering what you were thinking? When something that was supposed to be entertaining turns out to be anything but, that money is essentially wasted.
Even things you might not think of as a waste of entertainment money can be sucking you dry without your realizing it. Maybe you pay for cable TV but rarely watch it or don’t enjoy it when you do. Maybe you pay for a DVD rental service but the discs sit on your entertainment center, unwatched, for weeks. Magazines that sit unread or hobby supplies that go unused are wastes of money. You not only have to buy things that you really want and enjoy, you have to use them. You may have had great intentions when you signed up for that subscription or bought those supplies, but only by using them are you using your money wisely.
So how do you make certain that your entertainment money is used wisely? Here are three tactics.
Know what you’re getting
Before you purchase any entertainment item, be it a book, a movie admission, a toy, or a magazine subscription, try to find out as much as possible about what you’re buying. Read the reviews, watch some trailers if it’s a movie, try a sample if you can (such as reading a few issues of a magazine in the library), or try the item at a friend’s house or in a class. If, after learning as much as you can, you’re satisfied that you’ll really love this item, then maybe it will be worth the money.
Buy things that pack a lot of entertainment into one price
Some entertainment items are very quick experiences. That doesn’t make them bad, just that there might not be much bang for the buck. If you’re a film buff, you’ll probably find nothing better than a two-hour movie and you’ll consider that to be well worth your money even though it only lasted two hours. However, there are options that provide more value for the money (value, of course, being completely subjective). For example, a game that can be played multiple times and costs $20 might be worth more to you than a movie in a theater that you can only see once. Maybe you’d feel better about buying the DVD so you can watch it multiple times and enjoy the bonus features. Maybe you’d feel even better about buying the book and reading that over a week instead of watching the movie. They key is to find out what gives you (personally) the most value for your dollars and then purchase accordingly.
Re-evaluate your entertainment periodically
Whatever you’re spending your money on, take some time occasionally to think about whether you’re still getting your money’s worth. Do you still enjoy the movies, or has the talking and texting in the theater ruined the experience for you? Do you still read your magazines or watch those DVD’s you’re subscribing to? Do you enjoy your cable TV or are you spending more time doing other things? If you find you’re not enjoying something very much anymore, quit spending money on it and start spending it on something that you really enjoy.
Don’t let your entertainment spending fall into a rut of wasted money. Don’t go to the movies just because you always go on Friday night unless you really enjoy that experience and there’s something you really want to see. Don’t buy or do something just because everyone else is unless it’s something that you know you’ll enjoy. Entertainment eats up a big chunk of a budget. Don’t let it be spent on things that aren’t fun or entertaining. Figure out the things that give you the most enjoyment per dollar spent and go for those.
(Photo courtesy of gibsonsgolfer)