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How to Get Cheaper Entertainment Without a Cable Subscription

By Sally Aquire

DVDsFollowing my post about getting music downloads for less, I’ve been thinking about how to cut entertainment costs in general. If you’ve had to tighten your belt recently, luxuries like a cable subscription were probably one of the first things to be dropped. Entertainment costs can quickly become excessive, but you don’t need to spend lots of money to have a good time. Here are some ways that you can get cheaper entertainment without having to sign up for cable again.


As well as being able to read books for free, your local library may also allow you to check out DVDs for free or for a small fee. The library has become a hidden treasure of sorts but don’t forget about it! The movies probably won’t be the latest bestsellers and blockbusters, but you can still access some fairly recent offerings amongst the older titles. As a bonus, you can also widen your horizons and watch some of the great classics which are surely to be there.

DVD Rentals

Going to the movie theater isn’t conducive to keeping the budget on track, but renting movies from a video store can leave you open to late fees if it’s not convenient to return them on time. Fortunately, there is another option. Netflix makes it easy to rent movies in the comfort of your own home, with the movies landing on your doorstep and no late fees heaped on top. Prices start at $9 per month for unlimited rentals. If you’re only looking for certain movies that you couldn’t afford to see at the movie theater, there is also a free trial that you can take advantage of and then cancel.

Movie Tickets

  • Time it right: Matinee performances can be much cheaper, so book to see films in the afternoon rather than waiting for the evening showings, which are almost always the most expensive option. Depending on the movie theater, there may also be a specific day on which tickets are cheaper. These discounts are often kept under wraps, but if you call the movie theater on various weekdays and inquire about the price of afternoon showings for that day, you might be surprised at how much you can save by going on the right day. Weekend evenings will always be the more expensive time to go.
  • Preview Tickets: Typing a phrase such as “free movie tickets” into Google will bring up sites that offer preview tickets for new releases. To be one of the lucky few who get their hands on such a ticket, you’ll have to either check the site on a regular basis or sign up to a newsletter to be informed when new tickets are made available.

Cheaper Concert Tickets

  • Single Seats: If you don’t mind being separated from friends or family during the concert, it can be much cheaper to look for single seats (rather than seats that are grouped together). As the date of the concert draws closer, the price of single seats can be discounted quite a bit as the venue looks to get rid of them. It can be a great way to save money, and you may even get a better seat than if you’d booked group seating.
  • Radio Station Competitions: If you regularly listen to the radio, you’ll often find that stations will give away concert tickets in competitions and these will frequently be for popular artists. To win, you’ll obviously need to enter the competition, but if luck is on your side, you can get your hands on some great tickets.
  • Book Online: Buying concert tickets online can work out cheaper than buying them directly from the venue, but you need to know where to look for the best deals. Some of the places that I like to browse are CheapTickets, FanSnap,Ticket Loot, and eBay and I also came across Stub Hub, while researching for this post.

Being on a budget doesn’t automatically mean not having any fun in your life, but it does mean being more clever with your money and limiting your trips to concerts and the movie theater. Create a specific entertainment budgeting category so you can put money aside for special entertainment events on a monthly basis.

(photo credit: Little Silver)

Sally Aquire
Sally is a UK-based freelance writer. As well as personal finance, she also writes on health & beauty and lifestyle topics. When she's not writing, she enjoys reading, shopping, hanging out with friends and generally making the most of her downtime!

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  • gina

    During the summertime our local movie theatre offers a free family movie 1 day a week! We usually try to take advantage of it, and try not to overdo it at the concession stand!

    • Sally Aquire

      That’s a great deal! I wonder if that’s the case for any of our other readers?

  • http://personalfinancejourney.com Lakita (PFJourney)

    I recently wrote about how I’m saving over $70/mo since I cut my cable. I find plenty to do to occupy my time…and when I need a “tv fix” I can usually find something to watch on Hulu.

    • Sally Aquire

      I’ve just read your post and found it fascinating. I’d never heard of Hulu before but it seems like a good alternative if you decide to cut your cable.

    • Winston C

      I absolutely love Hulu. It is one of the sites that I visit daily. But from what I have heard, Hulu will start charging fees next year. Hope that is just a rumor or else a lot of people will suffer! And right now, I am a bit sad that they are pulling The Daily Show and The Colbert Report off of Hulu. They are two of my favorite shows!

  • http://earngivesave.com Andrew @ Earn Give Save

    Good call on the library! Ours is less than a mile away, and we don’t always remember to make use of it. Great post!

    • Sally Aquire

      I’ve been overlooking my local library for a while too but writing this post has inspired me to go down and see what I can find!

  • Emily D.

    I second the public library idea. Our area has an amazing DVD and CD collection (and books of course). They have most of the new releases and a lot of independent titles. You may have to be on the wait list for a while, but you will eventually get to the top.

  • Chris

    There are plenty of resources to get TV – over the air antenna (free), and other online sites for streaming shows and movies. Check out this recent article on lifehacker: http://lifehacker.com/5475091/how-can-i-ditch-cable-and-watch-my-tv-shows-and-movies-online

    • Karmella

      Thanks for pointing to that article – I was trying to remember where I had seen it and it’s been bugging me for two days! Thanks~

  • http://madsaver.com Mac

    Cable is overrated these days as many shows can be had (legally) over the internet as well. And when you throw in a DVR, you won’t have to miss any over-the-air show available. Add a bit of Netflix, and you’ve got more tv than anyone can handle!

    • Sally Aquire

      Good point!

  • Emily D.

    I recently hooked a computer up to my TV and antennae (requires TV tuner for your computer). There are free programs you can use to record over the air broadcasts (such as Windows Media Center) just like a DVR. A lot of cable shows stream episodes over the internet, and since your computer is already connected, you can stream straight to your TV. A lot of other shows can be purchased per episode online or just wait for the DVD and borrow from you public library. Broadcast is in HD which means great picture quality, no cable fees, and no DVR subscription fees.

    • Karmella

      I’m thinking of doing this – could you let me know which tuner you decided on, and if you’re happy with the choice? Thanks!

      • Sasha

        Me too please!

    • http://toxic-shock.blogspot.com Atom Shock

      You have what’s called a home theater computer or HTPC. I have the exact same setup as you. I’ve had it for over a year and half now. I save a ton not having cable.

    • Sasha

      I really like this… Going to try it, I’m sick and tired of paying hundreds for repeats.

  • Monica

    When my boyfriend and I first got an apartment together, we decided not to spend money on cable or internet (we both get internet at work and school). We got the 2 at a time Netflix so when we finish one and send it back, we still have another and when we finish that another has already come in. I love not having the hassle of finding parking/good seats/seats not next to someone on their phone/etc. at the movie theater!

    Also, I take surveys online at MySurvey.com and use my points to get “Dinner and a Movie” certificates so we can enjoy a free movie and a cheap dinner! They’re great when we actually do want to go out, but have a tight budget.

    • Sally Aquire

      Love the MySurvey.com idea!

  • http://www.insweb.com/home-insurance/home-insurance.html Robert

    Love the Netflix idea. If you have a laptop, you can hook it up to the television and steam as many movies as you like! It’ll be like your own personal movie channel.

    • http://madsaver.com Mac

      Yep, or if you have one of the many boxes or tv’s the support Netflix, you won’t even need a laptop. We simply turn on our PS3 to stream movies via Netflix. Heard the Wii will support this soon as well.

      • Sally Aquire

        I had no idea you could do that with the PS3 (or the Wii)!

      • Karmella

        TiVO Series 4 will as well (finally)

  • http://onairfree.tv Dr. TV

    Speaking U.S. but most likely true for Europe too…
    I too think Cable is a rip. You pay to watch commercials and lots of them. You have limited recording ability, no ability to save movies or share them with friends later and you cannot play a movie you purchased on your iPad.

    Cheap entertainment is an interesting concept as most people do not realize what they pay for an hours of movie or TV entertainment. Cheap suggests that there are more expensive versions, brands or delivery methods.
    The most expensive form of entertainment is the Broadway Theaters. Here is the remaining list in descending order of cost=>Movie Theaters => On Demand cable TV movie rentals=> Internet Company Download or Instant TV purchases=> iTunes or Amazon Instant Movie Rentals and the lowest cost per hour of entertainment are DVD TV episodes purchased used and resold after you watch.

    I use NetFlix but only the Online low cost subscription for $6.

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