Recreational costs are discretionary. If your job disappeared tomorrow, they would be among the first line items to hit the chopping block. But even in good times, it makes sense to save. According to the 2011 CES, the average household spends $2,572 on this line item, so saving 20 percent frees up about $500. Consider these strategies.
9.1 Use the Products Buying Checklist
Whenever you buy equipment for recreation or entertainment, follow Appendix 1. Rent, flip, trade, borrow, or buy secondhand.
9.2 Apply Guidelines for Low Rent Rec
You don’t have to spend big to have big fun. Whenever you pay for leisure, follow these frugal principles.
□ 9.2.1 Analyze Your Hourly Cost
When a three hour river rafting trip costs $90, you recreate at a rate of $30 per hour. When a six hour mountain hike costs $6 in gas, your rate plummets to $1 per hour. If you enjoy rafting 30 times more than hiking, then river trips provide a solid value. But if you enjoy both activities about the same, hike more and raft less.
□ 9.2.2 Recreate Locally
The fewer miles you travel to your entertainment, the less you incur in car depreciation and gasoline (see Chapters 38-39).
□ 9.2.3 Disfavor Access Fees
If the activity requires a user fee, avoid paying it (legally, of course) or switch to other activities that don’t involve such charges.
□ 9.2.4 Minimize Equipment
Less stuff means less spending.
□ 9.2.5 Limit Injuries
Mishaps interfere with employment, increase medical costs, and limit your fun. If you frequently pay doctors to put you back together, try something more sedate.
□ 9.2.6 Pick Activities With Tangible Benefits
Hike to improve your cardiovascular system, read to expand your mind, and volunteer to feed your soul.
9.3 Consider Lower Cost Alternatives
Audition cheaper recreation. You may find you actually prefer it for reasons other than savings. If you ski downhill, for instance, try cross-country skiing. Some advantages: no lift lines, fewer out-of-control skiers, closer parking, better aerobic exercise, and lower risks of injury. Best of all, day passes at Nordic centers cost $16 instead of the $95 that downhill areas charge. Check each activity below on which you’re willing to experiment.
□ Sports Events
□ Live Theater
$$$: Tour Company
$: High School
FREE!: Job as usher
□ Water Sports
$: Kayak, canoe
$$$: Wine tasting
$$: Beer festival
$: Chili cook-off
$: Convert LPs and tapes
$: Poker night
$$$: Lake cabin
$$: Motor home
FREE!: Bocce ball
□ Kids in Water
$$$: Water park
$$: Public pool
$: Local beach
□ Theme Parks
$$$: Six Flags
$$: State fair
$: County fair
9.4 Seek Discounts
□ 9.4.1 Recreate Off-Peak
Avoid peak prices by avoiding peak crowds. Ski and golf on weekdays. Attend matinees.
□ 9.4.2 Seek Group Discounts
Join local clubs for your favorite activities and gain access to bargains galore. AAA and AARP members also enjoy many price breaks.
□ 9.4.3 Clip Coupons
Buy local entertainment coupon books. Search the internet for deals.
□ 9.4.4 Go to College
Local universities sponsor lectures, films, and recitals at rates that even students can afford.
□ 9.4.5 Buy Recreation Gift Cards
Your warehouse club sells them for 20 percent below face value.
□ 9.4.6 Buy in Bulk
Many venues discount volume purchases.
9.5 Choose Between PAYG and Flat Rates
The marketplace often presents you with a choice to either: (1) pay a flat rate charge; or (2) pay based upon your actual usage, also known as “pay as you go” (PAYG). When the decidedly unfrugal face this decision, they choose with little forethought. Frugal fringers, on the other hand, weigh the pros and cons carefully (obsessively, even). Follow this cheat sheet to find the best values.
□ 9.5.1 For Heavy Use, Pay the Flat Rate
If you’re an avid concertgoer or sports fan, buy season tickets instead of tickets to individual events.
□ 9.5.2 For Light Use, Pick PAYG
PAYG is the best choice if you partake on rare occasions only.
□ 9.5.3 For Medium Use, Cut Back and Select PAYG
If your participation falls in a gray area between heavy and light use, it presents you with a valuable savings opportunity. Obviously, this activity isn’t a major passion. Otherwise, you’d do it more often. So cut back a little. Some examples:
- Golf Club Memberships. Replace them with this blend: (1) practice greens and chipping areas (FREE); (2) driving ranges (cheap); (3) disc golf (FREE); (4) hikes with backpacks instead of golf bags (FREE); and (5) PAYG golf at quality courses with low greens fees (cheap).
- Annual Ski Passes. Get your outdoor winter fix from several sources: (1) backcountry skiing (FREE); (2) cross-country ski centers (cheap); (3) outdoor rinks (cheap); (4) pond hockey (FREE); (5) snowshoeing (FREE); and (6) PAYG downhill with discounted day passes (cheap).
- Season Tickets to Pro Sports. If you plow mega dollars into the local franchise, hire substitutes instead: (1) watch the sport at lower levels (minor leagues, development leagues, colleges); (2) support less popular sports (professional lacrosse, soccer, arena football); (3) follow your team on TV or radio; (4) play the game yourself; and (5) buy bleacher seats to single games.
- 6 Consider Recreation/Entertainment for Profit
Pick activities that cut household expenses or produce extra income.
□ 9.6.1 Trade Collectibles
Buy low and sell high: antiques, baseball cards, stamps, vinyl records, stamps, coins, first editions, and prints.
□ 9.6.2 Investigate Investments
Learn to invest and save on brokers and financial advisors.
□ 9.6.3 Become a Guide
If you love to kayak, fish, or hunt, turn your avocation into a part-time vocation.
□ 9.6.4 Grow a Garden
Shrink your waistline along with your food bill.
□ 9.6.5 Give Lessons
Offer your expertise to local health clubs (yoga, aerobics, spinning) or community colleges (business law, musical instruments).
□ 9.6.6 Tinker for Pay
If you like motors, pursue a sideline in small engine repair.
□ 9.6.7 Get Crafty
Sell your works at artisan co-op stores or Etsy.com.
□ 9.6.8 Picture Yourself Making a Profit
If you enjoy photography, line up gigs at weddings and other events. Sell nature photographs online or at gift shops.
□ 9.6.9 Make Beautiful Music
If you’re a performer, moonlight at clubs and coffeehouses.
□ 9.6.10 Trade Work for Play
Greens fees add up, so serve as a course marshal for minimum wages plus FREE rounds. The same approach works for museums (guide), musicals (usher), bowling alleys (lane attendant), ball parks (beer vendor), and ski areas (patrol member).
□ 9.6.11 Spend Less Now!
Frugality delivers great deals on products, services, and monthly bills. That’s enough to brighten anyone’s day. And when it’s all said and done, isn’t that exactly what you want from a hobby?