Marvelous Movies on a Budget

by Shaunna Privratsky


Nothing beats a great movie that the whole family can enjoy together, except paying less for it. The entertainment costs are rising. A typical trip to the movies for our family of four used to cost $30 to $40.

I've discovered some ways to save. Take the horror out of your next movie-going experience by using some or all of these techniques. First of all, call for prices. There is often a cheaper rate for matinee shows, or discounts for children or seniors. Going at 4pm instead of 8pm could save more than half, even on brand new movie titles.

Patience is rewarded. Waiting three to five weeks for a movie to get to the discount theatre drops an $8.50 ticket down to $1.50 for every seat. Even with popcorn, our family gets in for under $10.

Pack your own drinks and snacks if allowed. Most theatres tend to look the other way and you save a bundle on treats. An eight-ounce bag of M&Ms is about $1 at the grocery store, while a tiny four-ounce bag costs a whopping $2.79 at the concession stand!

The fountain drinks are another expensive item. The smallest size is "medium" and goes for $1.99, all the way up to "mega" which deprives you of $3.89. Now don't you feel better about taking a second to throw in a few water or pop bottles? Here's one caution. Don't bring glass containers, as they can slip and break on the floor, causing potential accidents.

Beware of special "kiddie packs" or upgrade deals. They are overpriced and you only get about half the quantity than if you bought everything individually. For $6.95, my kids each got two handfuls of popcorn, four ounces of watered down pop, and the tiniest box of petrified Mike-Ikes candy that I've ever seen.

Maybe your family doesn't feel like going out. Enjoy a movie in the comfort of you home with a VCR or a DVD player. Check out your local stores for the best rental prices. They can vary $2 to $3 for the same new release titles.

Our favorite store recently lowered their price from $1.87 a night to $1.67. They also run discount coupons in the paper and have daily in-store specials like rent one romance tape and get an action tape free. The savings add up, making it more economical than ever to rent movies.

Viewing at home means you can watch whenever you choose and pause as many times as you like. Snack break, anyone? To help me remember to return the tapes on time, I take the receipt and write the return day on it and stick it to the fridge.

A feature most video stores offer is divine discounts on previously viewed movies. We purchased one for Alex for only $2.50 and it came with a thirty-day quality guarantee. You don't even get a guarantee at most stores on brand-new videos and DVDs.

Another option is taping movies from television. When there is a great movie on, but you have other obligations or the timing just isn't right, tape it! Most VCRs have advanced programming, or just hit "Record" and let the machine do the work. My kids enjoy taking turns fast-forwarding through the commercials. An added bonus is that movies are edited for television so you don't have to worry about bad language or excessive violence. The next time you notice a family favorite, pop a tape in and record it so your family can watch it some rainy afternoon.

Movies make excellent gifts for young and old alike. You can find a variety of new and classic titles to suit anyone's taste. Movies are like a magic pass into another world, another time or another life.

So pop some popcorn and snuggle in for a night of frugal family fun at the movies. Whether you choose to go out or stay home, you can enjoy marvelous movies on a budget.


Shaunna Privratsky is an expert in personal finance. Between writing, reading and gardening, she is always on the lookout for bargains. Please sign up for the free newsletters at The Discount Diva. You can also visit Shaunna on Google+.

Take the Next Step:

  • Taking in a movie doesn't have to be a costly affair. Consider some of the above ideas for a little frugal family fun.
  • For other frugal family fun ideas, visit www.stretcher.com/menu/topic-d.htm#familyactivities. There's a little something for everyone!

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