On Your Own: The Entertainment Bug - Short on Cash but Crave the Flash

by Kayla Solomon

After graduating from a small East Texas college in the mid-1990s, I moved to New York City to pursue a life in the fine arts. Like most struggling newcomers, I had to re-budget not only my wallet, but also my way of thinking. However, I refused to give up my more-than-trivial pursuits just to pay the killer Manhattan rents. After all, all work and no play makes for a claustrophobic and depressed city dweller. So, I thought I would share my tips to survive those lean post-college months and show you a few ways to be entertained on the cheap:

  1. Bookstores and libraries. In big cities and small towns alike, bookstores are following the leads of libraries and cafes by providing chairs and tables to thrifty readers browsing their books. Many larger chains, like Borders and Barnes and Noble, have formed Theme-Reading clubs; you can get the chosen book either at a discount or by stopping at your local library. This is also an easy way to meet people with similar interests. If you don't find any clubs to your own liking, it's easy to set up a book reading group in your own home, restaurant, library, or community center.
  2. Art galleries and museums. New York obviously has no shortage of small galleries and gigantic museums, but did you know that most cities and towns (including New York) host openings that are free to the public?

    You don't have to be one of the rich, famous, and black-bereted to venture into any of these venues. In fact, if you get there in the first few hours, there are usually plenty of champagne bottles, house wines, and creative snacks to go around. Check with your town's independent or alternative papers to find out more about artists and new shows presented and you'll begin to catch on to the gallery calendars.

  3. The theatre and cinema. Whether professional or amateur, there is usually a volunteer ushering program at your nearest theatre or auditorium. This is a great way to see concerts, plays, and dance performances for very simple work and no cost to your pocket. As far as movies go, cities across the country are creating low-cost cinemas. If you can go to cheaper matinees, definitely take advantage. And don't forget your student or senior ID for the extra bonus discounts.
  4. Sports. You don't have to be a member of the YMCA or the Dallas Cowboys to enjoy being a part of the game! As a spectator or athlete, you can jump in to action by visiting your neighborhood and city parks, and starting or joining a league. Individual sports are even easier: swimming in a hidden lake, tai-chi and yoga in your backyard or on your rooftop, racquetball against the side of your house or apartment, or biking down a dirt path are all ways to not only beat stress and health problems, but also to smash out boredom, fatigue, and an empty pocketbook.

I hope some of these ideas help you in your quest to stay busy outside of your work. Remember, as hard as you work to budget your money, work just as hard to budget your time to play. You'll be happier, you'll live healthier, and your wallets will remain fuller. Here's to being on your own!

Kayla Solomon is a transported Texan who lives in Brooklyn, NY. She is a freelance writer and theater director and has become an economic consultant for many other artists. You can reach her at krs9d@rocketmail.com.

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