Have fun without blowing your tuition money

Cheap Student Entertainment

by Sarah Deveau

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Having fun doesn't necessarily have to mean spending your rent money. You can have a great time on $50 a month, and you can have a great time on $500 a month. Finding time for entertainment should be the hardest thing about having fun, not finding money for it. There are hundreds of ways to relax, enjoy yourself, and have fun, all without blowing your tuition money.

As students, it's easy to find yourself spending every Saturday night doing the same circuit, visiting the same restaurant, movie theater and bar, and having the same wallet draining experience. But today's reality of rising tuition and skyrocketing living costs mean you've got to plan every dollar, and each one counts. With the tips I've provided below, not only will you save those dollars, but hopefully, you'll also have more fun than you thought possible on your last $5 until payday, and you may find a few new experiences you'll add to your entertainment repertoire forever.

Even if something's free, there is usually plenty of opportunity to spend your money while enjoying a free event. Because it's all about having fun and not spending money, try these tips to avoid pulling out your wallet.

  • Eat before you go and bring water and snacks. Don't leave the house hungry or you'll spend mucha moola on a fast food fiasco.
  • Leave your wallet at home. If you only take a few bucks bus fare, you won't have to worry about temptation getting the best of you.
  • Take poor friends! If your friends are financially strapped too, they won't pressure you to spend more than you should.
  • Keep your eye on the goal. You don't want to pay for the rest of your adult life because you partied too much while in school.

Have Fun for Less!

  • Want a behind the scenes look at your favorite product or media outlet? Take a free tour of your city newspaper or chocolate bar factory. Just call them up and ask for the next tour time.
  • Volunteer. You'll get to do something fun, get the warm fuzzies and pad your resume all at once. You can volunteer for local events, concerts, or charities, and your local free weekly paper will have listings of agencies looking for volunteers.
  • Spend your Saturday at the flea market. Snack on free samples while touring relics from your parent's era. Pick up an old My Little Pony or My Buddy doll for nostalgia's sake and offer that as a Christmas gift to a friend who will appreciate it.
  • Check your local bookstore for free readings by local or touring authors.
  • How long has it been since you've had homemade cookies? Spend a day baking proper cookies, or a pre-packaged cake mix, and invite friends over to share the calories.
  • Student loan calculator iconCalculator: Are you taking on too much student loan debt?

  • Free weekly newspapers offer listings of inexpensive or free events going on in your city.
  • Chances are one of your friends is a movie freak. Share your book collection in return for access to your friend's DVD collection, and you both get to enjoy something new, for free!
  • Get some school pride. Most sports events held by your school are free for students to attend.
  • Get a cheap kite and spend the day at a park. See if you can get the thing off the ground now that you're a grown-up!
  • Pick up an astronomy book from the library and head out of the city to enjoy stargazing. Bring a midnight picnic and a friend.
  • Dust off your bicycle and go for a day trip.
  • Survey Junkie
  • Call the guys over for an impromptu street hockey game.
  • Coupons are a lifesaver! You'll find coupons for most every attraction in your city, as well as deals on restaurants, services, and even grocery stores. Keep ones you may use on the fly in your wallet for quick access.
  • Join a fan club or become a street team promoter. Some bands do free shows just for their fan club members. Check out your favorite band's website to see if they offer something similar. They may offer free show tickets if you help promote the show in your area by putting up posters, giving out flyers, etc.
  • Try and win tickets to see hot bands through radio contests.
  • Spend an afternoon with the girls giving each other manicures, trying out new hair styles, and gabbing.
  • Attend a country flea market or auction for the experience and fresh produce.
  • Right on campus, you'll find loads of inexpensive entertainment ideas. Pick up your student newspaper for listings of plays, recitals, art shows, sports games, special lectures, or readings.
  • Visit an art gallery opening. Enjoy an artist talk, free food, and absorb a little culture while you're at it.
  • Join a campus club for discounts on events or retailers selling related products, and you'll meet new people with similar interests. Being a club member looks good on scholarship and job applications too.

Reviewed February 2018

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Sarah Deveau is a graduate of the University of Calgary. During her five years in university, and her husband's seven years, they incurred a combined debt of just $6,000. She is the author of Sink or Swim: Get Your Degree Without Drowning in Debt. Available at bookstores everywhere.

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