How to keep entertained on a budget

Andy Webb 30 June 2022

Tightening your belt to beat the cost of living doesn't have to mean cutting out all entertainment. Use these tricks to get cheap theatre tickets, TV and more

Decide what you’ll see on the day

If you’re flexible about which shows you see, and are willing to miss out on the most in-demand productions, then a great way to save at the theatre is to go for reduced “stand by” tickets.

These are generally made available on the day. Quantities can vary from a handful that have been deliberately held back, through to all available tickets.

"A great way to save at the theatre is to go for reduced 'stand by' tickets"

Though these might not be the best seats in the house, you might get a VIP ticket for a fraction of the price. I recently picked up a top level seat at the Old Vic that was listed at £125 for only £15.

Some theatres will sell these tickets directly from their box office or website, but many in the West End will use an app called TodayTix instead.

Be a seat filler

Back of person's head sitting in theatre audienceWebsites like Central Tickets show you cheaper spare seats for comedy, music and sport events

A similar way to save on plays, but also comedy shows, gigs and occasionally sporting events, is to be a “seat filler”.

Websites such as ShowFilmFirst and Central Tickets give away tickets for only a small admin fee.

The idea is that you’ll fill out the crowd if they’re a bit thin so there’s more of an atmosphere for paying audience members, or perhaps spread the word of mouth if you enjoyed it. However, the big rule is you don’t tell anyone where you got your ticket or how much you paid.

Borrow your books and more

It’s easy to forget that libraries exist! But for the budget conscious reader they will be essential. You can order books that aren’t held locally for a small fee, and get on waitlists for the most popular titles.

You’ll also be able to get free access to online magazines, newspapers and even family history resources at many libraries. Check your local library to see what extras are on offer.

Become a member

Waddesdon Manor house and gardens, BuckinghamshireMemberships like the National Trust let you take advantage of dozens of gardens and stately homes around the UK

Memberships can be a huge waste of money—if you don’t use them. But signing up for unlimited entry for a year with the likes of English Heritage, National Trust, Royal Horticultural Society or a local attraction can also be fantastic value for money. Just be sure you’ll get the most out of it.

Go midweek

It’s often the case for events that they’re cheaper Monday to Wednesday than at the weekend, and that’s especially true for cinema tickets.

Not only might they be priced lower, but you can get two for one tickets via Meerkat Movies so you pay even less.

"It’s often the case for events that they’re cheaper Monday to Wednesday than at the weekend"

To get this you need to take out an insurance policy via Compare the Market, but a trick where you buy a one-day UK travel insurance policy (you don’t need to use it) means this will cost you just £1 for a whole year.

Ditch satellite and cable TV

It might be a surprise that the majority of channels watched by those with Sky and Virgin are ones they could be watching for nothing via Freeview or Freesat. So if you’re out of contract and can do without the premium channels you’ll save hundreds of pounds each year.

For the ones you still want to watch, consider NOW, Sky’s sister streaming service. You’ll need decent broadband but you’ll have the power to pay only for the months you actually want to watch.

Mix and match streaming services

Sticking with streaming, it’s common for households to have additional services like Netflix, Disney+ and Amazon Prime Video.

"It’s near impossible to get full value out of more than one streaming service each month"

There are some fantastic programmes and films available, but it’s near impossible to get full value out of more than one each month. So focus your viewing on one at a time.

Make the most of what you already have

If you’ve amassed a collection of CDs, DVDs, and books over the years, now is a great time to revisit these. Challenge yourself to only buy new ones once you’ve worked your way through them. 

Read more: 7 Ways to budget for the best summer yet

Read more: Simple ways to start saving money

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