Should We Cut Out Entertainment During Difficult Financial Times?

“When I get a little money I buy books, and if any is left I buy food and clothes,” Desiderius Erasmus has been quoted as saying. If he read like I do (more for fun than for education), he was budgeting for entertainment before necessities. He certainly would not be alone. Today, many people continue to buy DVDs and concert tickets even when they’re trying to cut down on spending.

Kim and Jason’s Escape Adulthood blog recently commented on our apparent need for entertainment, saying that “even in a period as tough as the Great Depression, people will spend their last nickel on FUN.” They cite P.T. Barnum getting people to pay for circus admission; other sources have used the cinema as an example. (Movie houses weren’t empty in the 1930s; on the contrary, they became more popular.)

Based on the salaries we pay big-name actors, athletes, and musicians, it’s obvious that our culture places a high value on entertainment, but is it really a necessity on par with food and clothing? Some would say yes. Historically, people who worked hard for their sustenance and had little time for frivolities (miners, farmers, shepherds/cowboys, etc.) were still known to enjoy community dances, group singing, and storytellers. They might not have spent much money on entertainment, but they made it a priority. Perhaps we do have an inherent need for some fun now and then.

In fact, entertainment sometimes becomes more important when money is tight and stress is high. It could be escapism – when life gets tough, it’s much easier to go to the movies and imagine a fairytale ending than to stay home and address problems that seem overwhelming. It could also be fatalism – people believe (often erroneously) that they can do nothing to improve their financial condition, so they might as well go out and have some fun before the money runs out: Why not go to Disneyland today if I’m going to declare bankruptcy tomorrow?

For whatever reasons we crave entertainment, leaving some room in a budget for a little fun isn’t a bad idea. Making a budget too tight can easily lead to frustration, and many abandon their plans to take care of their finances when they start thinking they can’t ever enjoy themselves. When your income is needed more for other things, however, you can find less expensive alternatives to your favorite forms of entertainment. Check out books from the library (and enjoy the free programs they offer!) instead of going to the bookstore. Watch movies on TV or rent them instead of going to the theater. Attend sporting events and performances at the local high school instead of paying for their professional counterparts. You can also find new, inexpensive ways to entertain yourself – start looking for ideas.

So, Erasmus, it’s okay to budget for entertainment. Skip a meal or two if you have to. But don’t spend it all on fun – save some for other necessities.

This entry was posted in Budgeting, Entertainment, Personal Finance, Saving Money and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Should We Cut Out Entertainment During Difficult Financial Times?

  1. Lisa says:

    Our local semipro baseball team has tickets for $5 each. Thats about the same thing they charge to see a HS sports game. After the game every Tuesday and some Saturdays(home games) they have fireworks. The night we went they were trying to get into the Guiness World book of records for more people siting on a whoopie cushion at the same time, so they gave out whoopie cushions. And they had a Black Hawk Army helicopter land in the field during intermission. Alot of people bring a picnic or tailgate dinner to save on food. If you avoid buying anything inside, I think its a pretty cheap date.

  2. SaveForHouse says:

    I agree with this article. During difficult and stressful times, a little entertainment is well deserved and necessary. We all deserve to get enjoyment out of life! In my quest to save money, I have found some ways to still have a ton of fun at the movies (I really enjoy the movies) while also cutting back expenses:
    1. Bring Your Own Food To The Movies –> I still go to the movies, and am tempted to get food there, but forbid myself from doing so. The prices are way too high.
    2. Go To The Matinee –> Going to the movies during the day instead of the evening can save you a few bucks.
    3. Get Rid Of Cable –> Cable television is a liability (it is a recurring expense that takes money out of your pocket each month). Why not divide the savings in half and use half to go to the movies? I like this strategy because you reduce your liabilities, save time (it’s easy to spend a ton of time watching cable), and get out of the house more by going to the movies more frequently with your savings.

  3. Pingback: Monroe on a Budget » Saving Advice: Cutting out entertainment expenses?

  4. Valerie Taylor says:

    A good book that includes some entertainment spending while working on big personal financial issues

    All Your Worth: The Ultimate Lifetime Money Plan (Paperback)
    by Elizabeth Warren, Amelia Warren Tyagi

    Practical suggestions and planning guidelines that are useful to everyone.

  5. Mare says:

    I agree, everyone needs some kind of outlet. So when they are cutting back instead of going to the movies, rent instead. Or get books from the library instead of Borders. All year round their are tons of things going on for “cheap” entertainment. In summer you have the festivals, carnivals, park activates….In the colder months there are fall festivals and around the holidays there are Winter Wonderlands, Santa workshops, etc. Tons of ideas are in the local paper under community events, great way to have fun while trying to survive financial hard times.

  6. Cindy M says:

    Planning ahead a bit makes a big difference. You truly never have to spend a lot of money to entertain yourself or others, just have a plan, see what’s out there for free in your own neighborhood or town if you think you just have to leave your house. I think folks were happier and more appreciative in times before there was so much passive entertainment; they had to be inventive because there wasn’t much to “watch” unless they concocted a program. I personally wish I’d lived say 150-200 years ago. These days, good luck with trying to get a handful of people in your extended family to sit down for an actual meal together, ha-ha.

  7. Pingback: squawkfox » Festival of Frugality: Bare Necessities Edition

  8. Valentino Buoro says:

    The submissions in this piece are true to life.Back here in Nigeria, Multinationals and other blue chip companies have continued to spend huge sums of money – sometimes scandalous – to sponsor big time musical groups for concerts. Though some shamelessly say its part of their corporate social responsibility, I think it’s silly to so claim. I agree its some fun. I agree some persons benefit monetarily from it. But there are better and more impactful ways to give back to society. All said the article is true to life.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *