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Coupon Abbreviations
  • SC = Store Coupon
  • MC = Manufacturer Coupon
  • SS = Smart Source
  • RP = Red Plum
  • PG = Proctor and Gamble
Coupon Terms
  • WYB = When You Buy
  • B1G1 = Buy One Get One Free
  • .75/1 = 75 cents off one item
  • .75/3 = 75 cents off three items
  • EXP = Expiration Date

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free entertainment

Entertainment is one of those things that can quickly eat up your budget if you aren’t careful. With three small kids in the house, we are always looking for inexpensive ways to have fun, but still save money.

We made a choice a long time ago to give up cable and any other unnecessary expenses in an effort to live frugally. Over the years, I’ve come across lots of creative ideas, so I thought it would be fun to share my favorites. I’d also love to hear any out-of-the-box ways you save on family fun!

TV, Movies & Internet

Use free codes for Blockbuster Express and Redbox Movie Rentals
There are frequently free movie codes available for the movie kiosks, so take advantage of these offers for a fun free movie night!

Consider a streaming device such as Roku or Apple TV
We cancelled cable long ago. Rather than paying large monthly bill, we invested in a Roku and we can stream lots of content for free.  You could also opt for a Netflix or Hulu subscription, both of which are much less than cable, but still have lots of up to date shows.  (We are currently enjoying all the episodes of Warehouse 13 for free and didn’t have to get cable to see it!)

Add an HD Antenna
Concerned about not getting local channels or the news?  A simple HD antenna can normally pick up 3-15 local stations. For less than the cost of one month of cable, you can get free stations forever!

Call your cable/internet provider for a promotional rate.
We can do just fine without cable, but not internet… Did you know you can often get your bill reduced just by calling the cable company every 6-12 months and requesting a promotional rate?  Try chat help if you feel uncomfortable asking for a discount on the phone. You may shave up to 30% off your bill.

One caution:  They may try to sign you up for a contract to get a special rate which I always politely decline in favor of a contract-free promotion. That way I have the option to change my mind if circumstances change.

Host a Family Board Game Night

Pop some free (after coupons) popcorn and gather around your favorite board games.  We often see huge promotions and coupons for board games around holidays, so grab a few at a discount and enjoy some quality time together.  Our favorite board games are Chutes & Ladders, Scrabble and Monopoly!

Free Museum and Park Days

Many museums and national parks have free days on a regular basis. Check out their schedules and plan for a fun day out.

Free Activities around Town

Several retailers including Michael’s Crafts, Lego Store, Lowe’s, Home Depot and Disney Store offer free family events weekly or monthly.  Check their event calendars and RSVP for any that interest you.  It’s  a great way to spend a few hours on a Saturday and encourage creativity with the kids! (There are several free events happening this weekend for Valentine’s Day).

    • Skwilliams

      We just got rid of cable! We bought a discount subscription to XBox Live and have started up Netflix and Hulu. Even factoring in those costs, we’re saving probably $50-$60 a month. Oh, we also cancelled our landline. That makes me a bit uncomfortable because that means our alarm isn’t monitored. If any of your readers have suggestions on how to have alarm monitoring without a landline, I’d love to hear them!

    • Katie

      Definitely check out the Mohu Leaf antenna if you are considering doing antenna! We get wonderful reception in our apartment and save so much by not having cable. There is no need to move it around to get a good signal for different channels. We are so happy that we finally decided to go to antenna.

      • erins_deals

        I was researching that one today on Amazon. If you don’t mind me asking where do you live? I’m afraid being at the bottom of a hill and surrounded by old growth trees we might be out-of-luck for an indoor antenna.

        • Margaret V

          Amazon has a great return policy. I’m sure there’d be no problem returning it if it doesn’t work.

          • erins_deals

            That is very true. It might be worth a shot. I know one 3yr old who will miss her Martha speaks in the morning when we cut off cable :)

            • Vallarinoelle19

              Martha Speaks is on PBS a free channel with the antennae. Also, you can watch clips on the PBS website which I highly recommend for prek if u have the time to guide her thro the site a bit. It is so easy. My girl started at 3.

            • guest

              yep, Martha speaks is on PBS :-)

            • shelleyschu

              We have 3 free PBS channels on our antenna tv — one that plays kids PBS shows 24/7.  Martha Speaks, Curious George and other good quality kids programming. The other PBS feeds are for the national PBS and also a science/history-type PBS feed. 

      • Guest

        Thanks for mentioning the Mohu Leaf. It looks like it gets great reviews. I’ve been looking for an antenna. I think I’ll give it a try. There is a discount code for $5 off, KTCB0001, if anyone else is thinking about ordering one. Makes it $29.99 from Amazon.

        • Patty

           My hubby made an antenna out of PVC, PVC connectors, chicken wire and some metal pieces he found in a shop.  Spray painted it black and added cabling for connecting and there you go.  All for around $15-$20 and from mostly found objects in his shop.  The great thing is, it is super lightweight and can be popped on an old broom stick to stand it up in the ground when outdoors or tail gaiting.  Again, we like to sit on our porch after cooking out and watch TV outside when we can.  Easy to pull up and move or put away for the winter.  Cheap and easy!  Look up the Gray Hoverman antenna.  We get crystal clear 1080p reception that doesn’t blip out with bad weather like our statellite dish does…which we are about to cancel very soon.  Between the antenna and Roku boxes, we won’t be needing it.

    • Katie

      Definitely check out the Mohu Leaf antenna if you are considering doing antenna! We get wonderful reception in our apartment and save so much by not having cable. There is no need to move it around to get a good signal for different channels. We are so happy that we finally decided to go to antenna.

    • Lona

      We just purchased a Roku unit and the free Netflix trial. Was using the Wi-Fi from my phone to power it, but I want to find another source of internet that’s stronger and cheaper without having to purchase a cable package. Basically just looking for a decent price internet so we can stream movies and shows without paying too much. Any suggestions? Live in N. Charleston/Goose Creek, SC area.

      • lisa

        with a roku what kind of channels would we get we have internet and does it hook to the tv

        • Patty

          Check out the “Roku Channel Database” for a listing of developer added channels. 

      • Patty

         Check out AT&T U-verse High Speed Internet (up to 24mbps).  You should be able to call them or put in your zip code and see if you can get it.  Speeds are faster than the regular AT&T Fast DSL which is at 6mbps and there are differing speeds at lesser costs so you can pick what will be adequate for streaming, etc.  We are only using the AT&T Fast DSL in Greenville, SC and it is fine for our four Roku boxes and our PC and tablets. 

    • Ewags

      Jenny, I know it doesn’t sound like entertainment, but we love to head out on a sunny day to pick up the litter along a section of our roadway.  Gloves and vests are often available from Keep America Beautiful Chapters or state litter control agencies.  It’s great exercise and we have contests to see who finds the yuckiest trash.  We have a separate bag for aluminum and make a few dollars for the kiddoes too!  The kids learn not to litter and everyone feels pride at the accomplishment of a clean road.  Be sure to have an adult for each youngster, but all of them will enjoy the outing.  

    • Guest

      Also, if you have a little extra time, look into secret shopping!!!  Find a company that does shops for a restaurant or store you like, and it will greatly minimize your entertainment costs as well as pay you a little for doing it!  My husband and I are going out to dinner at a very expensive restaurant for Valentine’s Day, and it will all be paid for (plus a little extra) because we will be secret shopping it!  It usually takes about 30 minutes to input the shopping results, but it’s worth it to us.  We have saved SOO much money.  Our entertainment spending is down to about $20 a month, and we even go out more!

      • guest

        I have found though that most of the restaurants offered are fast food!

      • Army Wife

        I am really interested in doing this.  Can you send me the information to where you got started?  abc79teach@gmail.com…Thanks

      • Jlovebzyscoupons

        I am interested too, please send me any info you have.  Thank you so much!!  jlovebzyscoupons@gmail.com

    • Yollies

      Our local library is a good free source of entertainment.  They have craft/story sessions on weekdays and weekends.  They also have special events during school holidays which my children always enjoy.

    • Kelly

      I’m thinking about canceling my Netflix since we get quite a few streaming options from our Amazon Prime account, which isn’t free, but included.  We also get a LOT of movies for free from our public library.

    • erins_deals

      This is a crazy timely post. We just decided to swear off cable yesterday and signed up for DSL today. It’s crazy the kind of money they demand to make your children into TV zombies! Thanks for the post as usual Jenny. See ya in the stores :)

    • Lisa Prieto

      We spend a lot of time gardening. I try to keep our investment down by sticking with seeds. We also belong to a u-pick farm and also go picking whatever is in season. Not only is a great learning experience but also good exercise and gets the kids to try new foods!

    • Sally

      Gave up cable almost two years ago.  I have the Roku.  It’s great!  Also have Apple TV.  If your only going to buy one, the Roku is probably the best choice.  They say you can do your iTunes library through the Roku but I’ve never been able to get that to work.  Since I have the Apple TV it doesn’t really matter.  I also have a digital antennae for local channels.  I haven’t missed cable for one minute.  I just read they’ve increased the cable rates again.  So I’m doubting I’ll ever go back

      • Jennifer Gray

        So with Roku do you have to have a subscription to something like a Netflix, apple tv, or hulu plus? I haven’t ever heard of it.

    • ShoeBoxSherri

      We have Sky Angel~not free, but less expensive than cable and definitely more family friendly.

    • Abby Zeigler

      Adding onto the board games, my parents recently got into doing puzzles.  My mom gets cheap puzzles at thrift stores (they’re usually a dollar or two), and then passes them onto my grandparents (or other friends) for them to enjoy.  Depending on the difficulty of the puzzle, it could be something that some kids would enjoy as well.

    • JLRCarmanone

      I used to live in Jersey by the beach and at that time was a broke single mom. My most creative outing that was FREE was when a motorcycle/dune buggy trick show was coming to a beach community near us. Tickets were $5 a person in the arena. Even that was to much. So I took my son on Friday when they were PRACTICING for the show on Saturday. He saw all the same jumps and races, spins and what ever cool stuff boys like. He did not get to hear the fancy announcer and some things were stop and start but he got to see all he wanted and it was FREE to me. So that might be an option for some people… see if they will let you visit the practice esp. if it is an outdoor event anyway! 

    • Leah

      In the summer most towns near us have outdoor movie nights. They are free and you bring your own seats. Also I take my boys to a Hot Air Balloon race that starts not far from here in the spring. Also free. I would suggest checking out the Chamber of Commerce page for towns in your area for free or cheap entertainment.

    • Christy

      Regal Cinemas offers free “kids” movies on certain mornings during the summer. Also the $1 movie theater is an option. Public parks are usually free, we visit those often.

    • Amy Kelly

      Jenny,
      What happened to all the codes for Blockbuster?  Its been months since we have seen any…….is there anything we can do to receive them again?

      • beme2004

        She just had a bunch up last week. Not sure if theyrestill good or not.

      • Blockbuster just sent out an email notice that they are selling all their Kiosks and the deal will be closed in October. Not sure if that is part of it.

        • paddiewhack

           Coinstar’s Redbox just bought them out.  Which fits with the Verizon Redbox streaming move.

    • Waymire-family-01

      Check your local library. Ours has dvds and video games to check out… free. You may have to reserve them and wait a bit….. but it’s totally free. Many also have digital media to download for free.

    • A_k_bowers

      We made this exact change today! No more cable, Netflix and Hulu Plus here we come!!!

    • Maricruzsi

      I have broadband internet Time Warner for over 6 yrs. now.  Being here from the McAllen, TX area & I tried by phone & chat in obtaining a promotional rate.  They advised me that it was only for NEW CUSTOMERS asked them if they can offer me a discount on my internet service due to me being a loyal customer. Unfortunately they were unable to grant me ANY type of discount.

    • MQ

      Do I need to have a wireless internet connection to use the Roku unit?

      • Esyke623

        You can plug the ethernet right into it from your modem, but wireless is easier. 

    • Diane

      Well, call us crazy…but, our family gave up TV a little over a year ago.  We were paying $80/month for Direct TV and felt like we weren’t getting $80/month’s worth of quality TV!  Most of the stuff on TV we didn’t want our kids watching or seeing the commercials inbetween…even our teenagers.   We still rent movies though. Our family adjusted pretty quickly…within a few weeks, I’d say.   We do family game nights, cook together, and go on free outings like the park together. And, our kids interact with each other and us more!    It was SO WORTH it!  Most things, including the news can be seen on the internet now anyway…if it’s a must see.   TRY IT!  :)

      • Occupy

        A great choice. we gave up cable 14 years ago when our kids were in elementary school, now they are grown and still don’t have (or want) cable. They get most of their news from the internet and videos from netflix

    • Esyke623

      We have had the roku for about 2 years now.  You can use it with a wired connection, or with wireless.  I think, personally, that wireless is easier.  If you have a PS3 already, that will work the same as the roku to stream content for free.  I believe there is a fee to stream to XBox.  You pay a one-time fee for roku, and then no monthly fee for it, which is nice.  We like to use Netflix ($16 monthly fee for our package that includes mailed DVDs—but if you do just streaming it’s around $9 a month), and Pandora.  I like to stream Pandora from the TV while I’m working around the house, and it’s totally free!

    • Esyke623

      We use our roku for both netflix and pandora.  It’s great to be able to stream music you like from your TV while you’re working around the house.  And roku is a one-time purchase, with no mothly fee, which is great.  We have had roku for about 2 years now.

      • Esyke623

        Also– the ps3 can stream the exact same content for free, if you have one (we use it with a wireless connection).

    • Awesome tips!  I have been wanting to share tips like this for a while.  I am linking this post to my blog. 

    • lisa

      we are ging to purchace a roku today we have dish net going to cancle 89 a month do you get a lot of channels with a roku

      • Patty

         Lisa, it looks a big foreign on first view but there is a listing of Roku channels on the web.  Understand, developers are adding content all the time so new channels can pop up at any time.  Notably, my hubby and I found a 1080p only channel and the code is, well, guess….1080p.

    • Rrshaffer

      We live in a rural area and have satellite internet with a limited amount of download time.  Will Roku, Pandora and Netflix use up my satellite allowance.  Is this an option for people with limited access??

    • Sosorozo

      Honestly, TV will rot your minds. I don’t understand when parents let their kids watch sitcoms where ALL the kids are so sassy and smart-mouth to the adults and then parents wonder why their kids are mouthing off. Plus, the kids on sitcom dress like little fashionistas and our kids want more and more.  We have Netflix streaming and we as a family only watch documentaries. We also have Family Board Game night where popcorn and candy will flow as long as the board games last. 

      • Jessica P

        I’m amazed at what parents allow their children to watch. I saw someone posting pictures on facebook of their child dressing up as Barney Stinson from “How I Met Your Mother.” How would the child know who Barney Stinson was if they didn’t watch the show?! There is NO WAY in the world I would let my child watch that show!

    • Chaule03

      question about Roku? in order for me to watch Nexflix, Amazon Video etc….do I have to sign up an account with them and pay something every month? or is it something I can watch for free if i have Roku?

      • Patty

         There are a few free channels that you can get from the Channel Store on the Roku device.  But, yes, you do have to have a Netflix subscription that you pay for and Hulu Plus is all that is available which is a pay service.  On the upside, I did see a Roku at Costco that offered a two or three month trial for Hulu Plus.  And, unfortunately, Hulu basic that we get for free over our PC is not available through the Roku box.  We have four of these boxes and we love them.  Makes it real easy to move a TV outside on pretty days in the South so we can relax on our porch in the sun.

        • Buff

          Can you please list what the free channels available through the Roku device are?

          Thanks!

          • Patty

             Go to roku-channels.com.  It is a ongoing spreadsheet where developers are coming up with new channels as they create them.

          • Patty

             Buff, search Roku Channel Database and you will find a spreadsheet of all developer channels.  It will also provide you with info on what is free and what is not.  Initial comment is awaiting moderator as I listed the URL.  You set up a PIN on the Roku so that you maintain channel option under your account online along with the serial numbers of Roku boxes you activate.  Obviously, if you don’t want some content on all boxes, then you would need to keep that in mind when you set up your account with Roku.

        • Buff

          Can you please list what the free channels available through the Roku device are?

          Thanks!

      • for roku theres no additional charge monthly charge. now for netflix you still have to pay $8 a month (to netflix) for that but still a good deal.
        there are also other variations of a roku type item (they are called htpc (home theater pc)).  look at the boxee box.
        i personally own a boxee and have owned it since august (before that i used their desktop software).  i went for boxee over roku for the remote (much better, full keyboard).  i would buy boxee again. never have had a problem.  boxee desktop software user for 4 years, and boxee box for 6 months
        as for attennas do your research.  i use a Antennas Direct DB2 ($30-$40). i get minimum 23 channels in 3 houses ive tried it in and it was sitting on ground in all.

    • Leah

      We gave up cable television as well.  My husband built a computer that acts as a digital video recorder and we have an antenna to pick up a bunch of over-the-air channels.  So, we can record shows as they air and watch them later in the evening when our little one has gone to sleep.  We also stream through Amazon (we have the Prime membership, best $79 spent EVER!), listen to internet radio stations, and rent movies from RedBox.  We don’t miss cable one bit! 

      Other inexpensive family activities:  We try to watch for all the free and inexpensive festivals, parades, events, etc. in our area.  We go to library storytime.  We go to the park.  We have Sea World passes (it’s about 35 mins. from us).  We take walks around our neighborhood.  We go to the u-pick farms and pick fresh fruits and vegetables.  The local botanical gardens have a free entry day every month and we go there sometimes.  I’m part of a moms’ group and they come up with all kinds of fun activities for our families to do together.  When our son is older, we hope to go to all the crafty things that others have mentioned, too!

    • jen r

      thank you jenny, for this post!  our satellite bill has been bothering me for quite a while…the ‘introductory rate’ was ok…but of course that rate has gone up tremendously through our contract..thankfully it is up this month and so thanks to your post and some extra reading online, we purchased a roku 2 xd 1080 p, a magnavox digital to analog converter (old tv and i want to wait for it to die before we upgrade to digital :) ), and a mohu leaf antenna (thanks to someone else’s suggestion here)…all on amazon although the roku site has the same deal on their product….
      so this is all going to cost us 2 months worth of satellite service…what a great savings we will enjoy over the next months..no….years!!! thank you so much for this post!
      now…to set it all up :) have informed my hubby he is busy next weekend figuring it all out!
      thanks again for saving our family an extraordinary amount of money through your site…

    • Great post! I have been a Netflix subscriber for 6 years and stayed with them even through all their mess-ups last year. However, I would suggest other carriers. Their update to the Wii system has made it harder to look for movies, and they do not let you browse their entire library. You pretty much have to know what you’re looking for, and while they used to offer suggestions if the movie you wanted wasn’t for streaming (they would give you 5 suggestions), they don’t even do that anymore. Movies have also been “disappearing.” They had all the James Bond movies up, but before I could watch 3 of them, they ALL have disappeared!

      Having said all that, if you want to watch TV shows, I’m pretty happy with the selection. Again, you still have to know what you’re looking for, but they have some very popular titles.

      I’ll look into switching when we buy a Blu-Ray player, but for now, Netflix is our only option.

    • Jessica P

      Just last month we got rid of our cable television. We also shopped around for our internet provider and found a much cheaper one. I thought I would really miss having cable but I can watch most of my TV shows online through sites like hulu.com. Shutting off cable was such an easy way to save $70 a month!!

    • paddiewhack

      Thanks, Jenny, for putting all of this out here.  Just to add a little something to think about, my husband and I found out about TuneIn through our Roko box.  Well, I checked to see if I could access this through our PC and found it worked, then went on to my smartphone and found there is an app for that.  Long story short, with an unlimited data plan on my phone through my Bluetooth option on my car, I am streaming internet radio through my car.  Don’t need Sirius XM at all.  Get newscasts, and equally as good listening options through my phone.  And none of the auto-renew junk to deal with, which was my biggest beef with them!

    • Proudlyamom

      We are thinking about doing this as well.  There’s nothing but junk on tv and we want our family to learn to be together and WANT to be together…even when they are older.  We just tried an indoor antenna that didn’t work great. We may have to try an outdoor one for better reception but I’d love to get rid of that cable bill!