Cut the cost of entertainment
You can't have failed to notice the rising cost of food, fuel and utility bills, but you might have missed the fact that entertainment is also increasing in price.
According to the Office for National Statistics, culture currently costs. In July, there was a fall in recreation and culture inflation, but this was mainly from cheaper games, toys and hobbies. In fact, these falls were offset by a large increase in the cost of "cultural services" such as live events.
Rail fares, meals in restaurants, football match tickets, cinema tickets and even the price of popcorn are all heading upwards – suggesting that our weekends are starting to suffer from the credit crunch.
However, there are plenty of ways to make your hard-earned cash go further.
A night at the cinema is the most social way to see the latest releases, but it’s a pricey outing. A family trip for four to a central London cinema this weekend would set you back a whopping £47, but there are some simple ways you can cut the cost.
If Orange provides you with your mobile phone or your broadband, you can take advantage of the ‘Orange Wednesday’ two-for-one film offer. Simply text the word ‘film’ to 241 from your Orange mobile phone to get a text message ticket, or if you are an Orange broadband customer, sign up online and print off yours.
Taking the kids to the flicks at certain times can see you make significant savings too. Vue’s Kids AM club costs just £1.50 a child, with free admission for one adult, while Odeon Kids Club works in much the same way but costs £2.50 a child. For the over 50s, some cinemas will offer a ‘silver screen’ club during the day with cut-price admission and free refreshments.
You can also see films before they are released by signing up for free at seefilmfirst.com. You’ll be sent an email around a week before a special preview screening comes to a cinema near you – just enter the code you are sent on the website and you can print off up to two tickets to take down to the cinema. However, there are only limited places available in each area, so you’ll need to be quick!
If you fancy a night in front of the box, postal DVD services are a cheap and easy way to view nearly-new releases. For a regular monthly subscription, you’ll be posted DVDs of films you have chosen. Once you’ve watched them you simply post them back – without the fear of a fine. Lovefilm is arguably the best-known postal DVD service, with around 65,000 titles to choose from. Packages start from just £9.99 a month for unlimited rentals.
If you fancy a day trip to the capital, or perhaps you plan on visiting friends and family or just breathing in the sea air, National Express often runs offers on its coach and rail network, as does Virgin.
However, if you’re planning a trip well in advance, make sure you sign up to TheTrainline.com’s ticket alert. Once you input the journey or trips you intend to make, the site will email you as soon as cheap tickets become available.
Art and culture
The great thing about many of London’s top museums and galleries is they are free to enter. The Science Museum, Natural History Museum, Imperial War Museum, the National Gallery, Tate and Tate Modern are just a handful of museums explore that won’t cost you a penny (unless you want to see a special exhibition of course).
Kultureflash.net is a great site for up and coming cultural happenings across the capital, while Chrisbeetles.com contains a list of exhibitions of paintings, photography and cartoons up and down the country. The website dailycandy.com has lots of suggestions of cheap things to see and do too – and even better, if you register on the site you’ll get a regular email including sales, discounts, promotions, and special offers.
Music and theatre
If seeing a live show is more your cup of tea, you’ll be aware of just how expensive it is. Two evening tickets for a West End show can set you back over £100 – but there are ways seeing the stars without breaking the bank.
Londontheatreboxoffice.net offers a wide selection of discounted theatre tickets, often on the day of the show, Intimetickets.com specialises in tickets and meal deal packages, while lastminute.com offers half price theatre tickets and ‘tickets for a tenner’.
It’s also worth remembering that weekend matinees will often be cheaper than evening performances, and many local theatres will offer memberships too. By becoming a member you can take advantage of discounted tickets and drinks, two-for-one offers and make priority bookings around a month or two before a show opens up to the general public.
However, if you fancy seeing the stars up close and personal, the City of Westminster Council’s website includes details of all up and coming premieres at London’s Leicester Square. And remember, audiences are always required for television shows and are a great way to enjoy a fun night out without spending a penny. To get tickets for top shows, visit applausestore.com, bbc.co.uk/tickets or lostintv.com.
If you know your Clapton from your Coldplay, there’s sure to be a live gig near you. The search facility at Ents24.com allows you to search for live music near you, while the online marketplace Gumtree lets users post details of local gigs, but also exhibitions, drama productions and stand up comedy.
And don’t forget that if you want to see your favourite band, you can pick up tickets on the cheap by booking through lastminute.com a day or two before a concert. Just turn up with the card you booked with and collect the tickets at the venue.
Many free events are held up and down the country too - the National Trust claims that you are no more than 40 minutes away from a great day out. You can find details on everything from picturesque walks, shows and fairs, exhibitions and festivals, many of which are free to enter.
English Heritage has plenty of details on days out and events near you, including a search facility of over 400 properties and heritage sites. If you’re north of the border, VisitScotland is the place to find outdoor activities such as rafting, karting, mountain biking and wildlife watching.
As the credit crunch rumbles on, we’re all having to be more careful with our cash. However, with a bit of forward planning it’s more than possible to enjoy yourself on a budget – and you can be sure your bank account will thank you for it too.
An increase in the general level of prices that persists over a period of time. The inflation rate is a measure of the average change over a period, usually 12 months. If inflation is up 4%, this means the price of products and services is 4% higher than a year earlier, requiring we spend and extra 4% to buy the same things we bought 12 months ago and that any savings and investments must generate 4% (after any taxes) to keep pace with inflation. Since 2003, the Bank of England has used the consumer prices index (CPI) as its official measure of inflation (see also retail prices index).