Married to the Empire

Thursday, August 14, 2008

One Income 101: Hobbies and Entertainment

I think that people often assume that if you live on one income, your life is dull and lifeless without any money to do anything fun. The truth is, there are plenty of fun things to do that cost little. You just have to be willing to find them.

First, I have to stress that you need a budget. Really. I pull out a certain amount of cash each pay period, and that's what we have to spend on our entertainment. We each also get a certain amount for our personal spending money. Entertainment is generally a joint thing; hobbies generally come out of our personal spending money. Having a budget not only keeps you accountable, but it can also be a great motivator to find savings on everything.

Seeing movies can be expensive. Full-price evening tickets can cost a small fortune. For that reason alone, we rarely go to the movie theater. It has to be something we're really looking forward to in order to pay full price. Instead, we either go to a matinee, find a theater with less-expensive tickets, wait for it to come to the dollar theater, or wait for the DVD. We actually seem to enjoy the movie-going experience more because we don't do it frequently. Funny how that works.

When it comes to DVDs, I've discovered that the local library is a fantastic source. If you go to your library and never seem to find any of the new movies out, it could be because they're always checked out! Put the name of whatever movie you'd like to see into the search engine, and you might just discover that you can check it out for free! I rarely rent movies anymore because I get almost everything I want to watch at the library. The only drawback to this is that you might have to wait a few weeks after putting it on hold. The more popular the movie, the longer the wait.

Steven loves Star Wars, which I'm sure is evident simply from my blog header and title! He's a collector, and we used to make late-night runs to various Targets and Wal-Marts looking for the latest action figures. That was a lot of fun when we did that. Honestly, the fun was in the search, and we were spending time together doing something we both enjoyed. These days his searches are pretty much confined to Ebay, which is where he finds vintage figures.

Steven's stormtrooper stuff isn't cheap. He's poured a few thousand dollars into his costume, props, and upgrades. That sounds like a budget breaker, but he's found ways to fund his hobby that pulls very little from our family budget. First, when he wanted a stormtrooper costume, he wound up selling another costume he'd made on Ebay. He lucked out in that it sold for an obscene amount, which more than funded his new costume, along with some upgrades like the ROM-FX and some more movie-accurate details. Because he's so into screen accuracy, he figured out a way to make better buttons for his costume. Then he made a bunch more and sold them to other stormtroopers. That helped fund his ridiculously-expensive rubber guns that I didn't get excited about, but the other stormtroopers did. (I don't always get his hobby.)

Having a stormtrooper for a husband has allowed us all sorts of amazing opportunities. We've seen free movies, been to multiple celebrity events, attended all the good stuff that most people couldn't get into at Celebration III, gotten into museum exhibits for free, been on TV, and we even had a personal tour of Elstree Studios in London, which is where some of the original Star Wars trilogy was filmed.

My own hobbies involve reading, writing, singing, some crafting, and cooking. A good part of what I'm interested in can be taken care of through the library. I love to check out cookbooks to find new recipes, audio books, regular fiction books, informative books on new craft techniques, and even the occasional CD. Part of the fun is in the learning.

I've recently taken up sewing, and I've found it to be a fairly inexpensive hobby. Fabric can be found on sale, and most craft stores in my area have regular coupons that I can use on full-price items. I also use those coupons and watch sales for the supplies for my card-making and other craft ventures. The best part is that once I have what I need, I'm at home working on projects. When I was busily sewing dish towels a few weeks ago, I barely left home, which is always good for the budget.

We do enjoy eating out. We can't do it as often as we did when we both worked, but we're still able to enjoy it quite a bit. It helps to have coupons. (I'm big on coupons.) When I find coupons for our favorite restaurants, I put them in my purse. We also have an Entertainment Book, and a while back, we were spending Saturday afternoons trying new restaurants with buy-one-entree-get-one-free coupons. Lunch is always less expensive than dinner, so that never cost us much to do.

We have a Wii, which can be a lot of fun. Games can be expensive, though. If we're unsure about a new game, we rent it first. When buying, we search out best deals through Ebay,, etc. Sometimes buying used is the way to go. We also trade games with friends.

Speaking of friends, one of the best ways to have a fun evening is simply to invite people over for dinner. We're fortunate to have a great group of friends we hang out with regularly. We do potlucks at times, and other times, the host house provides all the food. We might watch a movie together, have Wii tournaments, play other games, or just sit around and gab. Keeping up friendships doesn't have to cost a thing.

Find inexpensive fun around your house. For example, we have a park a mere two blocks from home, and it has a disc golf course. A few dollars spent on various discs, and we have entertainment and exercise all rolled into one. It's free to use the course, and it's fun to go together or with other people. Steven has recently taken to having the boys in the youth group over on Wednesday nights to play disc golf together. It's a great way for them to bond.

One drawback to the one-income lifestyle is that we don't travel as often as we would like. We do not take an annual vacation. We have been very fortunate, though, in that the trips we have taken have been inexpensive. Some of that has been through whom we know. My parents sometimes give us their timeshare in Vail, CO, friends had a great deal on a condo at Disney World, my parents gave us the airfare and hotel in London as a gift. When we haven't had fabulous opportunites dropped into our laps, we've simply searched out the best deals online.

We do splurge on occasion. When my favorite musical, Cats, came to town, I bought tickets. We once dropped an obnoxious amount of money on tickets to see Sting in concert. There's nothing saying we can't do these things; it's just a matter of making room in the budget for them.

There is plenty of fun to be had; creativity is the key to finding it inexpensively.

Next up: Gifts


Sue said...

This is a great series! I think it's great that you can stay home. I'm trying not to envy you! :-)

Ewokgirl said...

Thank you, Sue!

Vader's Mom said...

I would love to have the time to do some of your hobbies!! They are all things I'd love to learn one day :) Cooking, especially. (I think Jeff might appreciate that one too)