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If you’re hesitant to start a budget because you think it means you can’t have any fun, think again. A budget is simply a tool to help you decide how to spend and save your hard-earned money. And that includes budgeting for fun stuff, such as dining out, going to the movies and seeing live concerts and shows. Here are five things you should include when planning your entertainment budget, along with ideas for how to make the most of those funds.   Couple at the movies sharing popcorn as part of their entertainment budget

Dining Out (or Ordering In)

Preparing your own food at home is one of the best ways to save money, but everyone deserves to take a break now and then. Planning in your entertainment budget for having a special meal out—or ordering takeout from your favorite place—can help you stay on track because you’ll know you have a special treat coming up. Use gift cards, coupons or choose to dine on a day when the restaurant is having a special to stretch your funds.

Going to the Movies

The average cost of a movie ticket in the US has climbed to almost $9 and it’s much higher in large cities. When you add in the cost of drinks and snacks, a movie night for two could approach $50 and trying to take the whole family could easily reach $100. When budgeting for the movies, plan on going to matinee shows, sneaking in your own snacks and choosing your movies wisely. You don’t want to waste your money on bomb, after all.

Attending Live Concerts & Shows

Whether you want to see your favorite artist live or attend a road show of Hamilton or another Broadway hit, budgeting for live entertainment takes some planning. Even the “cheap seats” aren’t so cheap when you factor in service fees and venue parking. Fortunately, you usually have enough notice that you can plan ahead and save money over time to buy tickets to big events. And don’t forget to keep an eye on Groupon or Living Social. If you’re willing to wait, you can often find discounts or 2-for-1 deals for certain shows.

Going to a Game

Much like attending a concert or a show, buying tickets to a professional sporting event will take some advance planning. Review your favorite team’s schedule when it’s first released, choose the game you’d most like to attend, and start saving. Sign up for the team’s mailing list to be alerted of any package specials (game/parking/concessions) or last-minute deals for undersold games. It might not be your first choice, but it can save you a lot of money. And if you just like the excitement of live sports, check out local college basketball or baseball games. Tickets are usually really affordable and it can be a fun activity for the whole family.

Don’t Forget the Little Things

A few dollars here or there might not seem like a big deal, but they can really add up. If you regularly buy lottery tickets, play games on your phone, or purchase music, movies or TV shows, account for those in your entertainment budget. These small expenses won’t make or break your finances. But putting a cap on that spending can be helpful when you’re tempted to buy ‘just one more’ set of extra lives in Candy Crush.

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