A tight budget doesn’t mean you have to sit home every night staring at the walls. You can have fun without busting your bank account. With just a little effort and investigation, you can find low-cost to no-cost fun for yourself and your family. Check out these ideas for saving money while still having fun:

Take advantage of free outings. Local parks, waterfronts, memorials and art galleries offer scenic spots to spend an afternoon — usually for free — and they provide prime people-watching opportunities.

Go out to lunch. Skip dinner at a restaurant and go for lunch instead, when food is generally cheaper. Splitting an entrée with your partner or a friend also can trim the bill.

Travel off-season. Spend less and avoid crowds by traveling off-season. Just make sure your destination isn’t offpeak because it’s monsoon season or 150 degrees in the shade.

Travel with a group or check out a tour. Vacationing with a group of friends or family members is fun and can get you discounts on things like hotel rooms or transportation. If you’re solo, tours are sometimes more affordable than piecing together everything yourself. Plus, you’ll have instant travel companions.

Pick kid-friendly hotels. Stick to hotels that don’t charge extra for your kids to stay in your room when you’re traveling as a family.

Pitch a tent. Camping is a great alternative to hotels to have fun in the outdoors and explore a new area. Make your campground reservations early, especially in the summer, so you don’t wind up camping in a not-so scenic parking lot.

Get deals through Information, Tickets and Travel. Find out how the program can get you discounts on everything from museums to theme parks.

Throw a pot-luck dinner party. Having friends over for dinner doesn’t mean you have to cook an expensive four-course meal. Go pot-luck style and have everyone bring a dish, but keep track of who’s bringing what so you don’t wind up with five macaroni salads. Shop for your own pot-luck ingredients at the commissary for major savings.

Use the library. You don’t need to run out to buy the latest bestseller or download for your tablet. Your local library will have lots of books to choose from, and many libraries now offer downloads, audio books and “speed reads” that let you borrow that new bestseller for a week. Military OneSource’s digital libraries are even more convenient, letting you access loads of free content without leaving home.

Join group-discount websites. These websites offer deep discounts on everything from flowers to concert tickets for a limited time, and will push the offers right to your inbox. But don’t let the huge discount lure you into buying something you don’t really want, no matter how good the deal is on that mime opera.

Shop online. Online shopping and auction sites can be a great way to save on new or used DVDs, board games, toys, sports equipment and more. Use only trusted websites, and watch out for online scams.

You don’t have to miss out, even if you’re on a tight budget. Just be a savvy shopper, and you can find fun at a discount. Go plan some entertainment today.•

– Military OneSource

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