Why Having an Entertainment Budget is Important in College

by Jalen

While living the “broke college student” life might be all too familiar, it doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice all the fun. It just takes a bit of savvy and resourcefulness. Entertainment and fun is essential for our well-being and mental health. However, the challenge is doing this without draining our already tight resources. All work and no play can make you a burnt-out student. But luckily there are a lot of low cost solutions to finding entertainment for yourself, some you may already know. This post is gonna give you a multitude of ideas for entertaining yourself and enriching your college experience without spending a ton of money.

Why You Should Maintain an Entertainment Budget

Stress relief and mental well-being

College, and even more so for life post-grad, can be and for the most part is, very stressful. Worrying about midterms every 2-3 weeks is daunting in itself, and considering all the other life responsibilities and stressors we can often face, being able to unwind and relax every once in a while is extremely important for your mental health. This is why finding a good source of entertainment for yourself, that doesn’t break the bank, is essential. A movie night with friends, a concert, or simply diving into a good book, can be a sanctuary from the rigor of academic life. It gives the mind a momentary pause, allowing it to reset and recharge. 

Being able to take a break from your responsibilities is key for establishing a healthy work-life balance. It’s easy to get consumed by the hustle of assignments, exams, and projects, but remember: A balanced life isn’t one that’s all work. Giving yourself a chance to let loose and have fun every now and again ensures that you’re not just surviving your college years but truly living and enjoying them. While it’s good to prioritize your studies instead of wanting to just party day in and day out, that’s not all that it should be either. 

Financial responsibility

Budgeting for entertainment can be like planning your meals. You need food to sustain your body in the same way that you need leisure to rejuvenate your mind. However, just as overindulgence in food can harm your health, overspending on entertainment can harm your financial wellness. 

When setting aside money in your budget for entertainment, always make sure that your essentials like rent, food, and tuition are covered first and foremost. Luckily, lots of different forms of entertainment are extremely low cost or even free, which we will get into right now.

Budget-Friendly Entertainment Options

Exploring fun and low-cost activities

There are most likely a few local events around your area that can provide you with tons of affordable fun. Many cities host free concerts in the park, art exhibitions, and neighborhood festivals. Outdoor farmers’ markets often have live performances and local delicacies, which can be both an entertaining and budget-friendly weekend outing. 

Parks are another excellent resource. You could go have a picnic with friends or your special someone, ask to join a game of frisbee, participate in a free outdoor yoga session, or see if a movie night is being planned. If there are any nature trails near your campus, you could also go for a nice walk! This could be a great way to decompress after a stressful day.  

Community centers and libraries often have bulletin boards announcing free workshops, classes, or group activities. From book clubs to dance classes, your local community resources likely have a bunch of under-utilized amenities and events for cost-effective entertainment.

Many entertainment options like movie theaters, museums, and even certain restaurants, offer discounts to students. Some cultural hubs, like art galleries or historical sites, might even have specific days where entry is free or heavily discounted for students. So don’t forget to use that student ID! 

Group activities and sharing expenses

One of the best parts about college is the friends you make along the way. If you’d like to have fun on a budget, group activities with a cohort of friends can be a great way to have fun without spending too much. You and your friends could all pitch in money for a fun kickback or mini-party, which allows everyone to have a blast without burning a hole in their pockets.

If you and your friends are planning to meet at a particular location, try to carpool if possible. You’d be saving money by sharing the cost of gas amongst each other, it would be less of a hassle for parking, and you’re helping limit the amount of CO2 being put into the atmosphere. If carpooling isn’t an option, try to find group discounts on public transportation or ride-sharing apps. 

If you’re more of the traveling type, try planning a weekend getaway with your friends and share an Airbnb. Renting a larger space for several people often comes out cheaper per person than booking individual rooms. Staying up late at night chatting and sharing breakfast the next day is one of the most charming parts of group trips.

Speaking of sharing a meal, another fun idea you could do with friends that won’t break the bank would be a potluck! Everyone can bring their own specialty meals and try each other’s cooking. This is a great way to be able to eat a bunch of different foods without spending too much.

Having shared experiences with your friends is great for building memories. When planned correctly, you can have a ton of fun that wouldn’t be blowing a hole in your wallet.

DIY Entertainment and Hobbies

Exploring your creative side

If you haven’t tried embracing your creative side yet, getting creative hobbies can be a good way to practice self-expression, skill-building, and even entrepreneurship if you’re particularly talented.

Consider stuff like making jewelry, scrapbooking, or assembling photo collages. These would not only offer a break from your typical schedule, but could even make good gifts for your loved ones. With just a few basic supplies; either fabric, clay, dollar store items or stuff you can upcycle, there’s a whole bunch of creative outlets with these tools that you can explore. 

Painting is another avenue that allows for broad creative expression. While professional art supplies can be costly, many budget-friendly alternatives yield equally stunning results. Acrylics, for example, are versatile and relatively inexpensive. An old bed sheet can be converted into a canvas, and voilà – you have yourself a makeshift art studio.

These types of hobbies in today’s digital age are very accessible to get into with the vast reservoir of online resources out there. YouTube or any skill-sharing websites are brimming with tutorials for almost any hobby you can imagine. These platforms offer step-by-step guidance, allowing you to hone your skills or pick up entirely new ones without enrolling in expensive classes. Creative hobbies are not only cost-effective, they allow one to learn new skills, and make the most of one’s leisure time in a fulfilling way.

Streaming services and digital content

A frugal college student may mean counting every penny, but who says you can’t enjoy quality content without splurging? There are plenty of streaming platforms that won’t break the bank.

First off, Hulu offers a vast library of shows and movies, and you can grab its basic subscription (with ads) for just around $7.99/month, or $1.99/month if you login through your student portal. If you already have a Spotify account, make sure you take advantage of their Spotify Premium Student subscription that not only gives you ad-free music but also includes a basic Hulu Subscription, as well as SHOWTIME, all for $5.99/month.

If you’re into documentaries or like keeping up with the latest indie films, CuriosityStream and Kanopy are good platforms for each type of content respectively. CuriosityStream is as low as $3.39/month with their yearly subscription, while many universities offer Kanopy for free to their students!

If you or a friend have accounts with different streaming passwords, you could do account sharing to get access to more content! Some platforms like Netflix are starting to crack down on account sharing, so make sure you’re reading your terms and conditions of your preferred service before you do. And always be respectful when using others’ accounts; don’t mess with their watchlist or settings.

The next time you’re looking for a platform with your possible favorite show to binge-watch, remember you’ve got loads of budget-friendly options.

Staying Within Your Means

Establishing monthly entertainment limits

Now as fun as it is to spend your money on stuff that brings you happiness, the key to doing this sensibly is not overspending proportionally to your income. As a rule of thumb: aim to spend no more than 5-10% of your total monthly income on entertainment. For instance, if you’re pulling in $1000 a month, you’d be looking at setting aside $50 to $100 for your movie nights, streaming services, or weekend outings. Make sure you’re keeping track of your spending as well. 

If you’d like to learn more about building a budget for yourself, check out our ultimate budgeting guide for college students!

Avoiding impulse purchases

Impulse purchases are another thing to watch out for! When you get an urge to spend a lot more money than what you’re usually comfortable with, give yourself 24-hours to think it over. More often than not, you’ll find that the burning desire to buy cools down significantly. Unsubscribe from promotional emails as well. If you’re not constantly being reminded of the “latest and greatest” deal, you’re less likely to spend on a whim.

It’s okay to treat yourself occasionally. The idea isn’t to lock your desires away, but to spend mindfully and make sure your hard-earned cash is going where you truly want it to.

Final Word

There’s a lot of fun and inexpensive ways to keep yourself entertained in between your classes and your midterms. We’ve also learned that you don’t have to sacrifice fun to be financially responsible. From embracing your creative side with DIY hobbies, planning group activities, and smart streaming choices, you’ve got plenty of options to make your college life both entertaining and budget-friendly. By remembering to set spending limits and keep an eye on your entertainment budget, you’d be able to make the most of your college experience and not have to worry about coming up short for your other necessities. 

If you found some value in this post, don’t forget to subscribe to the Frugal Student Newsletter. We’ll be covering more useful tips, strategies, and insights to help you keep your budget on lock while maximizing your savings during your time in college. 

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