Going Out vs. Staying In

Image of family playing board games

When your family is craving quality time together, you might automatically assume the best options for the evening involve going out to dinner or a movie. But what do you do when your budget is tight? Is going out still the best option? It might not be. We want you to be aware of exactly how expensive a night out can be so you can make a smart financial choice for your family.

Movie Theatre vs. Movie Night

Do you want to enjoy a movie night but don't have room in the budget? Are you simply interested in cheaper alternatives so you can save some cash? You're in luck! There is definitely an alternative to an expensive evening at the movie theatre – and it's right in your very own living room. First, let's take a look at exactly how expensive a night at the movies can be.

According to marketplace.org, in 2015 the average movie ticket price in the U.S. had risen to $8.70. Judging from our own experiences going to the movies in the years since, those price increases haven't shown any signs of stopping. While it IS exciting to see the newest movies right when they come out, is it worth the high price? For a family of four, that could add up to $32.52 just to get into the theatre! (Did you know that around 70% of those ticket sales go to the studios that make the movies?) If you're fond of getting snacks at the movies, your wallet is going to take another hit at the concession stand. The theatre has to earn money somehow, right? Take a good look at the prices of concessions next time you're in line and think about what you're spending. If you're not careful, your night at the movies could end up costing you a lot more than you expected. In 2012, Consumer Reports wrote about the nutritional value, and cost, of concessions at movie theatres. During their research, they found that they spent "$8 for a large popcorn, $7 for nachos, $5.50 for pretzel pieces with cheese, and $5.75 for a jumbo soda."

So, why would you want to spend $50.00 on a movie and snacks when you could enjoy the very same evening in the comfort of your own home? Services such as RedBox, NetFlix, and OnDemand offer movies for a fraction of the price you'll see at the theatre. RedBox has the added advantage of not requiring a membership or monthly payment, and you can take home a movie for just a few dollars. And if you're missing the fun of movie snacks, stop at the dollar store on the way home for some cheaper sweets!

Restaurant vs. Home-Cooked Meal

You'd be hard-pressed to find anyone who doesn't enjoy going out for a nice meal at a restaurant. The allure of not having to cook or wash your own dishes is tempting for anyone around dinnertime! According to Statista.com, in 2013 the average cost per person at a casual dining restaurant was $13.75. That means the cost of dinner for a typical family of four would be a whopping $55.00! Can you imagine if you planned to have dinner AND see a movie in one evening? Spending over $100.00 on one night out can be devastating to even the most budget-savvy family. Fortunately, there is a way to have a fun family dinner without breaking the bank.

The internet can be your best friend when you're on the hunt for inexpensive family-friendly recipes. What is your family's favorite type of restaurant? Find a recipe online that matches their theme and bring the whole family in on the cooking process! Are you in the mood for Italian? Homemade spaghetti with meatballs can feed the whole family with leftovers to eat the next day. Are you feeling festive and craving Mexican food? Oven-baked fajitas can be made at home for pennies on the dollar. Saving money on dinner doesn't have to mean you'll sacrifice taste and fun, and you'll be surprised at the dishes you can create at home for less than you'd think!

If you're still determined to have a night out of the house, there are ways you can cut your spending and still enjoy the convenience of a restaurant.

  • Choose a restaurant that has a designated "Kids Eat Free" night.
  • Purchase a discounted gift card.
  • Sign up for restaurant rewards programs.
  • Check your local newspaper and the internet for coupons.