When people are on a budget, they tend to cut out "luxury" items like eating out, going to the movies, getting a cup of coffee...you know, having a life. But, with a little knowledge and some pre-planning, you don't have to miss out on the little extras that make life worth living.

I'm a big fan of movies. Actually, I should say I'm a big FANATIC when it comes to movies. I especially like action and sci-fi movies. What guy doesn't? However, at $8 a ticket, I can't exactly afford to run out and see the latest films on the day they are released. That does not mean I don't see them.

I'm lucky enough to live in a city which has not one, but TWO so-called "second run" theaters. These are theaters that charge a dollar...yep, just one dollar...to go and see a movie. Mind you, these are movies that have been out for a few weeks, but if you don't mind seeing "Live Free or Die Hard" or "Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer" six to eight weeks after it first came out in the theaters, the savings are huge.

Yesterday, I got off work early, which doesn't happen often, so my wife suggested we go see a matinée. Great! So, we went to our usual dollar theater and then realized that it was Tuesday. Tuesdays are "50 cent Tuesdays" at this particular theater, so it cost a grand total of one dollar for admission for both of us. Total savings over the regular dollar theater price: one dollar. Total savings of seeing "Blades of Glory" at the dollar theater rather than at a "first run" theater: $15.

Theaters really make their money at the concession stand, rather than on the price of admission. In fact, approximately 70 to 90 percent of the ticket price at a movie theater goes directly to the movie studios. That explains why the cost of popcorn, soda and candy is so much higher at a movie theater than anywhere else. That's how they make their money and stay in business. However, some deals can still be found at the concession stand. Some theaters offer loyalty programs which give you discounts if you buy a special t-shirt, cup or sign up for a card. Show these items at the concession stand and you can save a few bucks. Some concession stands also offer package deals, kind of like the combo deals you find at fast food restaurants. My wife and I had just eaten lunch before we went to the movies yesterday, so we didn't get any concession stand items, but there are times that I do. Most theaters around here will give free refills if you purchase the large or mega-sized tub. The price difference between the large size and the small or medium is usually only a couple of dollars, but with the mega size you get re-fills, so you get much more popcorn for a little extra cost.

What's that you say? You don't want to fight the lines at the theater or listen to some idiot behind you talk all the way through the movie? No problem. There are other options.

You may be one of the lucky Americans who still happens to live near a drive-in theater. In my area, around Oklahoma City, there are still THREE drive-ins from which to choose. My favorite is the Winchester, right in Oklahoma City. For about 5 dollars per adult, you can see not one, but THREE first-run movies. That's right, a triple feature, for five bucks! If there is a better movie deal out there for a first-run movie I'm not aware of it. My family goes to the drive-in at least a couple of times each summer, and we manage to see most of the major theater releases from the comfort of our own car. The kids usually lie on a blanket next to the car with their pillows. They say it's just as comfortable as watching movies at home, but watching the movies under the stars is even better.

Another budget buster is DVD rentals. I used to have a membership at Blockbuster, back when they had late fees. But the fees, and the increasing cost of the rentals, eventually started costing more money than going to a first-run theater. I canceled my membership at Blockbuster and started going to the public library instead.

That's right, the public library. Many public libraries carry DVDs and other videos, and they aren't just educational films and documentaries. At our public library, if there is a movie you really want to see but the library doesn't stock it, you can request it and if there is enough demand for the movie (in the case of the popular movies, there always is) they will go and buy it and loan it out to you. Total cost to you: free! Savings: About $3 to $5 per movie.

So go ahead, enjoy those summer movies. Just because you are on a budget doesn't mean you can't enjoy a big budget film.


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