This vacuous world wide web of ours is awash with articles that promise you insights into how you can save on entertainment. The vast majority of them concentrate their efforts on persuading you to visit the beach or the local park – sometimes they extend to the odd recipe for some over-elaborate Rice Krispie cakes.
That stuff’s all good, but here at Know Your Money we’ve got a penchant for something a bit more fast paced, and we make no excuse for it. Somewhat unfortunately, these tend to be the things that usually come with a bigger price tag attached, but we’ve found a few ways to get our favourite kicks on the cheap.
Here’s a round score of our finest tips, covering cinema, gigs, theatre, restaurants, travel and more.
1. KYM special offers
Charity begins at home. So, for us, do cheap prices on entertainment. Our vouchers channel hosts 1,000s of offers for restaurants, tickets, holidays, experience packages and all manner of things besides. You’ll find it all here.
2. Voucher code apps
Getting a great deal doesn’t even take much presentiment these days. Mobile phone apps like Vouchercloud and MyVoucherCodes give you access to discount vouchers for top restaurants, attractions and shops wherever you are. You redeem them through a code or by scanning your mobile screen at the outlet. Whenever you’re about to walk into any chain establishment, check your app first to see if there’s savings to be had.
3. Orange Wednesdays
Customers of Orange or Everything Everywhere – whether that’s mobile or broadband – can get two-for-one tickets at cinemas up and down the country, each and every Wednesday. If you’re not a customer already, pick up an Orange sim card for a couple of quid at your local newsagent (or sometimes for free on the Orange website) and just pop it in your phone when you need to text off for the code.
4. Daily deals
Services like Groupon and Living Social have grown hugely in popularity over the past of couple of years, with their daily emails offering location specific deals on pretty much anything and everything. Entertainment wise, you can expect a plethora of restaurants and hotels, as well as regular instalments of go-karting, cinema, ice skating, snowboarding, paint balling and the like, with pretty tasty discounts.
One word of caution: once you’ve bought into a deal, look to redeem it by booking in with the service provider at your earliest convenience. Outlets will often a reserve only a limited number of passes to each show or any given night. In the event that runs out, you might not get your money back.
5. Season passes
Season tickets are available at lots of top attractions including theatres, theme parks and tourist attractions. Many of the top providers run multiple different sites or have tie-ins with other companies where you can use your pass across them all. The Merlin Pass might be good one for the summer – it offers entrance to Alton Towers, Thorpe Park, Chessington World of Adventures, the London and Edinburgh Dungeons, the London Eye, Sea Life Centres across the country, Madame Tussauds and more.
6. Supermarket loyalty cards
When you pick up loyalty points on your groceries, you most often redeem them with vouchers to spend in that shop. You then waste them on things that you wouldn’t usually buy, don’t really need and perhaps won’t even use. But many of them allow you to chop in your vouchers for discounts on attractions like theme parks or hotels instead.
7. Mystery shopping
By signing up to review the service you get at restaurant and retail chains on the sly, you can eat and shop for free. All you have to do is to pick up the brief online and then fill out a few forms at the end. Sometimes you’ll get codes to use to pay for your meal, other times you send off your receipts to get reimbursed. We can vouch for Marketforce and GAPbuster, but avoid any services that make you pay to join - it’s probably a scam.
8. Boost your TV package
If there’s nothing that takes your fancy in the world outside, make your world inside a hive of entertainment. If you are a pay TV customer with the likes of Sky, Virgin or BT, call around the competitors and ask them if they’ll offer you cheaper deals to switch over to them. Perhaps ask them to throw in the movies or sports channels for no added cost.
You can then tell your current provider what you’ve been offered and see if they’ll match it – they almost always will. You can compare the current TV package deals with Know Your Money here.
9. Get streaming
While we’re talking interiors, if you’re not streaming your music or film yet you probably should look into it. Spotify gives you as much music you can gorge on, with only a handful of artists unavailable, for a mere £10 per month (all perfectly legally, we hasten to add). On the films front, services like Netflix and Lovefilm offer subscriptions starting from under £5 per month which offer you access to latest releases and a wealth of classics over your Internet connection.
10. Group bookings
There’s usually strength in numbers, and outlets will often reward you for turning up mob handed. Ticketed affairs sometimes have cheap options for groups directly through their bookings pages – if they don’t, there’s very few of them that won’t talk business over the phone. It’s usually worth trying to cut a deal in advance with a restaurant too, if your party amounts to more than a handful.
11. Book your travel early
With trains and the budget air lines, the cheaper you book, the cheaper you travel. The train companies release tickets 12 weeks in advance as a rule, while the airlines work on a forward schedule of six months to a year. In both cases you could find yourself making ten-fold savings compared with booking close to the date of travel.
12. Switch trains for coaches
Or alternatively you could turn to the humble coach instead. Megabus and National Express both offer cross country travel for just a few pounds and great prices can be found even the day before they set off, though for the very cheapest prices you’ll again need to book early. Megabus even goes all the way from London to Paris, starting at a mere £1, if you can stomach the nine hour journey.
13. Get a late deal on West End theatre
Tickets for West End shows are near universally available cheaply in the days preceding each performance as the theatres look to fill up the seats. The large ‘TKTS’ stand in the middle of Leicester Square is the officially licensed discount broker and has tickets for the next two to three days at up to 50% discounts. You can now see their prices and offers for the next few days online too.
14. Or even stake them out early doors on the day
You can also get tickets on the day for each show from the theatres themselves, with lots of the West End establishments holding back a batch of their cheap tickets for purchase on the day. Expect some competition from a gaggle of ‘I Love London’ hooded sweatshirt clad tourists, but get there bright and early and you should be OK.
15. Mop up a bargain hotel room
Under the same logic as the theatres, hotels also often reduce their prices to get rooms filled as the days tick by. It’s probably less advisable if you are travelling in peak season, but if you can hold your nerve you might find that the hotels and apartments you were looking at suddenly decrease as your jollies approach. If it backfires, there’s always the camp sites right? Last Minute and Late Rooms are specialists in the eleventh hour accommodation market.
16. Hotel Roulette
Some hotels that work by the model above don’t want the world knowing about their price dropping tactics though. What would their full paying customers think?
Last Minute offers its ‘Top Secret Hotels’ and promises up to half price on four and five star hotels – but it won’t tell you which hotel you’ve booked until you’ve paid. Secret Escapes works on a similar basis. Considering the way that the infamous hotel starring system works, along with our ever-increasing expectations and fanciful imaginations, some people are inevitably disappointed by the system from time to time. Yet all the same it rewards just as many that are prepared to take the punt.
17. Take the Top Table
If you’re looking for a place to go out and eat, Top Table is worth a look. The website allows you to read reviews of a huge number of restaurants around the country, book your table autonomously, and – best of all – get access to exclusive special offers.
18. Work for passes
Sign up to work for charities or behind the bar and you could get your festival passes for free. With the likes of Oxfam or Greenpeace you usually have to cut your teeth working at a few smaller events before you can don an orange bib at Glastonbury, but that will be no bad thing if you want to explore the wealth of cultural delights that each summer brings us, on a budget.
19. Live TV recordings
You can also get entertained for free by sitting in the audience for game, panel and reality television shows. This also extends to comedy gigs being filmed for TV, as Know Your Money can attest to from our recent FOC encounter with one Mr Frankie Boyle. The tie up is you have to get there early, be ready to queue, and be prepared for the odd disappointment when the event fills up without you in it. TVrecordings.com and Applausestore.com are two great places to begin, and it’s also worth checking out what the individual networks say about their particular shows.
20. Get in the hat for free concerts
Cooler-than-school brands love to put on cooler-than-school bands. Converse and Fred Perry are two that both organise regular gigs featuring some pretty tasty acts, and they give away the tickets at either a snippet or for free. Follow some Twitter feeds of music listing sites and bloggers to keep up to date with what’s going on.
There are also bashes like the Radio 1 One Big Weekend which last year had a pretty impressive line-up of global superstars all for free (except for your license fee of course).
Got any more top tips for cheap entertainment? Share them with us in the comment thread below.
Author: KYM Editor