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“Fun Stuff” on a Tight Budget – Cheap Fun Things to Do

I’m really looking forward to Friday.  Why?  Because I’m hanging out with one of my best friends, Dee.

Our Cheap Fun

Yep, we’re grabbing lunch with my hubby’s grandpa and then just chatting all afternoon.  She’ll also get to show off her trailer now that she is close to moving into it for the next year.  We may then grab dinner at a cheap fried seafood place that is delicious too.  The whole day will cost me less than $20 in gas and food.

See, she’s pet sitting at her mom’s house outside of town about an hour.  It’s BORING.  I pet sat for her mom twice now and can 100% agree that there isn’t anything to do close to that house, but the area is pretty and peaceful.  I figured that having some company would make it way more fun since good company makes everything more fun.  ;-)

Other Ideas for Cheap Fun Things to Do

Since you may not have a friend to rescue from boredom, here are some other ideas for cheap fun:

  1. Board gaming with friends
  2. Have some alone time with your significant other.
  3. Online games with others – like the free card games or Ticket to Ride
  4. Picnics – I love them!
  5. Local parks
  6. Feed the ducks
  7. Discount movie theaters
  8. Used book stores
  9. Under-valued kids’ games like Hide and Seek, Freeze Tag, and Shadow Tag.  How long since you embraced your inner child?
  10. Potlucks
  11. In-Home movie nights
  12. Pajama parties and sleepovers – not just for kids!  The adult version can include rated R movies and booze.  :-)
  13. City museums, zoos, and theaters usually have discounted times.
  14. Read a book or two or three…
  15. Libraries kick butt.
  16. Play with your pets!
  17. Call friends or family that you haven’t talked to in a while.
  18. Write actual letters to those you love that would get a kick out of finding something in their mailbox other than junk mail.
  19. Turn a hobby into money.  Sell a craft, babysit, pet sit, write a post for a blogger, brew a beer, etc.
  20. Cook something new.

What comes to mind for you?

 

I Do Gamble

I’ve always been money conscious, but I do realize that I don’t always treat my money the same. When Mr. BFS and I make just “enough” to pay our bills and save a little for our future, I seem to be able to cut out nearly all extra spending without it hurting much. But when we had barely anything or even when we had more than we needed, I was more of a risk taker and spender.

Gamble

Online Poker

In college, my husband-to-be started playing poker online pretty regularly to make extra money. Then I started. Places like 888poker.com had specials like giving you $88 with no deposit needed, so we signed up with accounts at multiple places and played no limits nickel poker. After a few months, I had made about $100 and my future husband had actually lost money.

Casinos

We live in Texas, but when we want to gamble in an actual casino, we are only 3-4 hours away from Louisiana casinos. We tend to prefer Coushatta, one on an Indian reservation. We also never take much to lose. So we end up playing penny slots and quarter video poker for 5-6 hours, grabbing a yummy sandwich out of their café, and then heading back home. Sometimes we even take a group bus to save on gas too. The most we have ever lost in a single trip is $150.

Lotto Tickets

I do occasionally spend some fun money on lotto tickets. Depending on how crappy I feel about life determines whether I buy 1 ticket or 5 tickets. The most I’ve spent in a year is about $60 and the most I’ve probably ever won is $4. It definitely is a game for people bad at math who just want to spend $1-$2 on a ticket that leads them to daydream until the draw. It is not the way to get rich.

Overall, I apparently only tend to allow myself to gamble when I feel like I have nothing to lose or more than enough to lose. When I am just making our money stretch, I don’t even have the drive. Weird, right?

How about you, do you gamble at all?

Pole Dancing – Painful Fun!

You read that correctly.  My friend, Dee, pointed out a Groupon for pole dancing fitness classes near my house, and I signed up along with her.  We attended our first class this week, and my arms and abs are still sore.  Overall, it is an EXCELLENT workout, but you may want to ease into it…

The Deal

The deal was honestly too good to pass up for me.  Dee and I had wanted to work out together this summer, and the Groupon was $49 for 10 pole dancing fitness classes about 15 minutes from my house.  I know my younger sister really enjoyed pole dancing classes as a student and teacher over the last few years, so I decided to give it a try too.  Dee and I also found out the first class is free, so really it ends up being $49 for 11 classes.  How cool is that?!

The Class

We showed up 10 minutes early for a noon class and learned that no one at this fitness studio does anything on time.  The doors weren’t even unlocked until 12:05.  The teacher showed up at 12:20.  But they let us stay for more than the designated hour, although we didn’t take them up on it since we were exhausted by then.

It started out with stretching and then we did the main, basic spin around the pole about 100 times.  I got that one down okay.  I ran into problems with “the fireman” – the second, basic turn that requires wrapping your legs around the pole.  It hurts to rub your sensitive skin on the metal pole quickly, so my body naturally tried to block my progress.  My poor foot took the majority of the hesitation damage.  I did eventually get that turn down okay too.

My Foot Post-Pole Dancing

The final main move that we practiced was a spin around the pole where you hold your legs out and push out from the pole with one hand while holding on with the other.  I liked this one, but my arms and abs hate me now.

Prepping for Next Week

I’m stretching every day to get my arms working well again.  I’m also walking a lot more to keep my legs in shape.  My foot is still bruised, but it’s mainly on the surface.  Found some more bruises on my shins and inner thighs, but that’s the nature of pole dancing apparently.

Girls and guys, do me a favor.  If you ever see a real pole dancer doing amazing tricks, tip in $5′s, not $1′s.  It’s WAY harder than it looks!

Have you ever tried pole dancing or anything unusual like that for fitness?  How did you like it?

Our Home Theater System on a Budget

Today’s post was written for a commenter on Wednesday’s post about living it up on a budget, Megan J:

I’d love details about your system in the media room! We just bought a house with a theater room in the basement, but the previous owners took all of the equipment and awesome theater chairs. Do you have a projector/screen? I can’t even figure out where to start looking since we want something that is good quality but not an astronomical price.

If you were reading BFS anytime between April and October of 2012, you may have noticed that we splurged like never before.  We had our dream home built from the ground up.  One of the “dream” features was a media room – a completely windowless room meant for nothing but vegging out in front of a show, movie, or video game.  In late 2012, we bought a home theater system on a budget using Amazon.  We still haven’t bought the theater recliners that we want though, so it’s a super functional work-in-progress.

Movie Nights

Our Home Theater System on a Budget

We mainly knew about home theater system price ranges from friends and family.  If you find everything you need used, you can actually keep the cost to less than $1000 for the whole setup (I’m not accounting for furniture – just the system itself).  I’d suggest browsing around Craigslist so you can save on shipping. If you go nuts, you can pretty easily spend $4000+.

Amazon

I ran out of patience with the hunt for used deals, so we ended up getting a good deal on new stuff mainly through Amazon instead.  Here is what we purchased and how much it cost in late 2012.  We left this stuff in our basket for more than a month and Amazon sent us a 10% off deal…that helped.

  • Projector: Epson Powerlite Home Cinema 8350 – $1100
  • Receiver:  Yamaha RX-V373 5.1-Channel AV Receiver – $250
  • Screen:  Elite Screens ER100WH1 Sable Fixed Frame Projection Screen (100 inch 16:9 AR) – $230
  • Surround Sound System:  Basic one from Fry’s Electronics - $175
  • Blu-Ray Player:  THE CRAPPY SONY ONE that was $100, but we like our new-to-us Samsung one way better – $60
  • Projector Mount:  Atdec TH-WH-PJ-FM Telehook Universal Projector Flush Mount – $48
  • 2 HDMI Cables – $25
  • 10% Discount from Amazon – $165
  • Sales Tax – $123
  • Shipping – Free
  • TOTAL = $1846

The Big Kahuna

Obviously, the projector was the most expensive item to track down.  We were trying to find a high definition one that was clear enough to wow us but wasn’t $3000.  Our Epson Powerlite 8350 has been working for us really well since December 2012.  We spent $43 on an off-brand replacement bulb/lamp for our projector off of Amazon in March 2014 and it has continued working great. 

Overall, I’d highly suggest an Epson Powerlite 8350 if you are looking for a super clear, vibrant picture, BUT you can find new projectors for $500-$750 if you just need a basic tv quality.  The Epson Home Cinema 725HD 720p 3LCD Projector is “only” $550 and has 4.5 stars on Amazon.  It isn’t high definition, but it will do the job.  We definitely planned this splurge since we do spend most of our free time in the media room.

Do you have a home theater setup?  What suggestions or tips do you have for somebody in the market?

In case you want a quick look at our media room, it’s actually in the last part of my YouTube video below about a slow day of self-employment:

***This post contains my affiliate links to Amazon, but that’s not why I wrote it.  BUT, if you were going to take my advice anyway, I figured why not make about 4% on it…***

 

Money Lessons from “The Purge”

***WARNING – CONTAINS DETAILS ABOUT THE MOVIE, “THE PURGE”***

I just finished watching “The Purge”, a psychological thriller set in the USA in 2022.  It’s premise is that we have a nearly utopian society because for 12 hours a year, we allow people to do whatever they want including murder - in fact, you are urged to purge.  The main family involved are rich suburbanites who usually lock themselves away for the night to wait it out.  But this year did not go as planned and they end up with a homeless guy taking refuge in their home.  The elite, spoiled brats hunting him come after him and the family.

The Purge

Money Lessons from “The Purge”

There is a little more plot and a couple of twists, but here are my main takeaways:

  • Don’t let money change who you are.  Money didn’t make the evil people evil in the movie – they were already like that.  But money did push the morally ambiguous over the edge in some cases.  Figure out what your moral compass is and stick to it no matter what circumstances you find yourself dunked in.  Remember that you always need to be able to look yourself in the mirror.
  • Money gives you options.  Anybody could and were killed in “The Purge”, but the less money someone had, the less protected that they were.  More money equaled a better security system, a better place to live in general, and a better selection and quantity of weapons.
  • If you sell something, make sure you have the best of it.  The main family’s husband sold security systems and had the same one as his neighbors.  Heck no!  My security system would be something no one else would be able to practice on year-round.
  • If you lived in this world, buy or rent a vacation home in another country that has The Purge on a different day.  Or learn to rough it out in the middle of nowhere for a few days.  Or rent a jet that stays in the air for 12+ hours.
  • If I had to stay at home, I would invest in booby traps, secret rooms, and panic rooms.

Overall, I spent the entire movie coming up with ways you could survive whether you had money or not.  But I also couldn’t help but note that having some resources is better than having no options at all.

My Main Conclusion

“The Purge” made me think a bit more than I had expected based on the trailers I saw a while ago.  It also made me very grateful about who and where I am right now.  I think my family, friends, and I could make it through most awful circumstances one way or another.  Our combined resources and personalities can handle quite a bit, plus there is safety in numbers.  Even though we don’t live in this exact movie society, life does throw curve balls.

Have you seen “The Purge”?  How would you handle a world like that?

Comicpalooza 2014 was FANTABULOUS!!! Doing Conventions on the Cheap…

I was worried that since this was my third Comicpalooza experience, it wouldn’t be as awesome.  I was sooooooo wrong, yay!!!

People Watching

As always, the people watching was just amazing!  This year I went costumed all 3 days I attended (Friday-Sunday), and it was fun to be part of the crazy atmosphere.  :-D

On Friday, I was a sexy pirate.  I listed out all of my costume costs earlier this week, but long post summarized, the pirate costume was free for me since I either had what I needed or borrowed it from friends.  How perfect is that hat, right?!  That was from my friend and roommate, H.  I also came across some other fun outfits that first day:

Pirate Costume - $0

Yay for push-up bras and corsets! ;-)

Scottish Storm Troopers

So, they are going commando for sure…

Ninjette Turtles

These ladies were awesome, and one of them is REALLY pregnant. Great angle, right?!

Car from Supernatural

For you Supernatural fans – recognize this? :-)

Supernatural Weapons

And here is the arsenal in the back…

On Saturday, I attended as The Black Widow ($55 of stuff – mainly a $28 cat suit and $15 Flexees, which are affordable Spanx).  Two of my friends were S.H.I.E.L.D agents and the other one used our favorite face painter, Shandi, to get in the spirit (picture further below).  We made a kick butt group.  Another friend went as Dr. Who (the 10th Doctor).  I also had to stop in my tracks at a few other people’s exciting costumes:

Black Widow Costume - $55

I’m not Scarlett Johansson, but it was still fun playing dress up! :-D

The Black Widow and Doctor Who

Yes, that is my friend pointing out my best weapons… ;-)

Mystique and Night Crawler

This couple was BAD ASS!

Dalek vs Soldier

EXTERMINATE!!!

The Black Widow and S.H.I.E.L.D.

This is Isabelle, me, and Ivy as the best of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Sunday was the last day I was going to be able to make it (it was open Monday too but I had to skip that day).  That said, I wore a fun Catwoman costume (same main things as The Black Widow plus a $13 cowl) and made sure to have a day to remember!  I spent most of the day with Ivy and Isabelle and most of the evening with B, aka Doctor Who.  It’s nice to have friends as geektastic as me!  ;-)  Here were some highlights:

Cat Woman Costume - $13

This was the most popular costume of the weekend…I wonder why…

Real Cop

Yes, that is a real cop for the convention who was cool the whole weekend.

X-Men

Gambit, Jubilee, and the Wolverine – HOW COOL!

Sessions

I’ll admit it, I didn’t go to as many sessions as I usually do.  It was fun to wander around in my costumes, meet new people, and have my picture taken with all sorts of people.  Heck, I spent 20 minutes playing with children while we waited in lines – they’d leave and say in their cutest voices, “Bye, bye Catwoman.  Thank you.”  So freaking adorable.

Oh, side track, here’s a shout out to the great mom that dressed up her daughter as Wash’s dinosaur from Serenity.  Even if the kid did think she was actually Godzilla…

But I did make it to some fun talks.  Here were my favorites:

  • Steam Punk

The two steam punk sessions that I attended were truly interesting.  My friend, Anne, was even won over to the point that we’ll be getting her into a steam punk costume next year, woot!  The speakers were extremely welcoming and steam punk as a hobby seems all inclusive.

In one session, Ben Hamby drew all of us in with his hilarious stories of being on the road.  Let me just say that he once bribed his was into Germany with Cadbury chocolate (his German accent is laugh-out-loud hilarious).  He also smart-assed his way past the Asian mafia in New York.  Oh, and just ask him about his “Jason” story – hahaha.  He terrorized his poor girl friend on a midnight drive, some on purpose, and a little just on accident.  His sense of humor was contagious and left us all feeling amazing Friday night.

  • John Barrowman and Carole Barrowman

If you’ve seen the newer seasons of Doctor Who, Torchwood, or Arrow, then you know John Barrowman.  His older sister, Carole, is extremely funny and she seemed genuinely sweet.  Their talk was laugh-until-you-cry funny at some points.

My only issue was when John was berating the poor person running the presentation screen.  I understand that screw-ups are annoying, but he became a bully at one point.  Ivy and Isabelle actually got to meet him in person to take official photos, and he apparently is way nicer than he came off to me.  I hope so.  I respect his position as an advocate for gay rights and open-mindedness in general, so I am hoping he is generally a good person too.  :-)

Geek Fun Fact – John bought the dalek that killed him the first time in the new seasons of Doctor Who.  It’s set up in his front hall.  The voice actor of the dalek also taped a bunch of phrases for John, so it can freak out little kids at Halloween or it can be fantabulous before dinner parties.  That just makes me giggle.

  • Cary Elwes

I want to invite Cary to one of our potlucks – he is that kind of guy.  He was witty, humorous, and kind.  He doesn’t take offense (like some actors do) with being associated with their most popular movie all of the time (The Princess Bride).  He also went out of his way to make his fans feel appreciated.

My favorite story of the whole convention was about Andre the Giant.  Andre spent two days convincing the very young Cary Elwes to try out his ATV.  When Cary, young and stupid, finally gave in, he drove a few feet, hit a rock, and smashed his big toe.  It was so very broken.  He was so scared that he would be fired that he tried to keep it a secret from the director (Rob Reiner).  Obviously,  Rob knew.  He chided Cary for not being straight-forward.  To this day, Cary says that the lesson he learned was to always be honest.  Trust me, Cary tells this story WAY better than me.  I highly suggest buying the book that they have coming out in October about the behind-the-scenes of The Princess Bride, As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride.  (Hey Cary – I plugged your book – that’s how awesome I think you are!)

He also covered a bunch about his other roles in Psych, Leverage, Robin Hood: Men in Tights, and a bunch of other roles.  It sounds like wherever he is working is a set that is having a good time.

Music and DANCING

Yep, you put a Catwoman mask on me, and I dance.  :-)  Specifically, there was an area on the third floor where they were playing all sorts of music after the main part of Sunday wrapped up.  I ended up dancing Ice, Ice Baby with a Batman and did The Time Warp with Doctor Who.

We then hit a nearby bar for a quick drink and came back to listen to two live bands.  The Dead Rabbits are an Irish rock band that invited all of the costumed listeners up on stage for their final song.  At one point, Catwoman was moshing next to the main guitarist, a Frozen princess, and Doctor Who!  Yep, I apparently do take advantage of lowered inhibitions when no one can tell who I am, LOL.  TONS of fun!!!  But I did pay the price for dancing in those boots…I was pretty sore for 2 days…

The last show of the night was James Marsters at 10:30pm performing his own music (think Spike the vampire in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel).  I heard that it burned his head on a regular basis to have his hair bleached as much as it was for that part.  Overall, he has a really smooth voice (he’s American, not British, just in case you didn’t know – I didn’t…).  His songs are about his own personal stories of his childhood, his first marriage, falling in love with his second, yet way younger, wife, and other musings like that.  We ended up having to leave early simply since B and I were exhausted.  I had been dressed as Catwoman for more than 14 hours at that point.  Everything hurt and I needed my bed.

James Marsters

Here’s James Marsters with his best acoustic numbers Sunday night.

Comicpalooza 2014 Total Cost

  • 4 Day Admission Ticket – $35
  • Costumes – $70
  • Food (we packed sandwiches, only ate at a café twice, and I paid for my $5 cocktail) – $20
  • Commissioned Picture - $15
Four Friends

The girls – Isabelle, Crystal, Anne, and Ivy

Commissioned Drawing

This is what we had commissioned using the picture above. Honestly, it’s funnier than it is good…I mean, Ivy now looks like a dude. And Isabelle is mad at us, lol.

  • Parking – $32
  • Total Cost – $172

TOTALLY WORTH EVERY PENNY!!!  I am already planning on adding a leg holster and fake gun for next year.  I am shooting for Anne Hathaway as Catwoman but with the full cowl.

Have you been to a convention or event that was just amazingly worth it?!  Comicpalooza, FinCon, the Board Game Geek Convention, and Lone Star Game Fest are our personal favorites.

Costumes on a Budget – Lessons from Comicpalooza 2014

If you want to know how my addiction to Comicpalooza started, please check out my posts about Comicpalooza 2012 and Comicpalooza 2013.  This year was a blast once again!  In case you haven’t heard of comic conventions, Comicpalooza is one that takes place Memorial Day weekend of every year in Houston, TX.  It’s a superb geek fest that I just relish like a great vacation.  I may write out all of the details for you like usual within the next few days, but right now, I want to skip to the info that may help you in some direct way – making costumes on a budget.

Pirate Costume on a Budget

I wanted to wear something extremely comfortable on Friday since that is when we walk around the most and get the lay of the land.  That said, I still wanted to wear something fun.  Hence this pirate outfit, which got way more compliments than expected!  People seemed to like it more than my Black Widow costume on Saturday, lol.

Pirate Costume - $0

Daleks like pirates with boobs…

Altogether, this outfit actually didn’t cost me anything for this event since I actually owned everything already except for the pirate hat, which I borrowed from one of my awesome roommates, H.  If you did need to throw this together and you didn’t already have everything, this is how I first found the pieces:

  • Pirate hat – I borrowed this one (probably was about $50 when H bought it 10 years ago since it is a real hat), but I see several solid options on Amazon and Ebay for around $15.  There are even some $5 party-hat options that would work fine.
  • Shirt with Poet Sleeves – This peach one was $4 from the resale shop a mile from my house.  It was one of the 6 new shirts I bought last year, yet I hadn’t worn it yet since it was a little low-cut for me.  Thank you Dee for convincing me to buy it.  ;-)
  • Corset – I inherited this black one from an ex-roommate, but it cost $25 about 3 years ago.  You can find new costume corsets on sale after Halloween for $20.  You can also look on Craigslist around the same time as cosplay events, Halloween, and renaissance festivals for lightly used, high quality ones for $40-$50.
  • Dark blue jeans or black pants – I bought these jeans from that resale shop last year for $7.
  • I’m also wearing a normal belt, socks, tennis shoes, and a basic push-up bra.  I’ve owned all of those things for 3+ years and think they cost me $50 altogether (I like resale shops and Payless shoes).
  • I’m wearing my normal makeup too.

I just took a look at my closet and through this together in 5 minutes thanks to my other roommate’s help – thanks, Mandy!  First rule of costuming on a budget – see what you already have and think outside of the box.  :-)

Black Widow Costume on a Budget

This costume was the main one that I planned for this year, so I did spend $58 on stuff that I didn’t have yet.

Black Widow Costume - $58

That’s the Supernatural car behind me…

  • Catsuit – I bought a $28 one off of Amazon, Leg Avenue Costumes Wet Look Zipper Front Cat Suit
  • Avengers Belt – That’s a $3 thrift store belt that my roommate, H, donated and we turned it into the Avengers belt with a red Solo cup, super glue, and a little red and black nail polish (the 80 cent little bottles, lol).  We already had all of that stuff on hand, but you can budget for $6.
  • Utility Belt – That was $7.50 off of Amazon and I borrowed some pouches from H again.  Here’s the belt itself, UTG Heavy Duty Web Belt – Black.  You can make the pouches pretty easily or find them at garage sales, resale shops, or new online for less than $5 each.

Belt First PartFinishing the Belt

  • Bullet Bracelets – I bought this costume bullet belt for $8, Military Bullet Belt : Plastic Toy Ammo Bandoleer Army Costume Accessory, and then spray painted the bracelets black.  The spray paint also kept the bullets from slipping out.
  • Black Boots – I borrowed these from my friend, Isabelle, but I also found similar pairs (not as high quality but fine for costumes) at my favorite thrift store for $15.
  • You can’t see the $15 Flexees undergarment, the push-up bra again, or the shadowy eye makeup that Mandy did for me.

Cat Woman Costume on a Budget

Cat Woman Costume - $13

This was the most popular…I wonder why…

This is another great example of using what you already have:

  • Same catsuit
  • Same utility belt
  • Same boots
  • Same black nail polish
  • $13 cat woman cowel from a costume place near my house
  • Borrowed collar from Mandy.
  • Borrowed fake whip from Mandy.
  • Same Flexees (Spanx) and push-up bra.

Mandy does the costuming for a Rocky Horror Picture group, hence the interesting accessories and costume makeup that she has.  ;-)

Altogether, I spent about $70 this year and filled in the blanks through things my friends or I already owned.  I think that’s more than acceptable for 2 great comic character outfits plus a cute pirate.  And my roommates seemed to have fun dressing me up, LOL.  Mandy donated an hour of her time to my hair and makeup Saturday and Sunday morning – she’s so sweet.  I’m thinking of thank you gifts already.  :-)

What sort of costumes have you done on a low budget?