5 ways I’m not spending my summer recession

bobhoperecessionI’d like to just surrender and call our economic state a depression, which all signs indicate we’re barrelling towards, but, per the definition, the concept just depresses me.

Instead, following are five ways I’m saving a few bucks that may be of use. In summary: Rocket Video, refilling water jugs, free movie previews, 99 cent store, and blogging.

If you have your own magical money saving ways, please share in the comments.

And the somewhat irrelevent photo at right is the legendary Bob Hope, returning home from a USO tour to be greeted by his dog named Recession.

1. Putting my Netflix subscription on hold, visiting Rocket Video on 2 for 1 days.

Normally, with a membership rentals are $2.99, but on Thursdays and Saturdays Rocket Video are 2 for 1 days, including new releases and Blu-Ray rentals. Considering I only watch a couple rentals every week, this is already cheaper than Netflix (which charged more for Blu-Ray). There’s also something inherently fun about browsing video racks and having to make an alternate selection. (my Yelp! review of Rocket here)

On the downside: Besides obviously needing to schedule your video pickups, late fees are at the normal rate, and can add up quickly.

2. Putting my Arrowhead water delivery on hold, and refilling the bottles at Ralphs.

I’ve found Brita water filters and other similar systems to be not only less better tasting, but just as costly, as spending close to $7.00 per 5 gallon bottle of water from Arrowhead. But considering that my girlfriend and I easily go through more than one of these bottles in a week during the summer, I’ve put the deliveries on hold and instead are refilling these bottles for $1.25 a gallon at our local Ralphs.

The trick: Clearly, lugging these bottles around isn’t easy. I’ve been reusing old grocery bags to cover the bottle tops, then sealing with a couple wraps of gaffe tape (I’m sure duct tape will work as well, or packing tape in a pinch).

3. Hitting up free preview movie screenings even more than usual.

As a movie geek, it pains me to see less movies on opening night, but as long as I’m able to sit in a theatre I’m usually happy. Thank the Hollywood machine for wanting free audiences to fill in press screenings, or other screenings to gauge audience response or build word of mouth. Unfortunately, having to arrive at least an hour ahead to ensure a spot, usually forgoing concessions if the movies are being shown at private screening rooms, frequent requirements that you leave your cell phone in the car, and often getting some crappy seats, is par for the course. Occasionally, though, you’ll see the film’s stars, directors, studio execs, and other producers in attendance… and it isn’t unusual for the studio to provide a free popcorn and soda to attendees.

Besides accepting the free passes often offered outside of theatres and shopping hot spots around town, you can also be emailed invited to preview screenings through My Cinema Access and The Screening Exchange.

My favorites: Creative Screenwriter magazine has a recurring, occasional series of new release screenings that are followed by Q&As with the film’s writers. Sign up for notifications here. Subscribers to the awesome Film Radar mailing list will also be tipped off occasionally to free or cheap screenings around town.

4. Putting on my blinders and visiting the 99¢ Only Store.

To be blunt, the 99¢ Only Store kind of freaks me out. Besides some of the unusual, questionable food items for sale, the clientelle can be a little creepy. But, when it comes to select household products, the price is a fraction of what you’ll find at your regular grocery store. My suggestion is that after you’ve clipped some coupons and made your shopping list, hit the 99¢ Only Store first to see what items you can knock out of the way, then hit your regular grocery (or for optimum savings, drop by Big Lots in between).

Additional shopping tip: The store brand stuff, believe it or not, is usually as good, and sometimes better than name brands, often 25% to 50% cheaper… except when it comes to soda and baking mixes. Cookies, orange juice, cereal, and more, worth a taste.

5. Blogging.

I’ll admit, this one is a bit of a cheat (I couldn’t think of a more practical item to round out the “5 Ways” title I committed myself to). But in all sincerity, blogging is not only a great hobby because there are literally no expenses involved (anyone can create a legitimate blog using Blogger or WordPress.com), but because if you’re willing to devote some effort, you can parlay your blogger status into media credentials and comps for events you may have had to pay for in the past. This should not be the reason you create a blog, however, nor should you typically expect this to happen if your blog is more of diary without any specific focus. But, if you have a passion for a particular subject, create a blog about it.

My personal example is Creepy LA, the blog I created about my favorite holiday, Halloween, as well as all things supernatural. Its a niche that has allowed me to attend numerous horror conventions, the occasional film screening, and sometimes even haunted attractions, without any out of pocket expenses.

Once you’ve established you’re some sort of authority on the topic (even if its just the local authority) and you see events relevent to the subject coming up, track down the press or marketing contacts for said event, and pitch your site and request a media comp to review. But the bottom line is that time is money, and if you keep up with it, blogging can take up a lot of your time without spending a cent. Cha-ching!

Sidebar: Be careful choosing too broad a niche, ie “rock music,” which is already saturated with mainstream journalists, not to mention bloggers. But if “rock music” is your thing, consider making a hyperlocal blog about artists or venues in your particular neighborhood. Additionally, joining an established local site such as Metblogs or LAist as a writer may allow you the opportunity to cover a wider variety of events where comps may be available.

If you have your own magical money saving ways, please share in the comments.

6 thoughts on “5 ways I’m not spending my summer recession”

  1. The Los Angeles Public Libraries have DVDs that can be checked out for FREE for two days. Some DVDs can be checked out for 7 days and some branches are better than others when it comes to selection.

    The Los Feliz branch on Hillhurst and Franklin is one of the smaller ones but they do have fairly new releases on a regular basis. What all of the branches have, in my experience, is a decent selection of older “classic” films, documentaries, TV shows and some foreign language films.

    Also, biking and hiking in Griffith Park is another free and fun thing to do as opposed to paying for a gym membership or yoga classes.

  2. I’ve been signing up at neighborhood gyms offering the 7 day free guest passes. Great way to get in shape and tour your local gyms while staying out of the heat- all for free!

  3. Another way for Netflix customers to save money, if they rent Blu-Ray DVDs, is to switch to another service, such as Blockbuster, Redbox, or DVD Online. That’s because, a few months ago, Netflix began imposing surcharges of up to $9 per month on all of its customers who have Blu-Ray access on their accounts.

  4. i have been eating in for lunch more, but when i do eat out, i frequent places that offer specials and loyalty programs to sometimes swipe a free meal (sharky’s in hollywood is good for this). i also have become quite the stalker of the ralph’s circular and rewards. i try to buy the veggies that are on sale (ones that i don’t get from tj’s). my monthly food bill has lowered as a result!

  5. I’ve been doing what helenbed2 mentioned and just got a comp meal using my loyalty card at Pitfire. Some friends and I carpooled to the Hammer Free music event last night, and split the cost of parking. We also try to attend many of the free events around town – California Water Court, Downtown Art Walk, etc. It’s been fun trying to find low cost ways to have fun in LA.

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