A Bargain Hunters Guide to Entertainment

As budgets get tighter, one of the first areas where we look to save money is entertainment. But with a little determination and a bit of ingenuity, we can stretch our entertainment dollars much further than you might expect. Let's take a look at three areas where most of us probably have some interest -- movies, music and books. With many prices going up, gas prices remaining high, and wages at best staying the same for those of us lucky enough to still be employed, many of us find that we can no longer afford to buy the movies we want, the music we crave or the books we wish to read. Let's look at how we can get more for our money in these particular areas...

Saving Money on the Movies You Love

One of the best ways to save money on movies is to buy used whenever possible. DVD's can range from $5 to $30 or more when you buy new with blu-rays starting much higher. However, used DVD's can be found starting as low as $2 or less and used blu-rays can easily be found for $5 or less. Obviously your selection will be more limited when buying used, but by only purchasing the movies you truly love and consider absolute classics new while maintaining a list of titles you would like to own but can wait awhile for, you will find that your collection can grow rather quickly.

One of the best sources for used DVD's and blu-rays is your local pawn shop. Pawn shops often receive so many DVD's that they sell them at rock bottom prices. Blu-rays are already becoming plentiful as well. Because people turn to pawn shops when unexpected financial troubles arise, you will often find many recent hits for sale. Some of my best pawn shop finds include the 2-disc collector's version of The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn a couple weeks after it was released and movies like Dream House, Final Destination 5 and Iron Man 2 within days of it hitting retail shelves.

You should also take a look at any local thrift stores in your area. They do not get new releases as often as pawn shops do, but they can be a great place to find older classics or lesser known titles. And many thrift stores are in business to help one philanthropic organization or another so you might not only find a bargain but help out a deserving charity as well! One thing to note about thrift stores however is they are not necessarily associated with a charitable purpose, so if this is part of your reason for shopping there, be sure to research the organization that runs the store.

Another great source of used DVD's and blu-rays is your local video rental store. The bigger a movie is, the more copies a video store needs during its first few weeks of release. But fairly quickly, demand drops and the store will find itself sitting on tons of new releases that will not rent. These usually go out for sale. Blockbuster sells their used DVD's as low as $1.99 but even fairly new releases can be purchased for $10 or less. Blu-rays are also cheap, usually starting around $6 or $7. One thing to watch for, however, is some movies now come in rental versions that lack the special features of the full retail version.

Singing a Cheaper Tune

A few years ago, pawn shops were also a great place to find CD's. But these days most pawn shops no longer buy CD's because they come in so much quicker than they go out. One pawn shop in my area was buying CD's for a penny a piece until a few months ago and selling them for 25ยข each or 10 for $1. But even at those prices there shelves kept overflowing and a few months ago they stopped buying CD's and sold their remaining stock for a penny each. You can still find CD's in some pawn shops and they are probably very cheap, but to get the good stuff, you may have to work a little harder.

Flea markets are a great place to find used CD's these days. Many vendors at my local flea market have hundreds of CD's. They usually are asking no more than $2 each but often offer big discounts for buying multiple CD's. You may have to sort through a lot of trash to find your treasure, but those gems are there. On a recent trip to my local flea market, I picked up discs by My Chemical Romance, Taylor Swift, Evanescence, Hank Williams III, Black Eyed Peas. Eric Clapton and The Clash. I paid on average less than $1 per CD!

Since pawn shops are no longer buying CD's, you can also often find large number of CD's at yard sales and garage sales. Usually people just want to get rid of the discs and, if you can find someone with similar interests to you, you may very well be able to get a great deal by buying a large number of CD's. You can often find yard sales and garage sales listed on Craigslist as well as in your local newspaper.

Of course, with so few outlets for selling CD's, a lot of people just take their old discs to those thrift stores mentioned before. And since these stores are now getting the quantities that used to go to the pawn shops, their prices are generally super low! It is also a good idea to keep in mind that some thrift stores are willing to negotiate prices on large purchases, so this could be a great opportunity to expand your collection. But when asking for discounts, be sure to remember that if a thrift store is operating to benefit a charity and already has deeply discounted prices, they may not be willing to lower the prices further.

You Can't Judge a Book By Its Bargain Price

Having recently re-discovered my local library, I guess the first (and most obvious) suggestion to save money on your reading budget would be to consider visiting your local library. Of course, while this is a good suggestion, if you are a collector of books, you still will want to add the books you enjoy to your collection. You might find it beneficial however to use the library to read those books you want to purchase until a bargain-priced copy comes along. But where to find those bargains?

My first suggestion would still be your local library. Libraries often have book sales where they sell not only their excess books (which may not be in suitable condition for collectors) but also books that are donated specifically for the sale (which have often only been read once or even not at all). Pawn shops generally are not a great place to find books, but I have found one or two with excellent book selections. The occasional random garage sale can often be a goldmine -- especially if you find a sale from an avid reader with limited space. You may also find book sellers at many flea markets. And, of course, you will likely find shelves loaded with books at the thrift stores.

And definitely be sure to check your phone book to see if there is a book trader in your area. These shops will take your used books in exchange for other books usually for small transaction fees. This is a great way to clear out the books you are not interested in and replace them with those you have been longing for. And the folks who run these stores are usually voracious book readers who love talking about books and can often introduce you to the works of authors you are unfamiliar with but will endlessly enjoy!

Speaking of Swapping...

You might also want to keep an eye out for swap meets in your area. You can usually find these advertised in your town's newspaper or at local shops. A few years ago, swap meets were more plentiful, but the increased usage of the Internet has made face-to-face swapping less desirable when there is the whole digital community to trade with.

There are great online communities for swapping almost everything including compact discs (swapacd.com), blu-rays and DVD's (swapadvd.com) and books (paperbackswap.com). At most of these sites, you will also usually find a few collectors looking for older formats like vinyl and VHS videocassettes -- maybe even 8-tracks and Betas! Many of these sites allow free swapping where you only pay postage for the items you swap. You cannot beat a deal like that when you need to satisfy your entertainment hunger!

Other Onine Options

Of course, even if you are looking to buy your music, movies and books, there are plenty of websites aimed at the bargain conscious. From sites like eBay that connect individual buyers with individual sellers to sites like DeepDiscount that just offers deeply discounted prices themselves, you can find great prices on just about anything you may want.

But when buying entertainment products, the online experience can leave something to be desired. Certainly you will get recommendations for other items you might like when shopping at Amazon, but it is not the same as discussing your favorites singers, writers or actors with a live human being -- especially if that person enjoys the same interests as you. Let's face it... no computer ever joined the KISS Army or got excited about the release of the next Twilight saga.

Online purchases can save time and in many cases may even save money as well, but many may find the lack of interaction with other fans and hobbyists takes something away the experience if you consider yourself a collector. So why not spend a summer afternoon seeking out your next treasure and see where it leads? Maybe your next adventure might not be in the pages of a book or on a television screen!

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