Updated on 07.06.10

Making Your Time Less Money-Dense

Trent Hamm

One of the biggest ways to leak money is to spend your time in money-dense ways. The easiest way to explain it is to just show you a bunch of examples.

Spending eight hours at Disney World with the requisite food, drink, and souvenir purchases costs about $200. The cost per hour of this event is $25 per hour. This is a very money dense activity.

Spending eight hours reading a book you checked out from the library costs nothing at all. The cost here is $0 per hour.

Watching a DVD at home that you borrowed from a friend costs perhaps $0.20 in electricity ($0.08 per hour).

On the other hand, going out to a movie for two and a half hours costs you $10 for the ticket ($4 per hour) or, if you buy drinks and popcorn, $18 for the trip (about $7.50 per hour).

You can do this for virtually any activity with which you might spend your leisure time. From shopping for clothes to playing a video game, all such leisure activities have a cost per hour, and the lower you can make that cost per hour, the better off you’ll be.

But how can you actually use this idea?

What I did a while back is simply make a giant list of all of my favorite leisure activities. Taking a walk. Playing a board game. Reading a book. Playing a video game. Playing basketball. Playing with my kids. Working in the garden. Going to movies. Going to bookstores. Going to the library. The list was quite long.

Then, I figured up the approximate cost per hour of engaging in those activities.

Going to the movies was pretty expensive, as was going to the bookstore (because I rarely leave it without a book in hand). Playing a board game or a video game were usually pretty cheap, as the cost of each is prorated down because of the many times I’ve played each one ($1 per hour or, often, much less than that, and even that’s merely recovering a sunk cost). Other activities, like taking a walk or playing at the rec, were effectively free. Gardening arguably earns a little bit for each hour invested in it.

What happened was that when I had brainstormed this huge list of activities and actually figured out what they cost per hour, I began to spend more of my time on the lower cost activities (like taking a walk or yard work or reading a book or playing games) and less of my time on the more expensive things for the time invested (like going to movies).

It wasn’t even a conscious choice, really. Just by raising my awareness of the implicit cost of engaging in various activities I enjoy, I began to migrate towards the ones that drained my wallet at a slower rate.

Naturally, my entertainment and hobby budgets have dropped over the last year or so at no cost to my enjoyment of life at all. I just simply improved my awareness of the real cost of many of the things I enjoy and started making my choices of how to spend my scant free time from a more enlightened perspective.

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  1. 8sml says:

    Interesting observations.

    Don’t forget to factor in transportation costs. Did you drive to the library/movies? Walk? Take the bus? The “cost” of your reading/movie watching will vary depending on your answer.

  2. Joey Dawson says:

    I have been a reader for years now and have learned a lot from your posts Trent. One thing that does bother me about some of your posts, and this one included is that you seem to sometime focus too much on the frugality of something. For example, a trip to Disney may be a far more money dense activity then reading a book you got from the library, but the experiences are far different. My girlfriend has been to Disney a few times (I sadly, have not), and the memories, stories, magic that she has based on that experience I don’t think she would begin to try and quantify by how much money was spent. I am a strong believer of saving to spend, and never spending more then you have – but if you have the means to experience something you should not be held back by the thoughts of frugality.

  3. Molly says:

    I haven’t thought of it this way before. Hmm, knitting is a pretty money dense activity. Probably $5/hour, perhaps more considering the needles, scissors, stitch counters. Reading is essentially free (library books). So does knitting bring me that much more entertainment? TBD.

  4. Fredrik says:

    I convince myself that my best investment I’ve ever done was to buy a Playstation 3. I get to see my friends more often as we play Fifa together, we buy cheap beers and food and bring home instead of expensive pints and dinner at pubs/restaurants.

    My average cost per night with PS3 is $15. I don’t even get in to a night club at that price :)

    I just bumped in to this website. Keep up the good work.

    Fredrik from Stockholm / Sweden.

  5. Tim says:

    I was also going to mention the cost of driving to the library, but of course if you take out more than one book, the cost would go down.

    This article reminds me that as a homeowner, you never stop spending money. If you are home the lights are on, if you are sleeping the fridge is still running. The best activities are outside with the kids!

  6. Angela says:

    Molly – like Trent’s gardening example, your knitting will produce some end result that has value, which will offset the cost of your materials and supplies.

  7. Courtney says:

    I think you need to compare apples to apples when making these sorts of calculations. That is, if you’re going to include the cost of snacks at the movies, then you should also include the cost of snacks at home. Also, spending 8 hours reading a book is not comparable to spending 8 hours at Disney in any sense. You could compare the per-hour cost of buying a book versus borrowing. I don’t know what you would compare to Disney?

  8. Adam says:

    I think about this all the time. It’s one reason why we rarely go out to movies. Spending $15 for the two of us, to watch a movie for two hours, just doesn’t seem worth it. For some people, maybe it is. But I’d much rather spend $1-$3 to watch it at home.

    Courtney is right though. Sometimes, you spend more on an activity because you enjoy it more or it’s a special occasion.

  9. anne says:

    i am constantly doing math like this in my head.

    one thing i think helps our family is the memberships i buy. we have a reciprocal chilren’s museum membership, as well as a family pass to a local amusement park. if i can organize us enough to pack a picnic for the meal or snack, then i save us a fortune.

  10. annk says:

    Another corollary is to look at the time cost of a purchase to decide whether it is worth it. If something I want costs $90, and I make $30 an hour, I have to decide if it is really worth three hours of my time.

  11. HC says:

    To Molly:

    The needles, stitchholders, etc are sunk costs and for the most part are reusable. You can also get them cheap or free by asking around. The main cost of knitting is the yarn, but that can be fairly inexpensive depending on the variety you choose (I usually choose acrylic from the local megamart as I want washable items). You can also shop sales/use gc’s. Also, if you have a local knitting or crocheting group, they may bring in stuff from their stash to give away/trade.

    I hope you enjoy knitting. I know I do.

  12. Deb J says:

    I so agree with your post. I also see what Courtney means. I think the major issues is to really look at the cost of what you do. In other words be intentional about how you spend your money. I also like ANNK’s comment. I have a friend who can’t understand why I don’t do many of the things she does. Yet the difference is mainly one of money. I refuse to use my charge card for entertainment. My charge card is only for big emergencies where I can’t get to the cash needed or don’t have the cash for it because it is so big. I refuse to live above my means. So my entertainment is based on things I like to do that are free or low cost. If something costs more then I save money to do it after careful consideration. I don’t feel like I am missing anything because I am choosing to live this way.

  13. Johanna says:

    @annk: But your whole salary isn’t available for entertainment and other discretionary purchases. A chunk of it goes to taxes, and another chunk is probably committed to fixed, necessary expenses like rent (or mortgage), food, transportation, insurance, retirement savings, etc. If those things consume 75% of your salary, then you need to decide whether that $90 purchase is worth one and a half days of your time, not three hours.

  14. Dan says:

    @#6 annk

    Remember pre versus post tax dollars. If you make $30 per hour, you would have to work X hours (X > 3) to get $90 post-tax dollars.


  15. Matthew says:

    I disagree with Courtney because money-dense activities and their replacements are not always similar. If I go to the movies with my wife, she will invariably purchase popcorn and a soda. If we watch a movie at home, then she will almost never grab a snack to go with it. I will purchase alcohol on a cruise, but I do not when on holiday at Disney World. Similar activities do not necessarily yield similar behaviors.

  16. Patty says:

    I’m still trying to figure out your budget categories after yesterday’s piano comments. Wouldn’t lessons and buying a piano fit into entertainment/hobby more-so than “career development” or “food”? I’m not saying you shouldn’t learn to play if that is what you want (its all about choices) but I can only assume that the per hour cost of lessons and buying an instrument (while likely less than disney) exceed reading a library book. I understand I’m an outsider but its still hard to read the ‘my entertainment and hobby expenses have gone down in the last year’ in the same breath as ‘I started piano lessons and want to buy a piano’. Or maybe you are just buying that many fewer books…

  17. Joe S. says:

    So going to the bookstore is money-dense because you rarely leave without a book? Well, if you are including the purchase of a book shouldn’t you include the time reading it (I assume you aren’t just leaving it on the shelf)? The problem isn’t the value of going to the bookstore then, but simply that you shouldn’t go to the bookstore if you are unwilling to spend money.

  18. Sheri says:

    Committed knitter here, Molly. I agree that knitting costs more than reading a book from the library, but once you are set with needles and other supplies (I have essentially a full array in straight, circular, and dp), the cost is limited to yarn. I inherited some of my needles and bought most of the others secondhand at yard sales and in ebay lots–and I am picky! Good brands are easily available. Yard sales and ebay are also excellent sources for high-quality yarn, if you know what you need. Patterns can be purchased secondhand or found free online (if you are an accomplished knitter, so that you can judge the pattern quality and adjust for errors).

    I figure knitting allows me to make beautiful garments for my family and excellent baby gifts and other gift items very inexpensively. I don’t factor in the cost of my time, because knitting is recreation for me–if I were not knitting, I would be goofing off in some other way! And when I am knitting something I love, I am much more likely to avoid other costly activities, like attending movies in theaters (easier to knit at home!) and recreational shopping for books or other items.

    In short, I consider knitting a frugal hobby. Knit on without guilt, Molly!

  19. Kerrick says:

    I usually try to keep my leisure time activities to less than a dollar per hour, unless it’s a special occasion or I need to have some “extra fun.” I play plenty of board and video games, which have ended up costing me MUCH less than that per hour. At the video store near my dorm rooms, I can rent movies for a dollar, which is about 50c/hour.

    However, there are those nights when my girlfriend and I really are tired of playing board games, taking walks around campus, watching movies, and we just want to go out for a change. I feel that, because I’ve been so careful about my money on everyday leisure, I can splurge a bit and take her out to a $15/plate restaurant or to a movie at the multiplex theater complete with popcorn and treats, as long as that’s just an every-now-and-then thing.

  20. Brittany says:

    Again, we have Trent’s inflated comparisons… A huge no-expense-spared food/souvenirs Disney splurge versus reading a library book for 8 hours while not eating, using air conditioning, or driving to the library. Let’s say I bring a water bottle, pack a lunch, and avoid the gift shops. (Let’s ignore the couple dollars I spent on lunch meat just as we ignored eating while reading.)

    I buy a regualr adult ticket for $72 and stay 8 hours. Now my cost per hour is $9, a little more than going to a movie. But I’m at Disney! Why would I only stay 8 hours? I’m going to go for the full 12 hours they’re open so I get my money’s worth and get to see the fireworks. Now my cost per hour is only $6! Cheaper than going to a movie!

    The idea of this article is good,but it goes from being thought-provoking to sounding like frugal=holier-than-thou moralizing when you drastically overinflate the numbers for “non-frugal” activities and underestimate costs for “approved” frugal activities.

    Isn’t the thought that, done frugally, Disney (a neat life time experiece) can be cheaper per hour than going to the movies (can be fun, but routine) more interesting than the fact that a mindless spending spree at Disney is more expensive than reading a library book?

  21. Vicky says:

    Don’t forget season passes REALLY make going to Disney way less costly :p

    I bought Season Passes for 2 years to Sea World, Busch Gardens, Adventure Island and Aquatica.

    It was $489/person, and I bought 2, and it included free parking to all 4 parks. I paid monthly and it was like $35/month for 2 years.

    I went to a park at LEAST twice a month, the entire two years – sometimes more than that.

    But let’s say I went twice a month – so I went 48 times all together, for $489. (One person.) It then only cost me $10 each time I went. (And if you want to throw in the parking is $14, then.. well I saved quite a bit more) I would spend ALL DAY there, and I’d bring a cooler (Kept it in the car) and a water bottle and never spent a dime in the park.

    Those four parks are my favorite places in the world, and I enjoyed my time there so much. And as much as I love reading about dolphins and other animals, seeing them in person is much, much better.

  22. Harrken says:

    #2 Molly, if you are knitting useful items you need to factor in the gain from knitting also.

  23. sjw says:

    @Molly – I have a different experience. My costs for knitting are less than a dollar an hour. For example, right now I’m knitting a lace scarf. My needles (which I will reuse) were about $16, and the yarn was about $20. I have definitely spent more than 60 hours on this scarf, and I still have more to go.

    In fact the money density factor was one of the reasons I picked up knitting, and lace specifically. I mix it up with large blankets, which are very pricey, but also take months. And while at a certain point nobody wants another shawl or scarf, almost everyone can use another blanket in the winter.

  24. Stacie says:

    I agree with Brittany. Being frugal is good – but every now and again you need to enjoy life. That isn’t to say reading a library book (which I do daily) isn’t fun…but, it isn’t the child’s dream vacation now is it? I work hard for my money, every now and again I get to spend it. Being frugal is about being mindful of spending not restricting activities to the point where reading a library book is the height of excitement.

  25. Sue F says:

    We went to Disney over Thanksgiving when our kid was 11. Well worth that one-time splurge!

  26. Kate says:

    This is interesting and I do think that you can look at activities in a cost basis. That said, I do think the article does outline extremes for both expensive activites and cheaper alternatives. You also do have to factor in what rewards you receive from each activity.
    Recently my friend Sarah and I have decided to get together for walks around the river instead of going to happy hour every Thursday. We still indulge but only once or twice a month at the most. The other 2-3 Thursdays we get to catch up and exercise at the same time we are saving some money.

  27. @12 Stacie: Couldn’t have said it better myself. :)

  28. momof4 says:

    @#9 Brittany
    I agree with the premise behind you comment completely, however I don’t think Trent’s price for a day at Disney is too far off. You can’t take a picnic lunch in and they inspect all bags. You probably could stuff a sandwich in your purse and maybe a water bottle, but certainly not take in enough food for a family for the day, and even if you avoid souvenirs the food alone is extremely expensive.

  29. jgonzales says:

    I agree with those who say the library vs Disney cannot be easily compared. It would be better to compare buying a book vs the library. If you buy a $30 hardback novel, it would cost you $3.75 an hour but if you borrow the same novel from the library, it’s $0 (not including incidentals, because you’d spend the same amount on those).

    If you want to compare something free to Disneyland, you would need something like the beach. It’s still something that people dream of doing, but it’s free vs. spending $72 for an adult ticket to Disneyland (for those not living in Southern California). If you pack food, don’t spend money on gifts etc, then it’s $9 an hour or free (assuming you spend 8 hours). Of course, if you don’t live in Southern California, both have other expenses like hotels to include as well.

  30. candylover says:

    Why is Disney World being equated with reading a book? The two are completely different. Maybe compare Disney World to another family vacation, or reading a book to another hobby, but spending 8 hours in Disney World and 8 hours reading a book are not even comparable.

    Also, you can bring snacks, drinks, and food that does not require heating into the Disney park now, so if you didn’t want to splurge on Disney dining, you could save money that way.

  31. Courtney says:

    @ Vicky (#10) – we did the same thing in high school with summer passes to Kings Dominion. We’d get four people to split a ‘family pack’ of season passes ($45 per person) and then each get a $20 parking pass that was good all summer. Pack a cooler in the car for lunch and duck out of the park for an hour to eat. We went at least once a week and would spend all day there. Cost per hour over the entire summer was what, 80 cents or less? (plus lunch and gas). That would certainly get it on the ‘approved frugal’ list!

  32. graytham says:

    #15 candylover said:

    “Why is Disney World being equated with reading a book? The two are completely different. Maybe compare Disney World to another family vacation, or reading a book to another hobby, but spending 8 hours in Disney World and 8 hours reading a book are not even comparable.”

    I’m usually in your corner, Trent, but I have to agree with this and similar comments. Using this logic, you shouldn’t have taken that recent road trip- instead, you could have spent several hundred hours at home reading library books, and not spent any money on gas, eating out, lodging, and fun.

  33. Jennifer says:

    I don’t think the point of the post was to urge reading a book over going to Disney, just to show the large difference in costs certain activities are going to be, and to demonstrate how you can cost compare to make decisions on how you are going to spend your entertainment dollar.

    As for movies…wow, is it expensive to take your family to the movies! I love to go, as do my kids, but I made the mistake of not smuggling in our food once, and I won’t do that again! $50 for three people to see a matinee is just too much. I’ll go, but not buy all the snacks. I agree with the commentators that advocate providing your own food on outings. More healthful, too!

  34. Michael says:

    How do you calculate for activities with upfront costs? Between seeds, dirt, plants and tools I easily spent north of $1000 on our garden this year.

    With the number of hours I’m actually doing gardening, it’s still expensive.

    Next year I won’t be buying tools, Apple trees, raspberry or blueberry plants, rabbit fencing, a canning instruction book, shovels, a hoe, rabbit/squirrel traps, as much black dirt…

    Lot’s of startup costs for some hobbies that make it difficult to evaluate the true cost per hour.

  35. Rose says:

    I do a lot of knitting and reading too, my costs for knitting are now relatively cheap as I’ve had the needles for a few years and managed to stockpile yarn that was gifts from other people (donated to the school knitting club but not suitable as it was mohair, my grandmother gave up knitting years ago and was having a clear out, etc). I also enjoy going to the cinema, about once a month on average. I go with a huge group of friends (knitting and reading tend to be solitary activites for me, no knitting clubs around and I can’t do reading out loud), and we spend about £3.50 a ticket. We walk to the cinema as it’s only 20 minutes to half an hour away and buy our own sweets and drinks in the local supermarket en route if we choose (I normally grab a chocolate bar/bag of crisps from home and refill my water bottle but that’s my choice). We always have a great time and end up sitting in the local park for hours afterwards chatting, laughing and generally having fun. If we watched a DVD we’d probably just shove another one on after (which we do about once a week or so). So the fun and cost levels can vary a bit depending on the activity and who you do it with :)

  36. Alexis says:

    I don’t think Trent was comparing Disney to reading a book. He was taking the two ends of the spectrum (very expensive, vs. not expensive at all) to make a point. He even comments ahead of time that he is just showing the examples as a way to explain the concept. If the most you gained from the article is that Trent would rather read than go to Disney (land or world) you are severly missing the point.
    And the cost of each would differ greatly depending on who goes. My husband would pack up the kids, go to Disney (tickets at the gate), and spend a vast fortune on food and very dumb souveniers. Then find the closest hotel (probably the most expensive) and crash. I would plan for a reasonable hotel (tickets included in package), bring 1/2 frozen water bottles (allowed in the parks) to drink all day, plan a mid-day break to leave the park, get a less expensive lunch (or back to hotel room to make it!) and get the most of the vacation…knowing that I make sacrifices in everyday life, like renting movies instead of going to the movies – that afford me such a great family memory time.

  37. Brittany says:


    Eat a big breakfast. Take a cooler full of food. Leave it in your car. Throw water bottles and granola bars, trail mix, etc. in the day bag. Take a late lunch break in the middle of the day. Return to the park. Eat a late dinner afterward.

    This is what my family has done every time we’ve ever gone to an amusement park. A lot of parks even have picnic areas. Take it from this sister-of-seven– it is not hard to do this in a way that lets you feed an entire family for a day.

    I recognize that the point of the article wasn’t Trent would rather read than go to Disney. But his notion that the only way to “use this idea” is to make a list of everything you like doing and then make the “enlightened” decision to only do the inexpensive ones is silly. The concept of money-dense time is really interesting and broadly useful. This article didn’t do it justice, and Trent’s persistent overestimation of “non-frugal” cost and underestimation of “frugal” costs undermines all these calculations he throws about.

  38. Courtney says:

    Alexis, I think the point in most of the comments is that fair comparisons aren’t being presented. Trent includes the cost of snacks in going out to the movies, but not for watching a movie at home. He states that the cost per hour of going to Disney is a whopping $25/hour when many people have made the point that theme parks do not have to be anywhere near that expensive (see comments 5, 9, 10, 16…) It’s practically hyperbole for the sake of making a case for frugality.

  39. Kathy says:

    How can you compare going to Disney World with reading a book? Unless you go to Disney World *a lot*, you can’t really compare the two activities. For a majority of the people out there, Disney World is one of those once in a life time opportunities, where reading a book is something you can do every day.

    And I agree with the others about the movies/DVD comparison. If you are going to factor in the cost of snacks at the movie theater, then you have to factor in the cost of the snacks you eat while you are watching the movie at home.

  40. Alexis says:

    Courtney, I agree. The comments are saying the comparison is unfair, but they are saying the comparison of Disney vs book (see #23 for most recent) is unfair. That wasn’t the comparison Trent made…(that was my point). The disney/book comment was the 2 ends of the spectrum…2 examples, not a comparison. The DVD vs Movie Theater…that was the comparison.

    While I agree that there is a lot more detail that was not included, I took from the article that it is worth the time to examine the things you choose to do and their reasonable alternatives to determine what is more time dense for you. (And for that matter, what is worth the extra density….or not) I think Trent left out the extra detail because he isn’t trying to make a complete example..that would be impossible as people spend differently (like my above exampleof my hubby and I). This article was to get the reader thinking…not give an answer.

  41. Robert says:

    I really agree with this post. In fact, I would argue that you can take this further and say that the natural state of life is to lose money, even if at a low rate. This means we have to find a way for our hobbies to become our businesses.

    If we spend time trying to make money, only to spend all or more than all of it to “unwind,” we’ve defeated ourselves. That’s one of the reasons a corporate job can cause so much harm to a person’s potential.

  42. Kate says:

    For a lot of Americans, there is no “comparison” or choice. That Disney vacation is just not an affordable option for a lot of people.

  43. @Johanna, other than the taxes your math is incorrect. Purchasing (or not purchasing) a $90 item doesn’t affect fixed costs like rent, food, or transportation (unless the item inherently raises or lowers one of those categories by itself). These are extremely hypothetical numbers, but follow the math here. If you make $10 per hour, and work 100 hours a month ($1000 a month), and taxes are $100, rent is $300, transportation is $200, and food is $200, you’ve worked 80 of your 100 hours just to provide the $800 for rent, transportation, taxes, and food. You could stop working the other 20 hours, and you’d still have all the money you need for rent, transportation, taxes, and food. You could work another 60 hours and your rent, transportation, and food wouldn’t go up, but your discretionary income would skyrocket. So what you’re debating is how to spend each hour that you’ve haven’t already spent. @annk’s math holds, other than factoring in taxes.

    @Brittany, I think Trent was being phenomenally generous by not including travel time and expense and potential hotel/motel fees in his estimate of Disney World’s cost. Once you factor that in, Disney WOrld is way, way more than $25 per hour (even if you figure a 12-hour day). Unless you live in Orlando, there’s no way that Disney World is cheaper, per-hour, than going to the movies. You might also want to consider that enjoying the local food is part of any well-rounded travel experience. So you can pack your own lunches, but you’re denying yourself part of the experience that you spent a bunch of travel costs, hotel fees, and ticket fees to have. I don’t know that I’d consider that frugal at all.

    @Michael, your garden has a cost but also has an output. If you grow 30 lbs of tomatoes, and tomatoes cost $1.00/lb at the grocery store, your garden earned $30 (or offset $30 of expenses, depending). Figure out your yield, and re-calculate your true costs at the end of the season to see where you are at that point.

    @Courtney & @Kathy, Trent offers two sets of numbers for the movie theater – one with snacks, one without. I know my fiance and I just eat our evening dinner while we watch movies. No additional snacks needed.

  44. Interesting perspective on stopping the “leak of money”. I don’t know if you’ve seen them or not, but I wrote a couple articles on money leaks in life you might find interesting.

  45. Kevin says:

    My question: how is it even remotely possible that you could be unaware of the the “implicit cost of engaging in various activities” you enjoy?

    One needs to conduct some sort of analysis to figure out that taking a walk is less “money-dense” than going to the movies? …and this somehow enables one to achieve some sort of “enlightened perspective”?


    What’s next? A revelation that a Corolla is a more economical alternative to a Ferrari?

  46. AndreaS says:

    I agree if you have a theme park pass, the hourly wage can drop considerably. But in the end, you still spent $489 per family member. Furthermore, is every repeat visit equally as exciting as the first? If not then you have diminishing returns. You would get more value from going just once every two years… and it would cost less.

  47. Kai says:

    Whether the pass gives you diminishing returns, and whether it is more valuable to go regularly or to go once in two years depends strongly on the individual. For you, perhaps the novelty is a major thing. For her, perhaps she truly enjoys it just as much every time, and gets every penny of her money’s worth.

    That, and many other examples, illustrate why this is a good exercise to consider for yourself – is the enjoyment I get from this activity worth what I will pay for it? NOT ‘is this on the approved frugal-person list?’

  48. Todd says:

    This is really interesting. I just spent an hour figuring up the cost per hour of about fifty different activities. It’s definitely food for thought.

    However, it’s much harder for me to figure out the satisfaction per hour that I get. It seems to me that the ideal would not be simply to minimize the cost per hour, but to increase the ratio of satisfaction per hour to the cost per hour.

    I just finished a great novel, which I borrowed from a friend. That number is way up there. Our family finally went to Disney World a few months ago and we had a pretty negative experience due to a variety of extenuating circumstances (cancelled flight,sunburn, losing my wallet, a sick child, etc.) That was a VERY low number.

    The best leisure activities are when you hit the ideal convergence of satisfaction vs. cost. Maybe if I could win free tickets to the Olympics (and an all-expenses-paid trip)…..

  49. Barb says:

    This is really equivalant to the hourly wage that we talk about when people buy stuff-one is just comparing it to experiences in this post. While the post can be helpful, the idea that if we’re really frugal people we will always choose the cheaper activity (somewhere in the back of our brains) is unrealistic and probably un true. It also doesnt make accomodations for doing any of these activities less expensively. in my case I am frugal so that I can spend in certain areas. Rather than giving up golf or quilting for example, I find ways to do it less expensively and cut in other areas. Reading a book or playing a video game will simply not be an acceptable substitute.

  50. Systemizer says:

    Paying extra to watch a movie on a big screen can be worth it. I’m thinking Avatar and Quentin Tarantino movies.

  51. Lumi says:

    This is one of my favourite methods of comparing and deciding on entertainment. I’m a knitter too, and a lace shawl with 10 € yarn will take me 10 hours or more to make and I’ll be enjoying every minute of it (I don’t count the needles, as they were bought years ago). A 3D movie at my local theatre with my husband is 26 €. Conclusion: we go to the movies, too, but most nights are spent knitting at home.

  52. Amy B. says:

    @Todd(#48) – I’d love to see your list. Could you at least share your top 5 and bottom 5?

    I also like the idea of satisfaction per unit cost. This, of course, would be subjective and change from person to person. (Just a quick perusal of the comments here bear that out.)

  53. william e. sparks says:

    Just make a budget using software like money and go have fun!Life only happens once and there are no SECOND CHANCES!

  54. Johanna says:

    @Robert Wall: No, my “math” is not “incorrect” – we’re just considering different situations. You’re talking about a person who can work arbitrarily many (or few) hours for a fixed hourly wage, and I’m talking about a person with a fixed monthly salary. If your salary works out to $30 an hour, but you don’t have the option of working three extra hours and earning 90 extra dollars, then it makes no sense to look at it that way.

  55. cv says:

    I think Todd (#48) has the right idea – this is more interesting when you look at lots of examples, including many that are in between reading a library book and going to Disney. How about the hourly cost of some things I’ve done in recent years:

    – going to a baseball game
    – taking a semester-long class at the local community college
    – a 4-session kayaking class
    – a wine tour of Napa
    – visiting an art museum
    – going to bars with friends
    – learning to crochet
    – seeing a Broadway show
    – going to a yoga class
    – visiting street fairs and community festivals (which can be free, but for me usually means buying some food, crafts, etc.)
    – camping at Yosemite
    – seeing a friend in a local high school play
    – playing mini golf
    – renting a kayak to go snorkeling on a tropical reef

    The community college course was probably the most expensive in total, but not per hour with all the time I spent in class and doing homework. The wine tour was probably a similar cost to the Broadway show, but a better deal per hour since it was a whole day instead of a couple of hours. Yoga classes seem reasonably priced on the face of it, but they’re several times as much as a movie ticket per hour, since a class is only 50 minutes.

    It’s an interesting way to look at things – how much value and I really getting out of my entertainment dollar? If I’m spending more per hour, is it for something that I will value and remember more?

  56. Brittany says:

    @43 Robert Wall I was calculating only the marginal cost of going to Disney. The vacation as a whole is a different cost.

    Last time I went to Disney, it cost me $285 for the entire trip, including travel, lodgings, food, and 3 days of disney. There are options, if you’re smart.

    Overpriced amusement park food is nowhere near “enjoying local food.” Pack your lunch for Disney; make you evening meal at a nice low cost local dive. Best of both worlds.

    In all my travels, eating out of local markets has always been one of my favorite activities. I’ll take it over expensive restaurants anytime.

  57. creativeme says:

    I’ve always thought that way (it drives friends and family crazy). But, thankfully most of my favourite leisure activities are on the cheap end (with the exception of camping and dirtbiking). I went to the movies last night and gagged at how expensive they are! 2 people for $20?! I could by rent the DVD in a couple months for a fraction of that (and not have to endure sticky floors). By delaying the experience to a cheaper time (waiting for it to be on DVD, or the book to be at the library) signifigantly reduces the expense!

    About the costly activities, if they are VERY much enjoyed, they should be budgeted in as much as you can afford it. If you live frugally all year so you can go to Disneyworld without worries, then power to you! BUT if you have cheap hentertainment needs, then you will be able to indulge more frequently for the same price — without exception.

  58. Dawn says:

    @43 Robert Wall – I just returned from a trip to Disney World. We flew down, rented a car, stayed in very nice hotels (we switched mid-trip from a “deluxe” Disney hotel to a very nice hotel off property) and ate in nice restaurants, including a couple room service meals (indulgent, yes, but I have little kids, so it was necessary for my sanity). Including the costs for the flights, hotels, rental car, park tickets, food and miscellaneous purchases, I can’t figure out a way to make our trip cost more than $19 per hour, even if I calculate the cost based on an 8 hour day. For the record, I included costs for things we would’ve purchased at home, like snacks and diapers.

    I’m not in any way saying that it’s valid to spend a ton of money at Disney, and I’m not saying that Disney is a frugal vacation. I am, however, saying that $25 per hour is an unreasonable estimate for a Disney vacation. Believe me, my idea of roughing it is slow room service, so if my vacation didn’t cost that much, you’d be hard pressed to find someone whose did.

    Disney frequently runs specials for families where they can stay on property (enjoying certain benefits), including a dining plan and theme park tickets for as little as $1,400 for a family of four for 5 nights. Obviously, once you factor in flights and souvenirs (let’s say $300 per person total), you are looking at approximately $130 per person per night, or $16.25 per hour for an 8 hour day.

    If you consider that most people will spend more than 8 hours in a theme park each day, plus they’ll probably spend additional time at the hotel pool, a 12 hour day is less than $11 per hour. It’s still not a cheap vacation, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not out of reach for a family that plans ahead to pay for it.

    Plus, Disney is super fun!

    @Brittany – $285 – good for you!!! There definitely are options for everyone.

  59. dawn says:

    I agree with this approach and have been able to convince my daughter to do as many less money dense activities as possible during the summer. We even figured buying a frisbee and a volleyball and heading to the beach is not only fun but very cheap considering the hours of enjoyment.

  60. K.C. says:

    Budgeting for entertainment does the trick for me. The budget automatically limits my money-dense (expensive) activities. As others have said, the idea is to make an activity less money-dense (cheaper). We eat out during the lunch hour when some restaurants offer lower-priced specials.

  61. Sean G says:

    Hmmm… I can’t argue that getting a library book is cheap, but it certainly isn’t free.

    I imagine you pay taxes to your state, locality, or school district, which funds your local lending library.

    Still, its certainly not a money dense activity–just not free.

  62. Budgeting money is not an easy thing but it can really help people in life. I started budgeting money on the movies i rent, instead of renting from big rental places i started renting from Red Box which only charges a dollar a day. Budgeting money can help you save for the bigger things you want in life.

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