The El Cheapo Guide to Culture

An eight-step approach to entertaining yourself economically

Matthew J.X. Malady

A free concert in Bryant Park, NYC. Click image to expand.For outdoor concerts, set up camp just outside where you have to pay to enter.Enough is enough. Over the past 10 years, I’ve spent far too much on concerts, scholarly lectures, flamenco performances, off-Broadway plays, and a host of other events. I recently tallied up the number of magazines to which I subscribe, and the total approached 20. Meanwhile, the guy who sells candy at the movie theater down the block is so familiar with me that he yells out "Mr. Sno Cap" upon my arrival to his sugary bazaar. I have been known to write $208 checks to Time Warner Cable for a single month’s service.

Something had to change. The tipping point came this past winter, when my wife and I decided at the last minute that it would be cool to attend the Super Bowl in Dallas. Bad idea. The monetary ramifications of that terrible decision persist to this day. The trip ran us $6,705, $4,925 of which paid for two nosebleed seats at the game in Cowboys Stadium. Upon our return to Manhattan, we became well-acquainted with numerous varieties of Nissin Top Ramen. We won’t be going on a vacation anytime soon, and myriad dings to the sides of our Subaru remain unaddressed. So I have decided my cravings for entertainment and culture need to be sated in a less expensive manner. All is not lost, though. In addition to ducking into a showing of Horrible Bosses without a ticket after watching Cowboys & Aliens, I’ve done some research that leads me to believe it’s not as difficult as you might think to get your culture fix on the cheap. This realization doesn’t do anything to change the fact that blowing more than six grand on a football game was a seriously bad call, but I prefer to look forward, not back. What’s more, I’d like to help others navigate the path to cheap culture consumption. Here are a few tips and tactics that might be of value:

Be detail-oriented, and look for loopholes…

Be creative…

Be willing to compromise…

Try being direct…

Go back to school…

Don’t be too picky…

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