It is HOT over here! To a ridiculous degree (literally). I'm in Philadelphia and every weather report involves some bar graph about how many 90+ degree days we've had so far in June. One thing is for sure, it is too many! And, like many of you, I am not in a home that has central air conditioning. I don't mind that so much-- my preference is to have an open window/ceiling fan situation. I like the circulation; it feels healthy. Not to mention that I couldn't afford the utility bill if I had central air, anyway. Still, there are some weekend days when the heat is just too much. Do I quarantine myself to the air conditioned bedroom? Or suck it up and do my usual gym-Target-grocery store-laundromat circuit, despite the sizzling temps? Sometimes the best answer is just to bag it and go to the movies. It's cool in there (frigid actually-- I always bring a light sweater, even in the swampiness of summer) and depending on how you play it, you can spend a whole afternoon feeling comfortable and entertained.  

This is a fine idea, but we all know how a movie outing can get expensive quick. As a former movie theater employee and fellow spendthrift, here are some tips and tricks to help you enjoy your cinematic oasis on a budget! 

1. Go for a matinee. These are the hottest hours of the day anyway, so seeing an afternoon movie works on both a "staying cool" and "saving money" level. Make sure you check out in advance which showing is considered the matinee showing. Many theaters have restricted their matinee times: whereas it used to be that any show before 6 p.m. was given a matinee price, now only the earliest show time is discounted. Sneaky, I know.  

2. Bring your own food. People, please! Do not buy anything at the concession stand! Here's the thing: movie theaters at best break even with the amount you pay for your ticket. The concession stand is the profit center. This is where they make their money. And that is why it costs $4.75 for a small soda (and yes, that is American dollars; I can't believe it either). I know you're not supposed to bring your own food; but believe me, no one will call the cops on you. Ladies, we all have our hobo bags, just stick a soda and some Twizzlers in there and you've saved yourself ten bucks. Guys, use the pockets of your cargo shorts wisely. Just don't be stupid or go overboard. What you should not do is to bring hot beverages, glass bottles, or alcohol (obviously) into the place. I remember one dude tried to bring a whole pizza into the theater one time. That was just... no. 

3. If you need movie theater popcorn (I understand this), be reasonable. Perspective on serving size has no relevance at a movie theater. Do not get a large. They will try to sell it to you. Unless you are feeding a family of four or more, it's probably way too much. In fact, most theaters offer a "kid's pack" which, if fresh popcorn is a must, is probably the best idea. Usually it's a mini serving of soda (8 oz) and popcorn and some sort of toy, kind of like a Happy Meal. If you feel weird about ordering a kid's pack (though I remind you, a) it is dark and b) no one cares), either pretend you have a kid who is "over there" or just stick to your guns and order a small, despite the concessionist's best effort to get you to upsize.  

4. Use your loyalty cards. I hate the idea of being tracked, marketed, and profiled just as much as the next guy, but using theater club cards does score you some free tickets now and again - which is worthwhile, especially if you are a frequent moviegoer. In the interim, you'll often get coupons for discounts on concessions, a free soda or popcorn, etc. (to be used with caution, see #2-3!).  

5. Investigate the theater's price structure. Have a student ID? Sadly, a lot of theaters are doing away with student discounts, but it never hurts to try. 

6. If you love movies, invest in discount tickets. There are a few ways to get discounted tickets: warehouse clubs like Costco sell them, you can order them through those fund- raiser "Entertainment" coupon books, or your company may participate in a program that offers them to their employees. Some of these discounted tickets come with restrictions, so you may not be able to see a movie until two weeks after its release date or you may have to pay a surcharge if it is an IMAX film. And remember that it probably doesn't make sense to use these tickets for a matinee show. On average, these discount tickets are about $2-4 cheaper than buying them at the box office.  

One thing I don't have to tell you is to enjoy yourself! There is so much great film to see whether we are talking summer blockbuster or indie sleeper. Have fun and stay cool, folks!

Stacey Pavlick

Stacey is a participant in the CareOne Debt Management Plan, soon to complete her second year on the plan. She is also a contributing writer for the My Journey Out of Debt blog. She is currently an operations manager for a title insurance company and moonlights as a music reviewer for SpectrumCulture.com. She combines her passion for writing with her passion for getting out of debt to share her struggles and successes along the way.