Cheap Family Dinner and Movie Night – 3 Steps to Creating a Fun and Low-Cost Family Activity

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Taking your family out for dinner and a movie is getting more and more expensive. Even with some theatres extending matinee prices and restaurants offering a vast array of “2-for-1” or “kids eat free” deals, a family dinner and movie night for four can quickly run over $100. You can dramatically cut the costs by focusing on three steps to creating a fun and low-cost home version of this popular family activity.

The Movie

Video Store – Renting a few new releases isn’t exactly cheap, but getting two or three movies to watch for $16 versus seeing one movie at the theatre for about $40 is a pretty good deal. Mom, dad, and the kids get to put their two-cents in on which movie to get and soon you are on your way to a nice little film marathon at home. You can also take advantage of some good “movie and snack” deals.

Online DVD rentals – With no return dates and no late fees, online renting is becoming more and more popular. Depending on the service you subscribe to, you could easily go through as many as 12 DVDs in four Movie Nights and only pay $20 for that whole month. That’s about $1.67 per rental! And instead of having to decide which movie to get each time, the whole family can fill up the online queue with several selections and they will automatically be shipped out in the order you wish. The only “con” with this option is that since the DVDs are sent to you and also returned by mail, you need to plan a little with keeping your queue full and returning the DVDs so the next ones can be sent out. Considering the money you will be saving, this is still a great way to go.

DVD rental kiosks – You may have seen one of those DVD rental kiosks at your local supermarket offering a DVD for $1. Even though the selection is nowhere near that of your local video store or your online service, they do add newer movies every week. Finding a couple or more good movies for $1 each is a pretty awesome deal even if the selection is smaller. Renting 12 DVDs in a month would cost you a little over $14 or $15 with taxes included. That beats the $20 for one month of online rentals, AND it beats the $16 you would spend on 3 New Release DVDs in one night at your local video store! One other great facet of this option is that being located in a supermarket, it is a nice segue to the next step in creating your inexpensive family night.

The Food

Supermarket – Getting the ingredients for a quick, easy movie night meal can be a fun next step for the kids. Letting them pick out their popcorn flavor and candy is much easier with the wider selection of the market offers rather than the theatre. Whatever you decide to make at home, you would be hard-pressed to surpass the amount you would spend on the check and tip for all of you at a restaurant.

Drive Through – This is a good way to get everyone something they like without having to make it yourself. A couple of adult combos and kids meals can add up pretty quick, but it is still less expensive than your local family hot spot.

Pizza – Another great family dinner option for movie night is good ol’ pizza. Many of your favorite pizza makers are offering one-topping pizzas for as low as $5. A couple of pizzas goes a long way in feeding your little home DVD watching party.

After the movie(s)

Discussion – You would be amazed at how much time can be spent just talking about the movie you just saw. Younger kids may have several questions about the characters and the story. Your older kids will be interested in engaging with you over some of the deeper metaphors and themes of even the “cutest” family films.

Online research – One fun thing to do is to go online and look up trivia and info on the movies and the actors. Many debates on “that’s the guy from such and such!” “no it isn’t!” can be settled on the internet.

Getting ready for the next family movie night – The family can plan out these three steps for next time. With your online DVD service, you can even get a suggestion for future rentals based on the movies you liked.

Putting together a cheap family dinner and movie night does not take much effort and can easily be fit into most families’ hectic schedules. Following these steps, my three kids and I have hit the market to pick up popcorn, soda, and a few DVDs, picked up two $5 pizzas and gotten home all ready to watch our movies in less than half an hour. The total cost of that particular evening was about $22. Compare that to the $90 spent at the restaurant and theatre a few weeks before, and you’ll see why I love the fun and low-cost family activity or watching DVDs at home. It’s less of a hassle than going out, and when you are at home, it’s OK if you or your kids fall asleep during the film.