Like anyone with a stressful job, people working in the police service need ways to relax and unwind - however, hobbies can be expensive.
It’s amazing how much a simple meal out followed by a couple of drinks can add up, meaning that a lot of people are hesitant to spend on nights out. Then there’s the price of gigs and theatre shows, and even basics like staying fit or being able to relax with a box set can be pricey.
Thankfully, whether you are at home or out and about, there are ways to enjoy quality entertainment and a good social life while spending less.
Some of the following tips are solely available to the police community, while others are more general advice, and they can all help reduce the strain your social life puts on your wallet.
Bars and restaurants
Most people like to enjoy a delicious meal and a drink with friends and family. The question is, how can you enjoy these simple pleasures while spending less?
- Carefully picking the times and days you go out to eat can save you cash. Early bird and happy hour meal deals usually offer exactly the same food and drinks available at other times, but at a more reasonable price. Going out at lunchtime instead of the evening and avoiding eating out during major holidays are other ways of reducing costs.
- Signing up for email alerts with your favourite restaurants means that you will know whenever deals are on.
- Third party groups such as MoneySavingExpert and Groupon are excellent for finding cheap deals when eating and drinking out. Alternatively, a tastecard is a discount card accepted by selected restaurants across the UK that offers access to a range of discounts, in some cases even 50%.
- At restaurants, consider either not drinking alcohol, or looking for start-up
sor pop-up restaurants offering bottomless drinks or Bring Your Own Beer. Similarly, don't be ashamed to ask for tap water instead of bottled.
- Having a small snack before you arrive at a restaurant helps avoid over-ordering. If the idea of eating before you go to a restaurant sounds ridiculous, let us reiterate: when we say a small snack, we mean an apple, not a sandwich!
- Set yourself a spending limit for the evening and withdraw cash before you go out, so you can leave your debit or credit cards at home! That’s one surefire way of sticking to a budget.
Cinema, theatre and shows
The theatre and cinema are enjoyed by millions, but they are not necessarily cheap. If you want to see one of the big West End shows or the latest film releases, you can easily end up spending more than you’d bargained for.
- If you like to visit the cinema more than twice a month, you may save money by investing in a membership.
- Some cinemas offer free screenings for films before they appear on general release.
- Consider going to the theatre midweek as opposed to the weekend, as these showings can be priced more reasonably. Seats may also fall in price within 24 hours of a show, so if you are stuck for something to do and fancy some culture, look up the last-minute seats.
- If you are lucky enough to live in a city where a lot of events take place locally, researching online to find free festivals, exhibitions or nearby events can be a great way to save money.
Staying fit and healthy is important, particularly in the police service, but why should you overspend on a necessity?
- Many people assume that the best - if not the only - way to stay fit is by joining a gym. If this is your preferred way of exercising, then MoneySavingExpert and Groupon are your friends! There are almost always offers available through these sites, plus budget gyms will often provide just as many opportunities to stay fit as premium facilities.
- Take advantage of free and reduced-price gym facilities available to members of the Metropolitan Police Service. The Warren, Bushey Sports Club, Imber Court and Chigwell Sports Club all offer free membership for serving officers, while other gyms offer discount for members of the emergency services. Snap Fitness offers a 20% discount and Pure Gym offers a 5% discount across most locations if you use a Blue Light Card.
Some people’s home cinemas are so good that they rarely visit the big screen. If you are happy staying in, here are some handy tips for making the most of your budget.
- While there can be price advantages to shopping for TVs, games consoles and speakers online, the advantage to shopping in-store is that you can haggle. Having evidence of better deals can help strengthen a shopper’s case, as can asking for the best price that the most senior person in the shop can offer, or asking for free accessories.
- Find the cheapest way to stream entertainment that suits your tastes, rather than just buying whatever your friends recommend. Services such as Apple music or packages such as Amazon Prime that include both TV and music are popular examples, but Now TV offers a cheap subscription deal, while TalkTalk TV Store gives you access to rental offers for low-price binge-watching. You can also share subscriptions to services like Netflix with friends and family.
- If you have a budget system but set your speakers up correctly, you don't necessarily have to fork out on an expensive home cinema or music system.
- Try free trials of online streaming sites, and then cancel their subscription and switch to another service before having to pay. This is a completely legal practice, but is only for people who are attentive to their bills - otherwise, you could end up with multiple direct debits you have forgotten to cancel! Generally, you'll only get one trial period per service.
While saving money on entertainment is a great start to budgeting effectively, there is much more that you can do to spend less while living well. If you aren’t aware of your incomings and outgoings; if you are overspending on groceries; if you aren’t getting the best deals on your household bills; if you don’t know about financing available exclusively to police officers and staff - then you might benefit from downloading our guide, Making the Most of Your Police Pay, by clicking the link below.