Sometimes "luxuries," such as family trips and entertainment, get lopped off in the budget-slashing process. But we all need time to recharge, to have fun, to enjoy our families and friends apart from the daily grind. Without some of these so-called frills, we can work ourselves into ill health or just plain boredom.

Fortunately, you can enter the work-free zone of vacations and fun and still stay within a reasonable budget. Here are some ideas.

Vacations

    • Travel off-season. You'll probably find the Caribbean or other warm locations more humid in the summer months, but cheaper rates can keep your vacation budget from overheating.
    • Don't park at the airport. That's what friends are for, right? If you know folks who live close to the airport, ask to park your car at their home during your vacation. As an alternative, check out "park and fly" packages at nearby hotels.
    • Take the airport less-traveled. Speaking of alternatives, you can often find cheaper rates by flying into an airport that's not as busy. Research fares to find which airport is cheaper for your vacation. Just make sure the distances to your hotel don't offset cost savings on air travel.
    • Eat for less. Many hotels provide free breakfast, saving you the cost of at least one restaurant meal per day. Buy groceries and eat in your room once in a while. When you dine out, look for smaller neighborhood markets and eateries away from the high-priced tourist areas. They're often more affordable (and may be more authentic).

          Entertainment

            • Be patient and save. Instead of standing in line to view that must-see blockbuster, wait a few weeks and watch it at the discount movie theater. Or wait a little longer and rent it on DVD.
            • Buy a family pass. If your home is near a zoo, aquarium, or museum, purchase a season pass for the family. You'll recover the cost in just a few visits and won't feel the pressure to see it all in one trip.
            • Watch the amateurs. Enjoy high school or community college sports once in a while. High-priced professionals are, well, high-priced. Minor league games can also provide great family-friendly entertainment without breaking the budget.

                With a little creativity, you can still enjoy delightful outings — even when money's tight.

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