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52 Different Ways to Save $100 Per Year: Rent Movies for FREE {Week 13}

At the beginning of every week in 2013, I’ll be sharing a different way you can save $100 this year. If you do all of these things, you’ll be able to save over $5,000 this year alone! Many of these things will likely be things you’re already doing, but hopefully all of you will pick up at least a few new ideas or some inspiration from this series.

One of the ways my husband and I have saved a lot of money over the years is by having at-home movie nights instead of going to see a movie at the theater. On the rare occasions when we do go see a movie, I always choke at the prices they charge.

$8+ per ticket? That adds up quickly!

We love a good movie as much as the next person, though, so we’ve found creative ways to enjoy the occasional movie on the cheap. Here are some of those ideas:

The Library

When Jesse was in law school, we lived in Topeka, KS, home to one of the best libraries in the U.S. (yes, I’m a little biased and oh how I miss that library!). Not only did we check out dozens of books each month, we also frequented the DVD section for our at-home movie dates. You can’t beat FREE DVD rentals!

Not all libraries offer free DVD rentals, but if your library does, take advantage of it! Our kids especially love checking out old TV series to watch during movie time each day.


Sometime near the end of law school, Redbox came to town and we switched to getting most of our movies from the Redbox kiosks. Back then, they gave away free movie codes like they were going out of style so whenever we wanted to get a free movie, we’d just check Inside Redbox for a valid code.

Now, the codes are a little less frequent, but they still release them on occasion. Coupon Dad keeps a running list of free Redbox rental codes and I also post any that I find as they are valid. (There’s a free Redbox code available through May 8, 2013).

You can use one free code per card, so if you have multiple cards, you can use the free codes more than once. If you have a texting plan, you can text SIGNUP to 727272 and you’ll get a free rental code the first Monday of every month, plus Redbox coupons and occasional free rental codes throughout the month.

Amazon Instant Video Rental

Thanks to Swagbucks, Amazon is becoming more and more our go-to place for renting movies. The Amazon Instant Video library contains thousands upon thousands of movies, TV shows, and more.

They occasionally release free Instant Streaming credits that we use to download movies and they also often have $0.99 rental specials. The thing I love best about the $0.99 rental offers is that you have 30 days to start viewing them. So I can purchase one and save it for a movie night later in the month. Once you start viewing the video, though, it’s only available in your account for 48 hours.

I use a few of the Amazon gift cards I earn through Swagbucks each month to pay for some Instant Video library purchases from Amazon. We’ve been very happy with Amazon video rentals and we love that we don’t have to mess with going out and getting a video or the possibility that they might be all rented. In addition, if we’ve had any connectivity issues with a movie playing, Amazon has always refunded our money all on their own — even when the connectivity issues weren’t anything major.

There are also other options like NetFlix, Hulu, and watching shows online, but the library, Redbox, and Amazon Instant Video are our top three favorites.

How Much Can You Save?

If you go to a theater once a month and spend and average of $20 (two movie tickets + popcorn), you’ll save around $240 per year by having at-home movie nights. That’s fairly significant!

Plus, you don’t have to mess with finding a sitter and you can make your own snacks — which are much better than most of those icky movie theater options (can you tell I’m not a soda pop and candy bar girl?!).

Do you like at-home movie dates? What are your favorite alternatives to paying for movie tickets?

photo from Big Stock

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  • Jen says:

    Our library has a free request system where I can request books or DVDs online and then they email when it is being held for me. If a new movie catches our eye, we request it when it becomes available at the library (often before released since you can request items that are still on order). Since others want it too, sometimes the waiting list is in the 100’s. But it is so fun to randomly get an email months later that the movie is waiting for us! If you don’t care about immediately seeing it, it is a great way to enjoy movies!

    • Mandy W. says:

      I was just going to leave the exact same comment! 🙂 I love being able to request things online.

    • Crystal says:

      Yes, yes, yes! Love it when we get random notices about holds we placed months before. It’s a fun surprise!

      Our library has a Gold Card you can purchase for $25 that gives you unlimited holds. It is worth every penny for us.

  • We use the library a lot for movies and such – our district is a very good one too. We don’t really go to the movies, except we did take our daughter to see Puss in Boots at the discount theater on Dollar Day…mostly so she could have the theater experience. We actually do a family movie night at home (alternating weekly with game night) and I make fresh popcorn, a bowl of fresh fruit pieces, etc. It’s a lot of fun, no cellphones going off, etc. 🙂

  • Tiana says:

    We pretty much only “rent” videos from the library now. It’s easier to find good movies for the whole family that way, anyway. Just watch out for when they’re due, or you could be paying fines that are just as expensive as a video store rental.

    Another great idea is to borrow/swap movies with friends.

    Ask for the movies that you really love and tend to rent often when gift-giving times come around. For example, my daughter received a video we borrowed from the library incessantly (Milo and Otis) as a birthday gift.

    Also, check the $5 bin at Wal Mart. There can be a lot of junk in there, to be sure, but we’ve found some wonderful family movies that way. It doesn’t cost much more than renting, especially if you calculate the gas $ it takes to return videos (at least, it does for us, in the rural area we live in), and owning a few good videos can calm to craving to constantly be renting something. 🙂

    • Maria says:

      I so agree with this post! The library is a great option and has foreign films that I would usually never run across but end up being pretty good. I’ve also found good movies in the $5 Wal Mart bin! I also rent from DVD kiosks ($1 a night) as a low cost option when a craving hits.

  • Liz says:

    My husband and I enjoy going to the movies, but definitely do not have the funds for it! There is a cheap theater we go to – it is $2 per ticket. They offer the same movies as Redbox, but if you want the theater vibe, it’s definitely the way to go! But, popcorn, candy, and drinks are more expensive than normal, so be prepared! Also, we recently started selling books/movies to Half Price Books (or any bookstore really) to fund date nights! We search the apartment for anything to take and base the date on how much we get. Sometimes it’s just $15 (cheap theater/Redbox and Steak n Shake!) and others it’s $45 (last week Movie tavern was showing Raiders of the Lost Ark. $45 was exactly enough for a dinner and movie!)! In warmer weather parks will sometimes show a movie outside for free once a week….drinks and food are still expensive, but you can bring your own food! We usually bring water, homemade cookies, and a $5 Little Caesar’s pizza. Drive-in’s are a good option as well. Some charge a set price per car, and some per person. It’s usually cheaper than a theater. You can also bring your own food. Final thing…my mom lets us use her Netflix for free. It’s awesome! See if you can share Netflix with a friend (just for instant, it would around $4 a month to half the price). Or, maybe you have a friend or family member that will let you use it! Hope these help!

    • Crystal says:

      I just realized that I failed to mention that some areas have really cheap theaters and so the savings wouldn’t at all be the same if you’re blessed to have one of those!

      Thanks for the other creative tips and ideas!

      • Liz says:

        (: Also, the Movie Tavern here is actually a lot less than normal theaters! It’s $7.50 per person (still expensive, but everywhere else is close to $10). Plus, their food (if you are eating out as well) is about the same price as a typical sit down restaurant. If you sign up for their emails you get a coupon for a free small popcorn. And, you can use multiple coupons at once in case you need more than one. And, at the beginning of your birthday month you get a coupon for a free ticket. I just received mine and we’re going to see a John Wayne movie at the end of the month….so cool! (:

    • Anna says:

      I was going to say the same thing! We have 2 movie theaters that are second run and only charge $1 matinee and $2 on evening showings. There is also 50 cents night on Tuesday. During the summer, we go to the movies on Tuesdays. I plan my budget to take the kids to the movies once or twice a months depending upon what is showing. I try to feed us before we go and/or take a light snack. I enjoy going to the movie theater so much but at $5-7/person that is out of our budget range so the “dollar theater” as we call it is a nice outing. Also, during the summer 3 of the local theaters offer kid friendly movies at 50 cent – $1 or even free for 8 weeks. I make plans to take the kids during the summer. Finally, the local museums and libraries actually have movie theaters and show movies themselves. Some of these movies I have taken my kids to as well. We may have more opportunities here than some places but I do not live in a big city.

      • Jane @ Live Rich and Free says:

        That sounds amazing, even with a student discount here the cheapest movie is still something like $12/person 🙁

      • Liz says:

        Yes, I think our “dollar theater” does the same thing on Tuesdays! For me and my husband, to go on a Tuesday is cheaper then paying a full price for a Redbox!

  • Lana says:

    Movie tickets are $10.50 in our town and that is where every body in town goes on the weekends. I have no idea how they afford it!

    • Kay says:

      $13 in Boston! With sharing a popcorn and soda it’s $40 for a night out at the movies. We buy discounted tickets through workingadvantage for about $7.50/each. Still a lot, but much cheaper.

      • Lana says:

        Our middle son and his wife live in the Boston area. They have not mentioned movie prices but I think they were both raised too frugal to pay that!

  • Wanda says:

    Don’t forget the joy of going to your sister/friend/neighbour’s house and borrowing a movie from them. We’ve saved many dollars temporarily swapping DVds or Wii games with like-minded people.

  • Oh, Crystal, you and I are cut from the same cloth! Literally we do get to enjoy the Topeka library right now, and I am on the wait list for all of the latest Oscar-winning movies. I agree – that library is the best library I have ever been in, hands down. When we first checked it out when we moved here (yes, we look up where our library is as soon as possible!), and you should have seen us when we walked through the library – we had a hard time not looking too silly as we oohed and ahhed over the place.

    We use Amazon Instant video as well, and just watched a movie with a free Redbox code. Cost concerns aside, I actually like watching movies at home versus going out, because our tv is set up in our room and you can kick back and burrow under a cozy duvet while you watch – no theater has offered that option yet :). You can pause too for bathroom or snack breaks.

  • christie says:

    Crystal; when is movie time at your house and how long does it last ? I would love to read some sample daily schedules for young children and older children during Summer Vacation. I’ve started collecting ideas for things to do in the summer. I always have trouble with a daily schedule though. I love Kathryn vaccuming !

  • Staci Brown says:

    We live in Topeka and I agree that the library is one of the best! We are so fortunate to have such a treasure in our town.

  • Charity says:

    This is a wonderful money saving idea Crystal! To my husband and myself this is a normal thing to do because we’d much rather be snuggled together on the couch enjoying homemade snacks and a movie than out and about for a date anyway. Besides that, we just don’t care for any current release films. We’re huge western fans, especially John Wayne, so we don’t find much “new stuff” that compares. I’m totally with you on not being a soda and candy bar gal, I’m also not a chick-flick gal at all!

  • Lindsay says:

    The library is great for movies and books on cd. As long as you remember to return it on time. I never used red box before but if I can get rentals for free I will try it.

    Another idea is to have a movie night with friends and family. When I get together with my family we watch DVDs someone brings it, It’s always new to someone. Borrowing from friends and coworkers is an option.

    TCM has some great classic movies too! If you have a DVR you can record them. And I’m a sucker for cheezy hallmark movies so I DVR them as well.

  • I wish it was only $8 to see a movie around here! Its easily $40 for 2 tickets, sharing a popcorn and a drink.

    You can buy movie tickets in bulk from the big theaters and it brings the cost per ticket down a few dollars, that would be great if you had a large family or like movie dates a few times a month.

  • Marie says:

    I totally love this!!! I prefer movie nights at home with the hubs so I can cuddle up! Plus you can make your own snacks.
    We utilize the library, free redbox codes, and netflex. We check out movies every week for the kids.
    Another thing is to swap movies with friends.
    We used to have a cheap theater where movies were two bucks but it closed last year. On the rare occasion we go to the movie theater we definitely don’t get any concessions there.
    In the summer time I love going because they do free movies for the kids one day a week. And they post the schedule so I can plan around it.

  • Meredith says:

    We have a theater that plays month/two month old movies for $1.50. We go there for three dollars, $4.50 with our daughter. We also have Directv basic package. Every month or so, they will offer free weekend preview of Starz, Cinemax, HBO, etc. and we tape them until our DVR is full. I know satellite and cable isn’t popular on this blog but it’s one thing the hubby makes the decision on. I don’t have a say (even though I would probably keep it). That doesn’t mean I can’t save money in other ways!

  • Amanda H says:

    Thanks for the tips, I love this series!! We are netflix subscribers and use that a lot. BUT i love to go to the movies every once and a while and get movie theater popcorn. We live near a military base and go to the movies there. Some nights the movies are free other nights it is $2 an adult ticket, plus their huge tub of popcorn is only $3- with free refills. So it is a great cheap date night when we feel the need to go out!

  • Need A Nap2 says:

    There are also a few sites that we can view for free through our internet-connected Blu-Ray player, like you might watch Amazon videos – the 2 I can think of off the top of my head are Crackle and Flixster. Not always really good choices available but it’s another option. Swagbucks also had a Flixster offer where you got 2 free movies from a certain list. Crackle also has some tv shows.

  • Kay says:

    My big frustration with the library was discovering way too many movies were scratched. We’d get 3/4ths of the way through the movie and not be able to finish it. Very frustrating. We’d report it to the library, check out another and…same thing. After getting a bunch of scratched DVDs in a row my husband refused to check them out from the library anymore.

    • Need A Nap2 says:

      We’ve had that issue too, sometimes we return the video and tell the library it needs to be cleaned (maybe you can wait and then take it home?). We really had this problem with our old DVD player, when we got a newer DVD player we didn’t have as much trouble (not that a new player would be a money-saving option). Could you ask a friend or relative if the DVD plays in their DVD player? Then you’d know if it was truly your DVD player. 🙂

      • Kay says:

        We could, but we only had issues with library DVDs – never with Netflicks a friend would bring over or Redbox DVDs. So we were pretty convinced the library ones were the issue not the dvd player. We could also see the scratches in some cases (as we learned to open and pick the one with the fewest scratches). Cleaning usually didn’t help.

  • Becky G says:

    Going to the theater was something we did almost every other month, but we have stopped doing that. I have to say, that I am a sucker for movie theater popcorn with lots of butter. I know, I know, it is full of calories, but I still LOVE it. So, I miss the popcorn more than I do the actual movie experience. We also have an alternative to that popcorn. We own a Whirley popcorn popper and we make our own healthier version & it’s much cheaper too since we buy our popcorn by bulk.

    For movies, we use the library, mostly for the kid’s movies & we use red box for other family movies. Since we cut movie going out of our budget, we kept our cable, but after the article you had about saving money on cable we took that info & are doing our homework to cut the cord on cable too! We are going to pay for Netflix instead. Woot! I am excited about not paying for cable anymore! I am feeling the freedom! Thanks for the many money saving ideas that you post. I have learned so much from your site.

  • I didn’t know that some libraries offer free DVD rentals, very cool! Going to the theater does add up very quickly, thanks for the great tips!

  • Brooke says:

    We LOVE the free redbox codes! One time I sent my husband to the kiosk armed with a code saved in a text message. It was dark and he probably looked a little funny holding his phone up near the machine, so when a cop pulled into the store he asked him what he was doing. He told the cop about the free codes and the cop pulled out his notepad and asked if he could copy the website down where he got them from for himself! Haha!

  • Julie C says:

    I wish our library had free movies! They charge us per movie.

  • Julie C says:

    Would anyone be shocked that we’ve never attended the theater? 🙂

    Crystal, do you have a list of best movies you’ve seen? I am so disappointed to spend $1.99 for an amazon instant movie only to end it within a few minutes even after reading reviews.

    • Sarah says:

      Good point- there are so many trashy movies out there, even with good reviews. We’re more picky about ours as well. That would be a great reader question- good clean family-friendly movies. A couple adventure ones we like are the National Treasure ones- very clean and exciting. I’m also a sucker for old movies and musicals. The library in PA where we used to lived charged $2/movie so we just didn’t do that. Got a lot of Blockbuster codes at that point, so we did that instead- but still didn’t know if it’d be good or not.

  • shauna says:

    I have not gone to a movie in a very long time. So I guess we have been saving a lot. We do pay for Netflix but I find it great for me and the kids. I love our Roku. Looking to cancel Cable very soon.

  • Sakura says:

    Sometimes I can find whole episodes of movies on Youtube. I’ve been watching a lot of different documentaries on our food supply and source this way.

    • Amber says:

      I find a lot of documentaries at
      We tend to download or stream TV series on my laptop and then connect it to our TV using an HDMI cable.
      I’ve been seeing commercials on TV for Watch Wigs, which is a YouTube channel with original programming. I’ve never watched it, but I like the idea.
      Finally, if you do still have cable (I can’t get my husband to let it go), check out on-demand. We have Comcast and there are a lot of free movies available. They are often older, but some are even in HD. And you can still pause, rewind, watch as many times as you’d like, etc.

  • Candice says:

    Don’t forget to check out dollar theaters in your area! It’s not free, but tickets are usually $1-2 dollars. This is a great way to see action movies on the big screen for cheap. 🙂

  • A.k says:

    My husband investd in a projector and we painted an entire wall white, our garage is now converted into a movie theatre. With the kids, we figure they have a lifetime of movie watching ahead of them, and with friends included and snacks….that would add up fairly quickly. So now, we have friends and family come over to watch newly released movies (thank you redbox and Netflix, which a few of hubby’s buddies share the cost for).

  • Blaire says:

    Topeka library rocks! They get the new releases right away.

  • T sharpe says:

    I have almost completely switched over to a website called VidAngel for watching movies. Especially if they are rated PG or higher. VidAngel is super convenient because you stream the movies and don’t have to drive to Redbox or remember to return a movie. I have spent way too much money on late fees at Redbox and the library. With VidAngel, movies only cost $1 to rent. But the best feature by far is that you can edit out whatever content you choose. If you don’t want to hear cuss words you can edit them out. I’m loving that my kids can see good movies that I previously wouldn’t let them see because of content. The way the service works is that they sell you the movie for $20. The reason for this is that the only legal way to edit a movie’s content is to own the movie. If you return the movie within 24 hours you can sell it back for $19 which basically means you are renting it for $1. There is no tax either. I was amazed with how simple the process was. They make it really easy to select from a list of all the questionable content for what you want removed and you can also select to have the movie automatically returned after viewing. The only catch I found with the service is that when you rent you first movie for $20 and then return it for $19, they actually don’t put the money back on your debit card but instead put $19 of credits on your VidAngel account. From there on out, you will only be charged $1 for each rental because they use the $19 in credits.

  • Megan says:

    Obviously this post has been up a while, but it was a good read! Unfortunate our library are terrible. 1. the selection is horrible, two its $5 a night to rent a movie!! our local theater does 5 dollar Tuesdays. so tickets are $5. we borrow the loyalty bucket and cups from a friend or family member and so concessions usually cost us around $5 as well. I get a night out for $15 to see a brand new movie. also our local car dealerships will partner up with the theaters and give movie tickets and popcorn for test drives. I’ve driven so many cars lol.

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