Head to a Small Town to Save Money on Entertainment (and More)

Aaron AvatarLast week I helped my mother celebrate her 70th birthday by taking her out for a little dinner and movie. I was glad to be able to spend the time with her and didn't think twice about spending money (which I think is important to do – even us thrifty types).

My mom lives in a small town with a population of about 5,000. It's a nice little place with friendly and hard-working folks. Mom told me the other day that it takes her awhile to get through the grocery store sometimes because she runs into so many folks she knows. 

I also lived in a small town a few years back – and enjoyed my stay there (in fact, I'd probably still be there if it weren't for a little lady coming into my life). There's definitely pros and cons to small town living – but I think the positives outweigh the negatives.

On this trip to my mother's home – my thrifty radar was on high alert. I couldn't believe how inexpensive some things were. I got to thinking, “going into a small town can be a real money-saver.”

small towns can save you money

Here's just a few things that I noticed:


At the neighborhood Pizza Hut where we met a couple other family members for dinner – my mother and I got a salad for $3. In the big city where I live, this thing would have likely cost us more than $5. Also, my mother and I also ate at the grocery store diner one morning – and it was under $5/each (home-cooked and tasted great!).


The movie we went to see – American Sniper – is presently showing in theaters around the U.S. and has been doing quite well. I was surprised to see this small town had it already. I was thinking they would be showing the last Star Wars movie or Forest Gump. And, what really caught me off-guard was the price: $4/ticket. Now, this theater was a bit old and had a couple negatives – one of which was the limited leg room and awkward seating. Still, this kinda added to the charm of it all and something I couldn't have gotten in the plush big city theaters. Oh, and the popcorn: $1.50 for a small bag.

Home goods

On other visits to my mother's town, I've shopped the local Shopko store. Some of the prices on furniture items and electronics were pretty amazing. I saw a nice kitchen stool that was priced at $50 that I know would have fetched more in the metropolis.

While this is just some of the things you can save by visiting a small town near you (if you don't already live in one) – there are other things about smaller towns and cities that you can't put a price tag on. Like the visit to the movie theater – many towns are a time capsule to a past era and a way of living that is a welcomed change to the quick pace of big city living. One can breath a little lighter and relax for a bit.

Granted you might have to burn some fuel to get to these places – but they are worth the time/effort to get to there and may even help you keep a few more bucks in your pocket.

Do you ever frequent smaller towns and have you noticed prices are a little easier on the wallet?

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  1. We’re in a small town, but unfortunately, it’s not far enough away from the city to employ frugal prices. We often talk of moving even further out in order to take advantage of small town frugal deals. :-)

  2. Some things are definitely cheaper in small towns (like the things on your list), but there are trade-offs in other areas. For example, there’s usually not as big of a selection of items or stores to chose from. It can be hard to find what you’re looking for. Some things cost more because there isn’t as much competition.

    We just got back from a visit to a larger city this weekend, and it was more expensive to shop there because they had an additional sales tax, so that’s another way we small-town dwellers save!

    • Good point Christina on the selection of things in small towns. Guess there is always pros/cons to both. Never thought of the tax implications.

  3. My wife and I drive through a lot of small towns when visiting my in-laws in Missouri. We don’t make long stops at these places, but we do get gas and food, all of which is noticeably cheaper in these towns than they are in Chicago. I’m sure taxes alone make a huge difference!

    Also, my family just went out last night to celebrate my mom’s 70th birthday! We went to an expensive restaurant which would not have been my first choice. But it was for my mom, so I was happy to spend the money to give her a special night.

    • Happy 70th to your mom as well Ruser! Funny :)

  4. If you really want to experience “living on the cheap,” come to Albania where we are living and working for a couple of years. We live in the capital city of about 1 million. Haircuts: $2.50 (for a good one). Meals in a nice restaurant: $12-15 WITH wine. I feel rather sinful if I indulge myself and order the $7 entree. Water bill for one month: $7.40. I can get a 12″ cheese pizza for $2.50. If I want mushrooms it’s 50 cents more. Supreme is $5.00. Our total weekly produce bill: $4.00, and it’s really good organic stuff. (They don’t have bugs here, thus no pesticides). And the weather is awesome — come visit!

    • Albania!? Wow.. prices sound great there! Will have to move. I’m a little surprised at the prices with everything being more organic in nature. Europe is way ahead of the US and other countries with not using GMO’s and pesticides.

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