Going to the Movies with Your Kids Without Going Broke

I absolutely love going to the movies. There’s nothing like walking into a movie theater lobby and feeling that whoosh of buttery, popcorn-scented air hit your face the second you open the door. Excitement, adventure and thrills await you in the theater, where a world far, far away springs to life right before your eyes. I’m getting goosebumps just thinking about it.

When I was around the age my three kids are now, movie ticket prices were $2.75 for a matinee. That’s right – less than $3! It’s hard to even imagine now, when a ticket at the movie theaters by me is $9.60 for a matinee. For ONE CHILD. For my family of five to go to a movie together, it costs $50 for tickets alone. Forget about the popcorn, candy or drinks – we’d be out of pocket $100 by the time the previews start.

At the same time, I don’t want my kids to miss out on movie magic. That’s why I started shopping around for ways my family could get our magic without doing a disappearing act on our bank account!

Rewards/Loyalty Cards and Special Promotions

Buying your movie tickets from a second-party website (like Fandango) can be super convenient, but you might not be getting the best deal. Many theaters (like Regal and AMC) have rewards card incentives, so that if you buy tickets at the box office, you get money back or links to coupons (even for use that same day!). Also, special promotions, like half-price tickets or discounted concession days, are usually listed right on the theater’s website. Sign up for newsletters and promo alerts from your neighborhood theaters, follow them on Facebook and Twitter, and download their apps so you never miss a blockbuster deal.

Group Coupon Websites

Sites that offer group deals, like Groupon or Living Social, almost always have discounts for movie tickets, usually packaged with free or discounted concessions. They regularly have Fandango coupons too (at this writing, they were running $5 discounts per ticket in my area). If you go for one of these deals, you’ll get a code to enter in Fandango when purchasing the tickets. Just keep in mind that convenience fees still often apply.

Price Clubs

If you have a Sam’s Club or Costco membership, you can save big on movie tickets. Our family has a Costco membership, which costs us $55 annually, but at the time of this writing, Costco had promotions for 4-pack movie tickets to be used anytime (not just matinees!) for $35. So if I wanted to take the kids to the movies while my husband is at work, the savings would amount to about $5 with my Costco 4-pack. (Every little bit helps!)

Discount Theaters

Some cities have theaters that run movies that are not new; either they’re about to be released on DVD, or already are. This means waiting a little longer to watch a movie that your kids are desperate to see, but you all still get that movie theater experience without spending an arm and a leg! WINNING.

Specialty Discounts

Are you a AAA member? You can score discounted movie tickets at a bunch of theaters (for instance, right now they have a 30% discount at Regal Cinemas and 15% at AMC Theaters) by ordering through the AAA website, plus right now they’ll give you a $10 concessions voucher too. You’ll have to wait a few days for your tickets to arrive by mail unless you have a AAA store in your area.

Credit Card Perks

Some credit cards offer member advantages, like discounts at the movie theater. Also, many credit cards offer up to 5% cash back on various purchases in rotating categories. Each company’s cash back calendar is different, so check your service agreement to see if you’ll get cash back at the movies during the year.

Summer Deals

Many local theaters run kids’ movie specials when school’s out for the summer; some show morning movies with ticket prices as low as $1. The movies are usually a couple years old, but if you don’t mind being late to the party, or you just want to see some of your old favorites, this is a great, inexpensive outing on a hot day.

Ticket Contests

When brands sponsor movies, you win. A lot of times you can enter special contests or get discounts just by buying the same products you always buy. Land O’Frost, for example, presented STORKS and gave away movie tickets … and took one family on a trip to Hollywood. So the next time you go grocery shopping, look at product packaging to see if you can enter to win free movie tickets or something even bigger.

Sharing is Caring

Since you’ve saved on tickets, go ahead and get the giant bucket of popcorn (with your discounts, of course!) and divvy it up among your kids. I recently bought a bunch of these vintage-looking popcorn boxes for my son’s birthday party, and I had a ton left over. So now I pack a few boxes neatly in my purse when we go to the movies, and I portion out the popcorn in the theater so that each of my boys has his own. This prevents mixed-martial-arts-cage-match brawls over who gets to hold the bucket of popcorn, saving me money and sanity. So worth it!

See, you don’t have to sacrifice going to the movies with your family to stay on budget. If you’re willing to spend a little extra time searching for deals and planning ahead, you’ll spend a lot less money at the box office. And you don’t have to be a Daddy Warbucks to give your kids a magical night at the movies either. As the song in the beloved movie Annie goes: “Welcome to the movies! Welcome to the stars! Welcome to this grand illusion, all of it is yours, right through these doors! Every plot’s a dilly, this we guarantee! Welcome to the movies, wait and see!”

Now your family just has to agree on what movie to see next (and if your kids are anything like mine, that’s definitely easier said than done). But let me try to make it a little easier at least. If your family loved The Lego Movie as much as mine did, STORKS from the same studio is a must-see. Watch the preview below, and happy moviegoing!


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