50 cheap thrills for every taste
Owing $15,000 on credit cards and almost $150,000 on a mortgage makes you an "average" American, according to the Federal Reserve. Recent college grads bear an even heavier load, with the average student loan debt nearing $32,000. Add costly car payments, cell phone bills or health insurance, and you may want to crawl under a rock - or punk the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Fortunately, you don't have to resort to either tactic. You can make a nice chunk of change by reining in your entertainment budget and investing the savings. Here are 50 ways to have a blast in Madison while chipping away at debt.
LEARN SOMETHING NEW
Madison Public Library's maker-focused program encourages small groups to get creative with free, hands-on instruction in printmaking, 3D printing, computer-based animation and other cool art forms. It's also a driving force behind Stacked, Central Library'sSept. 19 kickoff featuring a dance party, an art show and music by more than a dozen local acts, including Samantha Glass, Golden Donna and Trin Tran. To lure night owls out of their nests, the fun goes from 8 p.m. to 1 a.m. Advance tickets are $12, less than the cost of a movie and popcorn.
Located on the Capitol Square, American Family Insurance's DreamBank hosts loads of free evening activities that kindle creativity and lift debt-burdened spirits. Fall offerings include concerts by singer and violinist Ida Jo (Sept. 20, 6 p.m.) and roots rocker Beth Kille (Oct. 17, 6:30 p.m.), and a female-focused improv comedy class led by Monkey Business Institute (Sept. 19,6 p.m.)
You needn't resemble Sheldon Cooper to attend this monthly gathering at the High Noon Saloon. On selected Wednesdays at 8 p.m., local smarty-pantses meet up to drink beer and give presentations on topics such as game theory, predatory amoebas and badasses of French literature. Admission is free, and lots of drinks are $5 or less.
Wisconsin Union Mini Courses
Wisconsin Union Mini Courses offer inexpensive classes on a very wide range of topics, including cooking, karate, ballroom dancing and genealogy. Many sessions convene at night, near the Memorial Union, and most are great places to meet others. For the cost of a few lattes, you can prep for a romantic trip to Mexico with Spanish for Travel, bolster your knowledge about Trappist ales at Beer Geek 101 or defy gravity at Intro to Pole Dancing.
Want to make noise without hitting a concert or a Badgers game? Head to this makers pace on Winnebago Street, where you can safely learn to use blowtorches, saws and sandblasters. Classes range from copper plumbing to software engineering and are typically $20 an hour, but staff will let you explore the space for free almost any day the building's open. The group's monthly meeting (first Tuesdays, 7 p.m.) is an ideal place to connect with others who like to create and innovate.