Art & Mind

Drinking In The Culture On A Shoestring Budget

Money from around the world by Images of Money

When you fill your social calendar with gallery openings, theater performances, poetry slams and film festivals, you tend to earn a reputation as someone who's "cultured" and urbane. Regardless of whether or not you can attend every concert or book signing, people begin to look to you to learn what's in the know. They also look to you to have a pretty full dance card when it comes to rubbing elbows in the artistic world.

Although I'm not entirely sure I've earned that image and if I have, I'm not sure anyone else recognizes it, I know it can be difficult to stay on top of anything and everything happening in your neck of the woods, as well as other overlooked pockets of creativity. It's not only physically impossible to attend every arts and culture event out there, but it's also financially impossible unless you're an eccentric billionaire.

This reality was true in my Midwest hometown of 1.6 million, and of course, it's especially true of my new city of 1.8 million and its neighboring metropolis across the Hudson.

But such limitations need not get me down because I've learned that partaking of the rich nectar of creativity that flows through the busy streets of Newark and NYC doesn't have to leave you destitute. Let me tell you my process.

1. Be open to everything that interests you ... and some things that don't

I've always admired people who were singular of purpose. That is, I like how their interests in careers, hobbies or even books were so focused and confined that they always knew what they wanted to be when they grew up, they only enjoyed basketball and painting, or they only read action thrillers by Tom Clancy and James Patterson. I've never been so lucky. I enjoy too many activities and rejoice in too many interests to restrict myself to only a handful of events.

So I don't. As you can see from my handy-dandy sidebar calendar and the list of categories I cover here on my blog, you will easily find me at a play one night, a book signing the next night, followed by a museum exhibition two days later. But would you believe that it was only three years ago that I attended my first improv comedy show or only one year ago that I ventured out to an independent wrestling show? I recognize that artistic expression comes in many forms and the only way I would discover them would be to go outside my comfort zone and try something new. The cost? Improv comedy show ($15). Indie wrestling show ($20 + gas for the road trip to the venue).

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2. Use social media to find the who and the what

I'll be the first to admit that I'm not the greatest at networking. When you grow up an introverted only child, you don't find the art of schmoozing too inviting. Thankfully, today we are blessed with the world of social media to help us with that. On platforms like Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Tumblr and Ello, you can follow accounts dedicated to marketing the latest events in your neck of the woods, and maybe some from halfway around the world too.

On Twitter, I follow a variety of feeds dedicated to my city, my hobbies and my career. That way, I can keep an eye on anything that crosses my online path and see the when, where and how much. It also helps to follow people who are great at networking. In this day of putting all of our business on Front Street, I've learned that folks enjoy telling people about their social and professional plans and marketing their wares. Find a few that pique your interest, then give them a follow back. The cost? Free.

3. There is such a thing as a free lunch ... sort of

There's an old saying. Maybe you've heard of it. It goes: "There's no such thing as a free lunch." It's supposed to make you pause and consider how much something "free" really costs and ask who's paying for it. Despite the somewhat gloomy outlook it carries with it, the statement is both true and false. You see when you want to enjoy everything life has to offer, you can. But somewhere along the way, there is a fee.

For example, I subscribe to newsletters and mailing lists from local museums, bookstores, Eventbrite and, which has groups dedicated to freebie outings like Free NYC! Free Things To Do In NY. What I have to keep in mind is that the happenings they advertise oftentimes come with a two-drink minimum, an expected gratuity or simply subway fare into the city. As much as I enjoy feeling like I'm navigating the system with ease, sometimes those little things can add up faster than I planned. So it's important to remember that even a truly "free" event can cost you gas money and parking, but as long as you work those expectations into your budget, you'll still come out ahead. The cost? Anywhere from $2 worth of gasoline to $20 + tip for two drinks.

Creative Daydreaming by Frits Ahlefeldt-Laurvig

4. Choosy kids chose a night in

As you might've guessed, I'm not the social butterfly that others may like to think of me. For me, a great night out supporting the theater or attending a music festival is only enjoyable because I've balanced it with a few (or eight) nights at home. I'm one of those odd ducks that needs a bit more time than most to recuperate from socializing, as introverts tend to feel their energy drained in the presence of others over time.

But this is not a bad thing. Certainly not for this writer/editor/journalist. Not only do the nights spent in allow me to process all the interactions and observations I've made while hobnobbing with other culture fanatics, but it also allows me to truly reflect on how that art has affected me and perhaps share that with you lovely people here and out there. Those beloved nights "off" are not only helpful to my psyche, but they help ease the pressure on my wallet. And in the end, my outlook, health and writing are better for it. The cost? Free.

5. Be patient with yourself

It's hard learning the ins and outs of a new environment that won't leave you feeling as if you're not getting taken for a financial ride. Upon moving to the Tri-state area, I found myself cash strapped from the move, but also eager to drink in everything that my new home had to offer. I tempered that desire with a few outings like a Big Bus Tour of NYC and getting lost on Newark public transportation like the newb that I was.

Sure, my credit cards took a hit, but I gave myself just enough medicine to keep my spirits up without going broke. It was important to remind myself that life never happens all at once, and if it's meant to feed my soul, it will stay until I am ready. That can be a hard pill to swallow, but it's an important one. Cut yourself some slack. If you enjoy arts and culture, the Broadway tickets will continue to go on sale on TodayTix and the galleries will continue to have a Pay What You Wish night. You'll get there and the wait won't make the experience any less sweet. The cost? Free.

Wise words from one of Poland's most brilliant and under-appreciated 20th-century artists
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