Saturday, February 27, 2010

Membership has Its Privileges

One of the difficulties, I find, of living frugally, is finding ways to have fun without spending a lot of money. One way to cut activity costs, support a good cause, and have fun all at once is by becoming a member of certain tourist places. Typically membership costs a fee equal to approximately two visits and grants you unlimited access to the site for one year, a discount in the gift shop, perhaps a gift (like a calendar) or an invitation to a members-only event, and is often at least partially tax deductable.

Currently Chuk and I have year-long memberships to Mt. Vernon and Shenandoah National Park. Because we often have guests from out of town who want to visit us and see all the sites around the nation’s capital, we go to these sites on a regular basis. We’ve found our memberships to be an excellent value because every visit after the first two are essentially free. For years, my mom, who lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, has alternated between having a membership to the Legion of Honor and SFMOMA. Because she changes her membership each year, she never gets fatigued of one museum.

If you’re on a budget but still looking for a way to still get out and do things and support a local non-profit, consider becoming a member of a park, museum or historical site in your area. It’s a win-win and it works for me.


  1. Brilliant idea! I'm going to have fun figuring out where to get a membership. When we were first married, my husband and I had one to Fallingwater (Frank Lloyd Wright's famously designed house).

  2. I wrote a post last Friday about finding free cultural and fun activities in the SF Bay Area. While membership has its advantages, many museums also have days that are free to the public or free to residents. Those are worth searching out in your area to get more free activities. :)

  3. Great tip! We happen to live in an area that doesn't have a lot of those things, but there is a zoo 40 minutes away. An annual family membership was only $70, plus we can also bring a guest. Kids under 2 are free, so I can bring another mommy along and she only has to pay for her older children. It's been worth every penny - plus they're part of a consortium so we'll be able to visit the zoo for free when we visit my parents in the summer (1500 miles away), plus we even get discounts to SeaWorld.


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