Costbusters: Entertainment on a budget
THE days of gallivanting across the seas on a moment's whimsy like a jet-setting playboy have sadly gone the way of the Australian dollar - right down the gurgler.
With venturing abroad costing an arm, a leg, and an ever-growing tally of other useful appendages, more Australians are opting for domestic escapes to save their hip pockets from exhaustion.
They are also discovering the free entertainment on offer in their home towns and sharing their ideas online.
The Family Travel Made Easy blog rates camping as the most frugal form of family holidaymaking, as well as one of the most rewarding.
But it warns planning is absolutely essential.
As any modern parent knows, there are few things less relaxing than dealing with a bored mob of unhappy little people with no access to iPhones, especially when the sandflies come a-swarmin'.
"Consider doing (the plan) in general steps first and then drill down on each item to be sure you cover all the details," the blog suggests.
"For example, start with camping safety, then practical day-to-day activities.
"This is not something to do at the last minute. If you have a full-time job and kids to take care of, you'll need at least a couple of weeks to think through the plan."
If making day trips and returning to the comfort of your own bed is more your bag, there is no shortage of activities that won't require a deal with the devil to afford, as I recently discovered.
Tasked with the Costbusters Challenge - to keep myself properly amused with a $20 budget for a full day's outing - I gathered some mates for a spot of jetty fishing.
Aspirations were sky-high. We planned to catch at least a dozen enormous gilled specimens and gorge ourselves for a week.
While we may have only hooked one tiny, poisonous-looking creature and a crusty Coca-Cola can, we all agreed it was more satisfying (and much cheaper) than the usual extended Sunday pub lunch.
Kidspot.com.au has compiled an exhaustive list of ways to entertain on a budget - from making use of the local library (they still exist, I checked) for books and kids' DVDs, to having picnics at the local botanic gardens.
Taking turns to host monthly eat-ins at friends' houses and organising toy, book and movie swaps with neighbours were other popular tips.
Contributor Liz Herriott said she squirreled away $20 a week from her pay cheque for school holiday entertainment.
"It makes life so much easier during the holidays with the kids to have it sitting and waiting," she said.
She also avoided breaking the bank at the cinema by cooking popcorn and holding her own matinee theatres at home on cheap Tuesdays, when pizzas were discounted and DVD rentals cost $2.
"I print off movie tickets on the computer and have the snack food set up like the movie snack shop," she said.
"We make pretend money, and then the lounge room is magically turned into the movies.
"The kids buy their tickets and snacks, and then with a torch I show them to their seats."
Creativity is the key. After a little bit of noggin-scratching, cheap entertainment is only a bright idea away.
The best loyalty programs
MARKETING experts Directivity have studied Australia's flooded loyalty program market to discover which offer the best bang for buck.
CEO Adam Posner said an increasing number of programs were offering "experiential rewards" that could be cashed in.
"They're very popular. You don't just get dollars back, you can get deals on accommodation, hotels, travel - even pamper experiences like massages," he said.
"In our current research, we asked members if they were more loyal to a brand because of a program, and 36% said yes.
"But if you're spending a lot of money with a business over time, quite frankly you want to accumulate a decent reward."
DIRECTIVITY'S TOP 10 LOYALTY PROGRAMS
1. Coles Flybuys
2. Woolworths Everyday Rewards
3. Qantas Frequent Flyer
5. Myer One
6. Commonwealth Bank
9. American Express