The Cultured Boss Girl on a Budget: How to Visit Museums & Theater Without Breaking the Bank


The importance of experiencing art at museums and theaters can easily be overlooked when your schedule is already jammed packed with day-to-day responsibilities and your budget is on lockdown.

But there’s something powerful in how these artistic ventures can broaden your world view and inspire your personal creativity.  The trick is visiting museums and attending shows when your bank account is not exactly on the “Hamilton tickets” level.  Don’t let that stop you!!  A lot of institutions understand how beneficial artistic and cultural experiences can be for younger demographics and are actively catering to young professionals.

When you’re in school, there are a lot of ticket prices and museum entrance fees waived/discounted for students.  If you’re in graduate school, you may still be in luck.  The trick is navigating these waters once you graduate and have exhausted your student ID.

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Access to a variety of museums and theaters can drastically depend on where you live.  If you’re not near a major city, there are a lot of regional theaters with incredible talent and affordable prices. Yes there are fun inexpensive things to do that involve culture!  In larger cities, tickets prices get steeper but the options expand tremendously.  For city folk, it’s all about knowing the ins and outs of the art world.


Museum Suggested Donations

Unless you’re visiting a Smithsonian (shout out to DC!!), there is usually an admissions fee for museum visits.  However, some museums are donation-based meaning these is a suggested admissions price but, in reality, you can donate any amount and still be admitted.  It’s a great way to see incredible art and still have money for groceries.  In general, museum prices aren’t nearly as steep as most theater, but depending on your financial situation, being able to pay a small donation instead of a full ticket price can make a big difference in a weekly budget.

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Specific Museum Time-slots

Another way museums are making art more accessible is by waiving admissions fees during certain times of the week.  There aren’t a ton of places that offer these types of deals, but it’s worth checking a venue’s website before you plan your visit (ie. The Guggenheim in NYC is $15 for adults but has a “pay what you wish” timeslot on Saturdays from 5:45pm – 7:45pm* ).  These types of perks tend to involve long lines but can be a great way to see more art exhibitions.

*timing/prices last checked on 9/24/17

30 Under 30 Theater Tickets

A lot of theaters have 30 Under 30 programs aimed at providing discounted tickets for young professionals.  The purpose is to give young local theater-goers the opportunity to see productions without breaking the bank.  What’s the catch?  Oftentimes, production companies and theater venues hope that people participating in these programs will enjoy the performances, and later transition into buying fully-priced tickets once they age out of the perks.

Volunteer Ushers

A handful of professional theater companies have sign-up programs where people of any age can usher at a show.  Usually there’s an extra time commitment for set-up and clean-up, but it’s a small price to pay for a free seat at a show.

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Art In Your City

The above are just a few tips that I’ve found helpful living in New York City, but whose concepts span to many major cities across the country.  Inexpensive ways to experience art.

And of course, there are the old-school tactics:

  1. Ticket discount sites and apps
  2. General theater rush tickets and/or digital lotteries
  3. City tourist packages where you can gain access to multiple museums in one city at a lower packaged rate
  4. Groupon and other similar websites

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All in all, it’s really about doing the research in your area.  So many young people miss incredible budget-friendly opportunities to see amazing work because they don’t know how to navigate the art/theater scenes.  Google can be your best friend.  After a while, you’ll know where to look for the good discounts and how to rock the art world on a budget!