Times are tough, we all know that.
The normal up-and-down roller coaster ride of the stock market has turned into a Tower of Terror-like death drop, and everyone's budget feels the pinch.
Heck, I've made a pledge to not even look at my 401(k) statement unless heavily medicated or three sheets to the wind (just kidding; don't drink, kids!)
Most folks' first inclination is to cut luxuries. Entertainment is often tops on that list.
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Certainly, if you have to decide between going to a movie or paying your electricity bill, keep the lights on. Likewise, perhaps now isn't the best time to charge that high-definition, surround-sound, 50-inch plasma television.
Still that doesn't mean you have to just sit at home and stare silently at each other across what has become everyone's favorite political prop this season, the kitchen table.
It just means now is the time to make smarter entertainment choices. Simply cutting all fun out of your budget would be a mistake, too. As the saying goes: If you don't laugh, you'll cry.
So, what can you do, on a budget, that still is fun?
First and foremost, stay local. Filling your tank for $50, $70, $100 a pop to drive to and from the Bay Area is insane unless your driver's license reads Bill Gates. So is paying the $20-plus to park or the $4 to cross the bridge.
Conservatively, before you've paid for the main event, you've spent $75.
World-class entertainers come in and out of the Modesto area every week. This weekend, Larry King, Randy Travis and Frank Caliendo all will be here.
Still can't afford those big-name ticket prices?
Then find the free shows all around town. Coffeehouses, restaurants, clubs and the like offer an array of live, local and cover-free concerts. This is also a great way to find new talent and support the area's arts scene.
Best of all, as you drink a cappuccino or nurse a beer, you'll be spending money in the local economy, which then circulates throughout the community.
And speaking of buying local, support area artists in other ways, too.
As the holiday season creeps up on us, instead of giving your dollars to corporate entities thousands of miles away, buy a Modesto artist's CD to give as a gift.
Many local performers have high-quality, low-cost CDs available at their shows or Web sites.
And those are just the tip of the affordable-fun iceberg. Save money by going to matinees, tour local art galleries, attend area festivals.
You may not be able to buy what you used to, but you still can have a fun day out with family and friends. And, in the end, that's what we all enjoy most anyway — fun time together.
And that's always free.
Elsewhere around the Scene:
Put another brick in "Pink Floyd The Wall" as the cult classic plays tonight for the State Theatre Midnite Movie Classic Cinema Series.
Based on the 1979 Pink Floyd album, "The Wall," the 1982 movie musical tells the story of a troubled rock star through music.
Shows are at midnight tonight and 3:30 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $8. Call 527-4697. More at www.thestate.org.
Take a bite out of the "Love Bytes" record release party Sunday at the Copper Rhino.
Merced artist Moon Trent hosts and performs along with indie label Queer Control Records artists Pariah Piranha from Pennsylvania, 8 Inch Betsy from Chicago and Box Squad from San Francisco. Area artists Love Core and Robbie Giant also will play.
Show is at 9 p.m. Tickets and EPs are $5. Visit www.myspace.com/moontrent.
And finally, mark you calendars for Lisa Lisa (minus the Cult Jam) on Oct. 17 at Modesto's Palladium.
The 1980s pop act had No. 1 hits with "Head to Toe" and "Lost In Emotion." Tickets are $20, doors open at 8 p.m., music at 8 p.m. Visit www.ehpresents.com.