That’s (Free) Entertainment! Distract and Amuse Yourself for Almost Nothing


Just because you’re trying to save money doesn’t mean you have to live like a pauper. In fact, the proliferation of cheap entertainment readily available at our fingertips is probably one of the reasons there’s so much disparity in the US economy—the rich get richer while the poor are distracted watching Netflix (or Crackle, which is free). Fortunately, a 150-foot yacht won’t bring you enlightenment, while the ideas that can be shared through books, art, music, and film are the things that make us truly wealthy.

Yeah… let’s keep telling ourselves that.

Bottom line: Your all-important dollar needs to go toward basic survival, like food, shelter, and—if possible—investing in the future. But sensibly scraping by isn’t a whole lot of fun, so when it’s time to relax and let off steam, here’s how to entertain yourself by spending very little.


First thing first (and you knew this was coming): Get yourself a goddamned library card already. Multnomah County has one of the best library systems in the country, and if you’re not taking advantage of it on a regular basis, you’re wasting money and knowledge—you might as well throw 20-dollar bills into the recycling bin and hold your breath to burn off brain cells. It’s not just because of all the books you can read for free, which includes basically every book ever written, even recent bestsellers, provided you don’t mind putting yourself on a waitlist. Nor is it all the other media the library has to offer, including movies and music and magazines and newspapers.

It’s better than that: Your library card also gives you access to Hoopla, a digital platform that allows you to stream and download all kinds of things, from albums by Taylor Swift and Queen to recent big-screen hits like RBG and Mandy. There are comic books galore and a lifetime’s worth of television.

But for devoted couch potatoes, Kanopy is where it’s at. Added in October 2018 to Multnomah County’s library service, it’s a movie streaming platform with a shockingly deep catalog that includes the classic world cinema of the Criterion Collection, the historic Hollywood hits of Paramount Pictures, the hippest indie flicks of today from A24, and tons more. Just a quick scroll through Kanopy’s front page reveals a wealth of stuff to keep you occupied; if you can’t find something to spend your six free Kanopy rentals per month on, maybe this whole “movie” thing isn’t really your jam.

Lovers of music can take advantage of the Library Music Project, a streaming service with dozens of local bands at the ready.

Library cardholders can also use My Discovery Pass, a partnership program with local organizations. Each year, you—yes, you!—are entitled to two free passes to the following: the Portland Art Museum, the Portland Opera, the Hollywood Theatre, the Northwest Film Center, Literary Arts, Rose City Rollers, Artists Repertory Theatre, and one free pass to the Chinese Garden. That’s more than seven free dates’ worth of entertainment right there, and all you have to do is use your library card to log in and reserve your pass.