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The Saratoga Falcon

The Saratoga Falcon

The Saratoga Falcon

How to organize a fun-filled movie night on a $30 budget

Isabelle Wang
Clay figurines to make during a movie night.

From food to entertainment, it seems like everything nowadays costs more money. Just going outside seems to lead to spending tens to hundreds of dollars depending on the activity you choose, whether it’s getting food with friends, going to an amusement park or shopping at the mall. Thus, we decided to try and have the most fun at home on a Friday night — all on a budget of $30. 

Now, obviously, there wouldn’t be much to it if we only watched six hours of movies and nothing else, so we compiled a list of other activities to enjoy on a stay-in night.

With movies, we recommend picking a genre or two to stick to through the night. Romance and comedy are the ones we chose. For us, our top movies to watch were “20th Century Girl,” a teenage heart-throb on Netflix; “Ponyo,” a beloved Studio Ghibli classic on HBO; and “Legally Blonde,” a go-to movie to watch during sleepovers on Tubi, a free content streaming platform.

If you don’t have Netflix or HBO, don’t worry — we also watched tons of K-dramas on Rakuten Viki and Tubi for free, using the few ads along the way as bathroom breaks. However, if you don’t have access to a platform with movies you want to watch, we definitely do not recommend pirating the movie using dramacool, or any other illegal website, even if it’s free and extremely convenient (wink-wink).

After watching a movie or two, we got hungry. With a quick scroll through Pinterest, we found delicious foods to make for under $12, turning dinner into a fun activity. For our main course, we made pizzas in the shape of frogs and bears. One aspect of movie night is to always do things the cheapest and simplest way, which in our case was buying pre-made pizza dough, tomato sauce in a jar, shredded cheese and toppings. 

The instructions for pizza are pretty self-explanatory: roll out the dough, slather on some tomato sauce, and delicately place (or dump, if that suits your mood) whatever amount of toppings your heart desires. For us, a combination of mozzarella, pepperoni, onions and pineapples — per Nicole’s request — had our mouths salivating before we even put the pizza in the oven. 

Around 15 minutes later, after snacking on the shredded cheese (don’t judge, we know you do it too), our pizzas came out bubbling and smelling like heaven. Although we did burn our tongues after devouring it seconds after we took it out, the minor injury was well worth it.

To finish our evening with a sweet dessert, we decided to make tanghulu, fruits coated in sugar-syrup on a skewer. With fruits becoming more expensive, we spent around $10 on strawberries and green grapes, since we were able to make use of the flour, eggs, sugar and other ingredients that we already had in our homes.

Simply boil a 2:1 ratio of white granulated sugar with water. Then, stab your washed and dried fruits on a long skewer. Once the sugar has turned a light caramel color, turn the heat off and carefully dip the skewered fruit. To get that glossy, hard shell of sugar, immediately stick the fruit into ice cold water and ta-da, a healthy-ish dessert that you can eat hundreds of without feeling too guilty.

After we finished our movie marathon with the pizzas and tanghulu, we had one more activity planned. At a nearby Michael’s, we bought air dry clay and some paint with the rest of our $8. Going back to Pinterest, we made a collection of desk figurines, keychains and a clay box to hold it all. While watching movies, you can even attempt to recreate key objects from them, like Sosuke’s boat from “Ponyo” or Poong’s camera from “20th Century Girl.”

Finishing up the night, we ended with “KiKi’s Delivery Service” — another nostalgic Studio Ghibli classic. To take the experience up a notch, we built a pillow fort in the living room using chairs, blankets and pillows. Huddled under blankets on top of pillows and eating the leftover fruits from the tanghulu was truly a soothing experience as we watched KiKi fly around her town to deliver food.

All in all, spending an evening together at home for just $30 was as fun — if not more so — than having to spend more money for an experience lasting just a few hours. For fun, you can’t beat fluffy blankets, cheesy pizza and cheering on the characters in romantic movies with friends.

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