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Shel Horowitz's Monthly Frugal Fun Tip

See Top-Name Concerts and Plays for Free as an Usher

This is probably about the time of year when my North American readers are starting to feel housebound and a little bit cranky (I'm actually writing this on a 71 degree early December day, so I'm guessing).

What better cure for the winter blues than a few nights out at a great concert, play, or dance event?

But of course, you're not going to want to spend $25, $50, or even $80 per ticket.

There are lots of ways to see concerts and other live events for free; we've covered a few of them in past tipsheets--and I go into quite a bit more detail in my book, The Penny-Pinching Hedonist.

But I just realized I haven't shared with you my favorite way to see top name entertainment: ushering.

This is so easy and so much fun, I'm amazed more people haven't caught on! But most people haven't realized how many venues depend on volunteer labor--and comp them with free admission in return.

If you notice a show coming up that you'd like to see, contact the promoter (the phone number is almost always on the ads and posters) and ask if they'll be needing volunteer ushers for that event. Whether your taste runs to hard rock, jazz, classical, folk or pop, there's sure to be a venue near you that uses volunteers: not just ushers, but people to put up posters, sell food and apparel during intermission, and so forth. Some shows even have volunteers doing stage security, but that can be a rough gig.

What do you do as an usher? Show up early and learn the theater layout, sometimes insert an addendum into the program, cover your assigned territory by handing out programs, tearing tickets, and/or showing people to their seats, and sometimes make a sweep through the hall after the show, collecting abandoned programs, soda cans, and candy wrappers.

It's not hard; it can often be fun. And though you take a chance on sitting separately, every show I've ever ushered, I've been able to sit with my wife (and our kids, if we've brought them). I've seen dozens of fine concerts and plays this way, including a number of major name acts; I heartily recommend it.

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