How to be Cultured (on a budget)

September 6, 2012

My twitter accounts mentions my love of high heels. This is partly because I am 5’2 and partly because I love how a pair of high heels makes you feel. I like the feeling of being put together so its no surprise that I also enjoy taking part in activities that involved high heels. Because I sit on a few not for profit boards, there is a slight expectation for me to dress up, and show up at events. The Board is the face of the organization and part of our role includes schmoozing with people.

You don’t necessarily have to go to Black tie events or fundraisers where each plate costs $500, you are feel like you’re doing something cultural and fancy on a budget.

The following examples are based on my experience in Toronto, but I’m sure they are similar programs available in a lot of other cities.



Toronto International Film Festival is something that most Torontonians look forward to all year. This is the time of the year where Hollywood Celebrities embark on a week of promoting, and partying. While not everyone gets to go mingle with the likes of Brad Pitt, or George Clooney, you do get the opportunity to watch some incredible films before they hit the theatre circuit. Some of these films don’t get bought by major studios, which doesn’t necessarily mean that they are not good, it just means that the studios don’t think that there is a large enough audience for them to invest in the film.

I have seen some amazing documentaries, and make it my mission every year to take a friend  who has never been. Its a completely different experience where the entire city dresses up and embrasses talent from around the world.



Nothing feels fancier than dressing up and going to a Broadway play. The talent and the atmosphere are second to none. In Toronto, there are many options that help reduce the costs. Most theaters such as Mirvish have an under 25 rate, and student rates. Additionally, if you sign up for their mailing list, they have 2 for 1 promotions. 

I also live really close to Stratford On, the second most popular place for Shakespeare plays in the world. Yes, I am spoiled with the talent here.

Fundraiser dinners

Yes, I know, I said you don’t neccassarily have to go to these, but if you want to support a great cause and have fun doing so, then fundraisers are the way to go. Along with helping plan and execute a few in the last year, I make it a goal to attend as many as I can. The benefit of going is that more often than not, your tickets are tax deductible provided that they provide a tax receipt.

Street Festivals

Non- traditional  things such as Diner en Blanc (International Event), and Fashion Night Out, or taking part in TFW, the EX etc are great options as well. They range from dressing in all white for Diner en Blanc, or casual gear for the Ex.


Our options aren’t limited to movies or zoos, and thankfully I live in a city where I can try different things at a rather rate and figure out what my interests are.

Do you dress up and go out to events still? Why or why not?


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  • WorkSaveLive September 6, 2012 at 3:59 pm

    I’ve never been to a fundraising dinner but it’s something I’d like to experience down the road. Right now those types of things just don’t fit in my budget. As a kid my mom used to take me to a theatre in St. Louis. They have the Muny and another place and it was a lot of fun to dress up a bit and watch people perform…they were quite good if I say so myself.

    • Marissa September 7, 2012 at 1:25 am

      Glad to hear it. My mom also had a thing for plays.

  • Tammy September 6, 2012 at 4:28 pm

    Like you, I my taste for entertainment far exceeds my budget. When I was a student, I did rush tickets everywhere. Now I have to be more creative.

    I have season tickets to the opera – nose bleed section. But, since I ordered them early, I now qualify for a seat upgrade for every performance to the best available seat.

    I also take advantage of ticket discounters and sites that offer promotional pricing on last minute tickets to fill seats.

    • Marissa September 7, 2012 at 1:25 am

      Season tickets to the Opera? Hardcore, and count me jealous.

  • Andy Hough September 6, 2012 at 4:28 pm

    I’m the opposite of you, I hate dressing up. I have to wear a suit for interviews or going to court. I’m not sure if that is considered dressing up, but it is the closest I get to dressing up. Otherwise, I prefer to wear shorts and a t-shirt.

    • Marissa September 7, 2012 at 1:28 am

      So no plays for you?

  • MoneySmartGuides September 6, 2012 at 5:14 pm

    I go to a handful of fund raising events each year. I usually skip the pricey ones unless there is a reason (work) that I need to go.

    As for plays and shows, I’ve noticed that Groupon and Living Social have been posting deals recently in my area for discounted admission. I just went to see Cirque du Soleil through Living Social. Had amazing seats for close to half off!

    • Marissa September 7, 2012 at 1:26 am

      Thats awesome. I’ve seen some really great things with Groupon too.

  • Jefferson September 6, 2012 at 7:34 pm

    Michelle and I love to dress up and go out.. But with three kids and no money, that is getting harder to hook up. There was a period a few years ago where everyone we knew was getting married.. That year, we had plenty of occasions to dress up!

    • Marissa September 7, 2012 at 1:26 am

      Nice! Ps. Just met Michelle, she’s lovely.

  • Mo' Money Mo' Houses September 6, 2012 at 8:00 pm

    I would so go to TIFF if I lived in Ontario. But in Vancouver we have the smaller scale, more indie VIFF which is still really fun to go to 🙂

    • Marissa September 7, 2012 at 1:27 am

      I didn’t know that. When is that on?

  • Jacob @ iHeartBudgets September 6, 2012 at 11:08 pm

    I would love to check out a fundraiser dinner, but I don’t have the …ummmm ….. funds. I’ve been to a few plays, and those are fun, but nothing major. Festivals are also fun. I would add to your list County Fairs. it’s a little less “cultured” and a little more redneck, but fun nonetheless. We went this week, got in free and only dropped $40 on games, food and items.

    • Marissa September 7, 2012 at 1:27 am

      Redneck is a different kind of culture.

  • femmefrugality September 7, 2012 at 3:40 pm

    We love going to local theater or the symphony. It’s a ton of fun and can be pretty cheap if you know the right place to buy tickets and/or the right discounts to request. AND we get to get all fancy.

    • Marissa September 7, 2012 at 9:14 pm

      I get high on knowing that I got tickets for free/cheap to something fancy.

  • Canadianbudgetbinder September 7, 2012 at 5:49 pm

    I would love to go to the Toronto Film Festival to check out some movies and maybe bump into or spot a celeb but I’m not. Crappy part is we even have a 2 day Hotel Stay with Breakfast at a upscale Hotel that I won early this year. We don’t get out as often as we should or would like to but that’s all going to change next year. We both love getting dressed up and lord only knows Mrs.CBB has enough pairs of high heel shoes to last her years upon years.

    • Marissa September 7, 2012 at 9:14 pm


  • CF September 8, 2012 at 4:38 pm

    Brian and I often get to go to conferences through our work, so I get my fill of fancy dinners and dressing up! Luckily, I don’t have to pay for these events 😀 My favourite was definitely attending the gala event at a medical conference a few years ago – excellent food and drinks.

    • Marissa September 11, 2012 at 5:40 pm

      Nice. My dad works in the Medical field and yeah, they get really fancy galas.

  • The College Investor September 8, 2012 at 6:51 pm

    I love dressing up to go to events! My wife doesn’t like it as much (she finds it to be a hassle), but we recently both agreed to get dressed up and go out one night in Las Vegas on our vacation! We had a lot of fun!

    • Marissa September 11, 2012 at 5:40 pm

      Vegas! When was this?

  • Elizabeth @ Broke Professionals September 9, 2012 at 6:03 pm

    I’ve become a big supporter of community theater recently. The tickets are far cheaper than the more mainstream productions, and the actors and actresses are just as passionate about the work they’re doing. Plus, I feel like I’m contributing to my community at the same time – it’s a real win-win.

    • Marissa September 11, 2012 at 5:41 pm

      Community theater is awesome! I went to an arts highschool so I’ve seen the amount of work that goes into each and every show.

  • AverageJoe September 11, 2012 at 9:11 pm

    I love the news out of the TIFF and would love to go some year. I also love getting dressed up and going to community theater in our little town. In fact, I’m putting on the tie and heading out in about 45 minutes!

  • Cat at Budget Blonde September 12, 2012 at 3:01 am

    Ha! I LOVE the title to this post. The hubs and I love to go to free events like outdoor art shows and other festivals that make us feel swanky and cultured but don’t break the bank. 🙂
    Cat @ Budget Blonde

  • janin September 12, 2012 at 10:56 pm

    I always dress up no matter what the opportunity, partially because I just like dressing up and partially because I feel so awkward when I am under dressed!