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This page is to help you discover how you can get out more for less. Use the categories below to explore ways you can save on everything from theatergoing to night life to sporting events.

What does 'pay what you can' really mean?

Few theater discounts sound better than "pay what you can." But how low can you really go without embarrassment? And what do you give up?

We scoped out Woolly Mammoth Theatre, which pioneered the PWYC concept locally in 1987 and now sets aside every show's first two preview performances as PWYC nights. Many, if not most, area theaters now have similar offers.

What did folks pay? On average, between $5 and $10 a ticket, for seats that fetch up to $62 full price. The lowest was a Sacagawea dollar; the highest, $20. What's the catch? Time. At Woolly, the line starts at 5 p.m., for an 8 p.m. curtain. The box office opens at 6:30 p.m., and tickets typically disappear in less than 30 minutes.

Not willing to wait? Ticketplace.org offers half-price tickets (plus a 12 percent service charge) to almost every area theater. Visit the TicketPlace booth at 407 Seventh St. NW, and get an in-person recommendation. Goldstar (www.goldstar.com), a national alternative, offers similar deals for a few cents more. Seats are "best available," meaning your ticket could be a seventh-row aisle seat or a nose-bleed.

One last tip: Why pay top dollar for a blockbuster? Select touring shows at the National Theatre -- although not the current "Jersey Boys" -- offer what are known as rush tickets. Released through lottery a couple of hours before curtain, they feature discounts of as much as 75 percent off full price. Call the National box office (202-628-6161) for availability.

- Michael O'Sullivan

Highest-priced ticket for Woolly Mammoth's "Full Circle": $62 Typical pay-what-you-can donation: $5-$10

Have a beer at the ballet

Going to the ballet can be pricey (and, you have to admit, a bit stuffy). That's never the case at the Washington Ballet's Beerandballet event, which provides an up-close look at a studio rehearsal (think sweats instead of tutus) followed by mixing and mingling with unlimited beer. Beerandballet is held a couple of times a year, usually right before a major production opens.

Next Beerandballet: rehearsals for "The Great Gatsby," Feb. 17 at 6:30 p.m. Washington Ballet's England Studio, 3515 Wisconsin Ave. NW. 202-362-3606. $25, $15 for Jete Society members.

- Fritz Hahn

Tickets to the Washington Ballet's run of "Don Quixote" last month: $20-$125 Washington Ballet's Beerandballet: $15-$25

Volunteer, get in for free

Volunteering is good for the soul, sure, but is it so horrible to ask, "What's in it for me?" In the cultural realm, there are plenty of rewards for your good Samaritanism. To find out which organizations are taking volunteers, just ask. We dug up a few:

Art: The Phillips Collection

  • What they get: Art-information volunteers take on a year-long commitment to work two 361/27-hour shifts a month as concierge of sorts, helping people find their way to museum highlights and to the nearest Metro.
  • What you get: A volunteer badge granting free admission to museums including the Metropolitan Museum (regularly $20) and the Whitney ($18) in New York and the Pompidou Centre modern art museum in Paris (about $18).
  • To sign up: Visit www.phillipscollection.org/about/volunteer.

Theater: Capital Fringe Festival

  • What they get: This summer theater festival takes volunteers for two-hour shifts that typically involve working the box office of one of the myriad Fringe venues. And new seasonal events mean more opportunities; the next event, Spring Fringe, is slated for February.
  • What you get: Volunteer for one shift, get one ticket to one performance you're not working (usually $15). Five shifts gets five tickets and a Fringe button (usually an extra $5).
  • To sign up: Visit www.capfringe.org/volunteer.

Nightlife: Dancing events at Glen Echo

  • What they get: Individual presenters of jazz, swing, blues and contra dance events at Glen Echo need folks to put wristbands on customers, man the entrances and help clean up afterward.
  • What you get: Free entry to the dance you're volunteering for; customers pay between $8 and $15.
  • To sign up: Visit www.glenechopark.org and click on Calendar, then Dances. Contact presenters individually by e-mail to ask if they take volunteers; groups such as the Tom Cunningham Orchestra and Jam Cellar say they're always looking.

- Lavanya Ramanathan

Adult admission to the Phillips Collection: $10-$12 For volunteers: free

Deals for the young

To ensure the next generation will get hooked on the drama of theater, some of the biggest venues across town have great deals for young patrons. For example, those ages 17 to 25 can sign up for the Kennedy Center's Attend program to take in some of the theater's big productions (such as the upcoming "August: Osage County") for a mere $10 to $20. Visit www.kennedy-center.org/tickets/attend.

Shakespeare Theatre Company's Young Professionals nights offer those 35 and younger a side of socializing to go with a selection of its plays with post- or pre-show happy hours that cost as little as $10. The next event is Dec. 3 during the run of "As You Like It." Visit www.shakespearetheatre.org/ytg.aspx.

And those who prefer the call of the soprano should sign up for Washington National Opera's Generation O program by visiting www.dc-opera.org, which allows opera fans 35 and younger deals, including $25 orchestra seats to "Gotterdammerung."

Woolly Mammoth and Arena Stage also offer age-related discounts, so remember to ask before buying.

- Stephanie Merry

Saturday-night ticket to Shakespeare Theatre Company's "As You Like It": $18-$82 Typical ticket to Young Professionals Night (age 21-35): $15

Amanda Tudor stars in the Shakespeare Theatre's "As You Like It." Young professionals get discounted show/happy hour tickets. (Scott Suchman)

Watch a rehearsal

Open rehearsals are a great way to see an almost-finished theatrical production free or for a small charge. Some troupes, such as Synetic Theatre, offer such events sporadically, but a few regularly stage public rehearsals. Shakespeare Theatre Company has one of the most active open rehearsal schedules, which included "As You Like It," last weekend as well as the company's three preceding shows, one of which was "King Lear" starring Stacy Keach. The next open rehearsal has yet to be scheduled, but it could very well precede the "Richard II," slated to open Feb. 2. Check www.shakespearetheatre.org for more information.

Dance is also on the menu of open rehearsals, including the Explore the Arts series at the Kennedy Center, which brings renowned ballet troupes such as the American Ballet Theatre (coming up Jan. 26 at 1:30 p.m.), to the stage for a mere $12. www.kennedy-center.org/programs/plus.

Meanwhile, Washington National Opera will be offering an open rehearsal Saturday as part of Opera Week when the Domingo-Cafritz Young Artists perform selections from "The Marriage of Figaro" at Millennium Stage. www.kennedy-center.org.

- Stephanie Merry

Tickets to the American Ballet Theatre at the Kennedy Center (Jan. 26-31): $29-$99 Attend the open rehearsal: $12

Where to find cheap beer

There are plenty of bars where you can get a beer for $2 or less at happy hour, but at the Red Derby (3718 14th St. NW; 202-291-5000), you can score old-school cans of National Bohemian and Schlitz for $2 every hour the bar is open. Close behind: Comet Ping Pong (5037 Connecticut Ave. NW; 202-364-0404) offers $2.50 cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon every day as well as free play on the Ping-Pong tables.

- Fritz Hahn

Ola Dubh Special 18-Year Reserve at ChurchKey: $12 Have a Schlitz at Red Derby: $2

BYOB and save

Bars and restaurants make money by selling food and drinks for more than you'd pay for the same product at a nearby store. But sometimes they allow you to save money by bringing your own wine, a practice known as corkage.

Typical corkage fees: $15-$25 BYO American wine to Charlie Palmer: No charge

Charlie Palmer Steak
101 Constitution Ave. NW
202-547-8100
No corkage fee for up to two bottles of American wine.

Dino
3435 Connecticut Ave. NW
202-686-2966
Free corkage Tuesday-Thursday (limit one bottle per person).

HR-57
1610 14th St. NW
202-667-3700
$3 corkage fee per person (wine, spirits or beer).

Lavandou 3321 Connecticut Ave. NW
202-966-3002
Free corkage on Monday nights.

(Note: Corkage is illegal in Virginia and parts of Maryland, including Montgomery and Anne Arundel counties.)

Bring your own food

Atomic Billiards
3427 Connecticut Ave. NW
202-363-7665

Recommended carryouts nearby:

Bedrock Billiards
1841 Columbia Rd. NW
202-667-7665

Recommended carryouts nearby:

Rocket Bar
714 Seventh St. NW
202-628-7665

Recommended carryouts nearby:

- Fritz Hahn

Avoid those service charges

When is a $20 ticket not a $20 ticket? When you buy it online. That convenience of clicking costs you some serious cash. The easy solution? Buy at the box office. No matter the venue, there are serious savings to be had.

Two tickets to Trans-Siberian Orchestra purchased through Ticketmaster.com: $149.45 Same tickets bought at Verizon Center: $123

Trans-Siberian Orchestra (Verizon Center, Dec. 9)
Two tickets through Ticketmaster.com: $59.50 per ticket + $12.85 service charge per ticket + $4.75 print-at-home = $149.45
Verizon Center box office: $59.50 per ticket + $2 service charge per ticket = $123
Savings: $26.45

Josh Ritter (9:30 club, Dec. 1)
Tickets.com: $20 per ticket + $9.50 service charge + $4 to pick up at will call = $53.50
At 9:30 club box office: $20 per ticket + $1 per ticket service charge = $42
Savings: $11.50

Rosanne Cash (Birchmere, Dec. 2)
Ticketmaster.com: $39.50 per ticket + $1.50 facility charge per ticket + $7.85 service charge per ticket = $97.70
At Birchmere box office: $39.50 per ticket + $3.50 per-ticket service charge = $86
Savings: $11.70

- David Malitz

See opera at the movies

The new season of the Metropolitan Opera's "Met in HD" simulcasts just kicked off. Through May 1, the remaining seven performances will play on the big screens of movie theaters including AMC Mazza Gallerie 7 and Germantown 14, and you get to pick where you sit. Visit www.ncm.com/Fathom/Opera/MetLive09_10Series.aspx.

  • Priciest ticket to see the Met's "Turandot" live: $375.
  • Ticket to see "Turandot" at the Ballston Commons 12: $18.

Baltimore's Charles Theatre offers onscreen opera with international flair, including Zubin Mehta conducting "Die Walkure" from Spain. Visit www.thecharles.com/schedules/operaballet.html.

  • Ticket to the Washington National Opera's "Carmen" last fall: $40 to $300.
  • Ticket to Italy's Teatro alla Scala simulcast of "Carmen" at the Charles on Dec. 7: $25.

- Lavanya Ramanathan

.
Priciest ticket to see the Metropolitan Opera's "Turandot" live: $375 Ticket to see it in high definition at the Regal Ballston Common 12: $18

Blog your way in

Nothing beats being on the guest list and getting into a concert for free. But if you aren't friends with the band and aren't an important reporter for Weekend (ha!), how does one do that?

Here's one way: Start a blog and credential your way onto the list. That wasn't the motivation for creating the nearly year-old ReadysetDC (readysetdc.com), but it sure isn't a bad perk. Site photographer Paul Frederiksen has snapped photos of George Clinton and the Walkmen and had limited success getting on band lists as a freelancer. "Once you start shooting for a blog, it's much easier to get approved" by bands' management, he says.

(Not for you? Check local blogs such as The Vinyl District, Brightest Young Things, Couch Sessions and, yes, Going Out Gurus, which regularly give away free tickets.)

- David Malitz

Have dinner for lunch

It's no secret that, at high-end restaurants, lunch is often more wallet-friendly than dinner.

Some area restaurants sweeten the deal even further with midday-meal specials.

Restaurant: Lunch Crush at Proof (775 G St. NW; 202-737-7663)

  • The deal: $12 for one of six entrees and a glass of house wine, soft drink or iced tea, served in the lounge.
  • Sample dishes: Shrimp burger with cucumber, jalapeno, pickled daikon and sriracha aioli; grilled hanger steak salad.
  • Days and times: Monday-Friday 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.
  • Comparison shop: An average dinner entree here is $25.50; wines by the glass average $9.

Restaurant: Lickity Split-Lounge lunch menu at Restaurant Eve (110 S. Pitt St., Alexandria; 703-706-0450)

  • The deal: $13.50 for any two items from a special menu, including cocktails, desserts, salads, soups and sandwiches.
  • Sample dishes: An "Irish BLT" (with two kinds of bacon), a cupcake, cocktails and a daily soup, salad and sandwich.
  • Days and times: Monday-Friday 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Comparison shop: In Restaurant Eve's well-renowned four-star tasting room, meals start at $110 per person (nine-course is $150). In the more affordable bistro, apps average $17 at dinner ($16 at lunch) and entrees average $36 ($21 at lunch).

Restaurant: Prix-fixe lunch menu at 2941 (2941 Fairview Park Dr., Falls Church; 703-270-1500)

  • The deal: $23.95 for three courses. Dishes change every week or two.
  • Sample dishes: A peekytoe crab with apple gelee appetizer, tagliatelle with veal cheeks and butternut squash entree, pumpkin pot de creme dessert.
  • Days and times: Monday-Friday 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.
  • Comparison shop: At dinner, a four-course prix-fixe is $58, nearly double the three-course lunch price.

- Julia Beizer

Average dinner entree at Proof: $25.50 Lunch Crush special at Proof: $12

Happy hour eats

Some local chefs are spicing up the after-work options with nibbles that demonstrate a closer attention to culinary detail than the hot wings and sliders you might be used to.

This fall, the Source restaurant launched the Hour of Power special: a trio of food items paired with a flight of wines. Soups are on the menu right now, but it will change every few weeks. The deal is $25, and there are more than enough bites for two.
Monday-Saturday 5 to 6 p.m. 575 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. 202-637-6100.

A Penn Quarter staple, 701 recently unveiled a renovated dining room, a new chef and the Power of Seven, a happy-hour menu featuring seven hearty appetizers for $7 a piece. The lemon-grass-kissed Thai chili wings are a subtle twist on a bar staple. Selected wines are $7.
Monday-Friday 5 to 7 p.m. 701 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. 202-393-0701.

During Hora Feliz, Oyamel's specialty tacos are two for $4. This is not Taco Bell; think warm corn tortillas stuffed with such top-notch ingredients as confit of baby pig or Yucatan-style pit barbecued pork. Margaritas and glasses of ponche are $4; selected beers and wines are half-price.
Sunday-Friday 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. 401 Seventh St. NW. 202-628-1005.

Few Bethesda bars offer the same appeal as Redwood's sophisticated space. Share $5 appetizers, including cornmeal-crusted fried oysters or well-seasoned flatbread with dip, over one of the small tables near the window. Some cocktails are $5; selected wines and beers are $4.
Monday-Friday 4 to 7 p.m. 7121 Bethesda Lane, Bethesda. 301-656-5515.

During happy hour at Courthouse's stylish lounge Yaku, opt for one of the under-$5 appetizers, including the shrimp-and-crab croquettes or the spicy crispy salmon roll. Selected drinks are $2 to $5.
Monday-Friday 5 to 7:30 p.m. 1900 Clarendon Blvd., Arlington. 703-248-0844.

- Julia Beizer

Typical appetizer at 701: $8-$14 "Power of Seven" happy-hour items: $7

Same movies, lower prices

You may have to wait a few weeks for the latest blockbuster to hit a second-run theater, but it can cut the price of a ticket from $10 to just $1.

Every Monday, the Arlington Cinema 'N' Drafthouse (2903 Columbia Pike, Arlington) shows $1 movies. Movies are $2 on Tuesdays and $3 on Wednesdays. And a 6 p.m. show on Thursday is the $1 "after work special." 703-486-2345 or www.arlingtondrafthouse.com.

The McGowan Theater at the National Archives (Seventh Street and Constitution Avenue NW) is home to sporadic free movies, often classics. Saturday at noon, there's a free screening of "The Wizard of Oz." 202-357-5000 or www.archives.gov/dc-metro/events.

University Mall Theatres (10659 Braddock Rd., Fairfax) offers $4 shows for adults. Movies on Tuesdays are $2. 703-273-7111, 703-273-0876 or www.universitymalltheatres.com.

The National Gallery of Art shows an eclectic mix free in its East Building Auditorium (Fourth Street and Constitution Avenue NW). Nov. 28 at 1 p.m., see the 1928 silent epic "The Crowd," with live accompaniment. 202-842-6799 or www.nga.gov/programs/film.

And finally, if you really want to save: Check out free DVDs at the library.

- Lavanya Ramanthan

Movie ticket at the AMC Loews Georgetown: $10.75 See "The Hangover" at the Arlington Cinema 'N' Drafthouse on a Monday: $1

How to score cheap tickets

In the Craigslist era there is no real secret to finding someone reselling tickets to your favorite teams. But here are a few things to keep in mind when dealing with scalpers and fellow fans unloading tickets.

Cheer by yourself
Scalpers hate selling tickets in odd quantities because they'll usually end up with a stray single. Bargains can be found by taking that lone leftover.

Patience pays
Ticket resale prices outside the stadiums plummet as game time approaches. And if you don't mind missing the first few minutes of action, you can save an even bigger bundle.

(Off-the) Marquee matchups
Want to see the champion Lakers or Penguins when they come to town? Demand is higher, so it will cost you more. Settle for the NBA's Milwaukee Bucks on a Wednesday (Dec. 2) or the NHL's Florida Panthers on a Thursday (Dec. 3) and save. The cheapest ticket listed on Ticketmaster for the Panthers game is $35; the cheapest ticket price for the Feb. 7 Penguins game is $65.

Be willing to drive
Scour Craigslist for day-of-game sellers in the suburbs who want to exchange their tickets for cash in person. They'll often cut you a deal if you're willing to save them a trip.

Public practice makes perfect
Cheap is good, but free is even better. For Caps fans wanting a close-up look at their hockey heroes, all practices are free. (Kettler Capitals Iceplex, 627 N. Glebe Rd.) Check the team Web site for a practice schedule.

- Justin Rude and Alex Baldinger

Cheapest ticket to the Caps vs. Penguins on Feb. 7: $65 Cheapest ticket to Caps vs. Panthers on Dec. 3: $35

Going out tips

Some downtown nightspots, including the Black Cat, take only cash. Save yourself the ATM fees from in-house cash machines by stocking up at your bank before a night out.

Metro charges rush-hour fares after 2 a.m. on weekends, which means your ride home could cost up to $2.15 more than it would if you entered the Metro system by 1:59 a.m.

- Alex Baldinger

Heading home to Shady Grove metro station from U Street after 2 a.m.: $4.50 Before 2 a.m.: $2.35

Bargain eats

Get advice on destinations for lunch, dates, bar-hopping and late-night snacks.

More for less

Tom Sietsema offers ideas for dining out without dropping a lot of dough.

Photos: opera, Marty Sohl/Metropolitan Opera; wine bottle, ballet slippers and music tickets, iStockphoto; happy hour and lunch deals, James M. Thresher for The Washington Post; ballet rehearsal, Gene Schiavone; Rosalind in "As You Like It," Scott Suchman
© 2009 The Washington Post Company