One of the common misconceptions in our society today is that one must spend money in order to have a good time. Nothing could be further from the truth. Sure, certain activities that are fun do require money, but there are plenty of activities one can do that do not. When times are lean but you don't want to skip out on some fun, make fun anyway.
Write down a list of things you enjoy to do, whether they cost money or not. Try and think of everything, no matter how small. Then, sit down and take a good look at your list, and rank them from lowest cost to highest cost. You now have a burgeoning list of things to do, depending on your budget, for when you are looking to get out of the house. You can grow this list over time until you have a good selection of things to choose from.
To help you out, here are a list of things that I like to do that cost little to no money. When I say little to no money, I'm assuming that there is the price of gas because most things do require driving, but gas can be minimal or included as the "little money" variety.
1. A Day-Trip Adventure
Sometimes we all need to get out and take a little adventure. While this may be true, our bank accounts might remind us that taking a weekend getaway somewhere with hotel and meals isn't possible. When this happens to us, and it has frequently, we fall back on a favorite: the Day Trip. I have the travel guides for my state and the one right next door, so combine that with the power of the internet search, and I can easily plan out a destination or a route. This is how it works:
A. I will find a group of three, maybe four, things that are within a reasonable driving distance that I'd like to go to (that don't cost anything or very little).
B. I pack up a really nice picnic lunch including a snack and plenty of water. Make sure you pack your picnic with food items you already have at home! This saves money and forces you to get creative. I made individual containers of spaghetti for us all once.
C. Take my camera and any other items one might need.
D. Hit the road.
2. Free or Cheap Festivals and Events
If I'm up for getting out and about, but don't want to go far from home and/or spend the effort packing up for such a trip, I find the free festivals and events. If you're not sure where to start, your local newspaper (most of them are online as well) is a good place. I've noticed that websites like eventbrite also do a pretty good job of covering things to do in every area. In my city, particularly when the weather is nice, there is always something going on during the weekend. I can find a free or super cheap activity to do, then put snacks and water in my backpack before heading there.
3. Hit Up Your City, County, and State Parks
I don't know about you, but I love getting outdoors as much as possible. Parks are a great way to get out and do something fun. For one thing, you get out into the beauty of nature, and secondly, it usually is free or might require a small daily fee. Where I live, city parks are free, county parks are usually $2/day per car, and state parks are $6/day per car.
We will typically pick a park that has a playground (for the kids), a decent hiking trail, a shelter house/picnic tables with grills, and if we can find one with a lake or river as well...bonus! Depending on what kind of food we have at home (Again, you're trying to save money not spend it, so going out to buy picnic/grill food is silly. Be creative with what you have and avoid the urge to spend.), we will either pack a picnic lunch with or without stuff to put on the grill, or if we aren't going for an extended period of time, we will pack snacks and drinks.
4. Places that are usually Free or Really Cheap
I live in an area that has an excellent museum that just so also happens to have free admission. We have other museums, nature centers, and galleries (to name a few) that are also free or very inexpensive. Find and make a list of all of these kinds of places as they're perfect for crappy weather days - whether it's super hot or super cold.
This is my fall-back activity. Nothing else to do? Bored and restless? Dress appropriately, bring plenty of water (and a light snack), and hit the trails. It's a great activity that doesn't take hours, gets you some exercise, all while located in a gorgeous setting.
Want to get away for the weekend but have very little money? Camping is your answer. There's a reason I have a complete set of camping gear. I can utilize all or parts of it for different things, but camping is fun and cheap. I made a list years ago of all the essential items needed for a one- or two-day camping trip, so every time we feel like camping, I dust off the list and get busy. Just make sure the weather is cooperative. Camping in the dead of Summer, or during colder days can be a challenge, so consider it when deciding whether camping is going to work on that date.
7. Winery or Brewery Tours
This is a fun activity, more for adults, that really doesn't require a lot of money. It does require some, but not a bunch...if you do it right. Here's how it works.
A. Start with an internet search of wineries/breweries in your area. Check out their websites and see what their prices/events/rules are.
B. Make a list of three, four at the most, that you'd like to go to, then strategically figure out your driving route to them.
C. Have fun!
The way you save money is to remember that you're out to have fun, not break the bank. Wine tastings typically include samples of 4-6 wines, and will run you $5-$7 bucks, on average. Some wineries will also let you bring your own snacks, or provide snacks for no extra charge. This makes your total Winery Tour around a $20-$25 adventure. Breweries do something similar by offering what is called a "flight". Flights are typically four to five 4-ounce samples of some of their brews, and will cost anywhere from $5-$8 dollars on average. Some breweries will provide snacks, while others will not. Still, you can leave some snacks and/or water in the car for between places. This means a brewery tour can run you $20-$30 dollars. Considering the cost of many other activities, this is a low-cost, fun activity that can easily make the most of a Saturday. Checking out their websites is essential. There's a winery not far from us that has Sangria Sundays. For a $5 charge, you see a live band, get a glass of sangria, and a bowl of chips & salsa. You can't beat it! You won't know unless you do the research though.
And there you have it, a nice little list of fun free to extremely inexpensive ways to have a good time, and this is not a comprehensive list by any means. It's a good start though, and I'd highly recommend them to you.
Having fun things to do can enrich your life, fill it with meaning, and make you happy. It's a hard task when you're on a super-limited, or even just a limited, budget. However, it is doable, and this list proves it.
Do you have any great suggestions to add to this list? Comment below.