For the last few months, my husband and I have been making the effort to schedule things to do as a family every other weekend or so that we call money-free weekends, in an effort to live more frugally, and minimally. When we started this experiment we didn’t think there would be very many free, family weekend activities available to me in my small town. To my surprise, there were lots of free activities that have actually been quite fun. So today I wanted to share a few ways we as a family celebrate money-free weekends.
Now before I begin I do need to mention one ground rule. As a family on money-free weekends, we’re not allowed to spend any money. On anything, no matter what. In other words, we can’t make a run to the store to buy food, even if it’s on the dollar menu. We can’t spend money on any sort of entertainment, even if a great deal pops up online, on say Groupon. Even grocery shopping on Saturdays, on a “money-free” weekend, is delayed until Monday or Tuesday.
This rule also extends to our home. While we can use our utilities, extras are off the table. No renting movies on cable, no in-game purchases, no kindle downloads, no Farmville coins for the kiddos. Nadda. Zip. Zilch.
With that said, we still manage to have an awesome time each money-free weekend. I hope you will consider the following list in the coming weeks, as part of No-Spend November, and try a few out with your family as well!
Please note that everyone’s interests are different – you probably won’t find everything on this list fun but they are all frugal, and all worth a second look. Anyway, here goes, 30 money-free family weekend ideas for No-Spend November:
Check out your town’s online community calendar: Look at your town’s website (as well as those of cities and towns close by). You’ll often be surprised at how many interesting (and free) activities are going on right now in your area. Fall, in most parts of the country, is full of awesome, free festivals and events, especially for the kiddos.
Rearrange the furniture in a room: It’s amazing how much you can refresh a room just by moving the furniture into new positions. Pick a room, and try out a turn of 90 degrees on any new piece of furniture, and you may be surprised to see how it’s new configuration lends itself to your space. Why buy hundreds of dollars worth of new decor when all your room may need is a change of direction and a quick shop for accessories from other rooms in your home!
Go Geocaching: Geocaching is partly an outdoor adventure, partly a treasure hunt. Just visit Geocaching online, type in your home address, download their app, add your destination coordinates, and your set for adventure. Plus, you’ll likely find a few geocaches stashed in the area.
Do a neighborhood cleanup: Walk through your neighborhood and shared spaces with a trash bag and a pair of gloves, and pick up the litter. It’s a great eco-friendly thing to do as a family!
Visit your local library: Oh, the library. My home away from home! Not only does the library contain a plethora of books, but most libraries also have extensive CD, DVD, Audiobook, and language learning software collections you can check out too! Many libraries also offer weekend story time for young children, film nights for various groups, book clubs, concerts, author readings or lectures, and many other events that you may be unaware of – all for free. Stop in and check out what they have to offer.
Get involved in community sports: Many towns have community sports fields where both youth and adult sports leagues and activities are regularly going on throughout the weekend. Stop by, watch a game or two, and if something intrigues you, look into joining as a participant, or as a volunteer.
Find a new podcast: Podcasts are wonderful! These free, informative, entertaining audio programs are available to you for free on any topic you can fathom. Give them a shot – it’s easy to do using iTunes, under the podcast section of the of the iTunes Store.
My favorite podcasts include: The Minimalists (on minimalism), Cultivating the Lovely (on home matters), RadioLab (scientific and philosophical ideas), Fresh Air (interviews of general interest), The Simple Home (on sustainable living), and This Week in Tech (technology news), among many others.
Board games: We have a pile of board games that we often pull out and play on weekends as a family. Classic games like Monopoly and Pictionary can be great fun. You’re just a dig through the recesses of your closet away from memory-making success!
Baking: Bread baking. Anyone can do it. When freshly baked bread comes out of the oven, it’s delicious! Fresh bread also makes for an awesome hostess gift! Check out Stacy from Humorous Homemaking’s latest post, and her numerous videos on breadmaking success, for those looking to up their bread making game!
Teach yourself how to juggle: Juggling is a great way to teach anyone not only great hand and eye coordination, but concentration skills as well. All you really need are three balls and a video showing you how to do it. And you are in luck, because my husband Daniel is a juggler, and posted a Youtube video on learning to juggle as well!
Learn how to change your car’s oil: If your car’s due for an oil change, just bring home the oil and oil filter you need and teach yourself how to do it on your own. Use your car manual as a guide for the procedure and you might just find it’s both a lot easier than you thought and a useful skill to have as well. And it’s cheaper than taking your car to Jiffy-Lube. Just remember to dispose of the old oil according to local laws. A tip? Most gas and service stations will accept your used motor oil.
Introduce yourself to your neighbors: Be brave. Be kind. Bake something and take it over to your new neighbors and introduce yourself this weekend if you don’t know them very well. And if you meet any interesting people in your neighborhood, invite them over for a cup of coffee and a chat, just to get to know each other better. Your neighborhood will be a safer, kinder, and a more diverse place after you do.
Digitize your media collection: Go through your collection, determine which items you’d actually like to keep, digitize those copies, and then donate or sell the rest. Use this time to cultivate collections of media that spark joy to you, and maybe, make some money for the upcoming holiday season too!
Host a cupboard potluck: Go through your cupboards and find any items that might be hiding in the back of your shelves unused. Invite some friends to do the same, then get together for a potluck dinner prepared from only these ingredients and whatever else you have on hand. This is also a great time to collect food donations for local food pantries in your area as well.
Make a goal list: Why wait until the new year to start a goal? Just jot down a goal, keep it in a place you will see it daily, and start bettering your life, family, home, or business today.
Make a will: Now I know what you are thinking, that making a will isn’t fun. But you will not believe how relieved you will be to have one in hand when it’s done. Spend some time thinking about what you want to happen to your personal assets when you have passed on, particularly in terms of the personal mementos that you want others to have, and where you want the value of your estate to go. Do you want it all to stay with family members? Do you want to remember a charity? You need to just sketch out the basics of a will. Later, you’ll need either a lawyer to prepare it for a formalized copy for you or use a site like LegalZoom, but just having those decisions made doesn’t cost a thing and is a big mental relief.
Perform a household maintenance walk-through: Seasonally, go through your home and look for any little maintenance tasks that need to be done. Do filters need to be replaced? Are there any burnt-out light bulbs? Do any windows need sealing or addressing? November is also a great time to finish up any last minute yard detailing before the start of snowy winter weather as well. Here’s a great example from Real Simple.
Go on a neighborhood scavenger hunt: Going on a themed neighborhood scavenger hunt is a great way to see what sights and sounds can be found in your neck of the woods. My family goes on one scavenger hunt each season, and we love it. Here’s are a few great examples of printable Fall, Thanksgiving, and Holiday scanger hunts as well!
Organize a self-guided walking tour of your area: Research the interesting historic and cultural sites in your town, then go on a walking tour of them. Pack a lunch in your backpack and have a picnic on the village green or in the park. You can easily turn this into a full day if you live in a compelling area. Your community’s Chamber of Commerce and the National Historic League are great places to start looking for ideas.
Teach yourself to knit or crochet: Learning to knit or crochet requires two needles or a hook, some yarn, a lot of patience, and an instructional video or two. There are tons of free patterns online, especially on Pinterest, Ravelry, and Red Heart Yarns! Beyond this, think ahead to the holiday season. Try making a scarf for a friend or a small blanket for a friend’s new baby. While it’s not quite free, you’ll learn a useful new skill — and if you stick with it, you’ll make things much more valuable than the initial cost of yarn. Before you know it, you might even be able to sell your knitwear and crochet goods on Etsy.
Hoan your photography skills: Pull your digital camera out and take pictures of anything and everything you find interesting. Take lots of them. Then go home later and see if you’ve taken anything beautiful and compelling. Great images can lay the groundwork for homemade greeting cards, nice desktop wallpapers, screensavers, personalized gifts, or create your own stockpile of photos if you are a blogger.
Share those digital photographs: And if your weekend photo shoot goes really well, you can pay-it-forward and sign up for a free Flickr account. You’ll be able to upload some of your most interesting pictures to share with others. Be intentional in your selection. Spend the time titling your images. You can also add interesting captions and allow them to be used under a Creative Commons Attribution license so your images can be enjoyed by as many people as possible.
Start a blog: Have you considered starting a blog? You can get a free blog started this weekend using WordPress or Blogger. Join either service and start a blog on a topic that interests you. Not only can it be a ton of fun, it will also help to improve your communication skills, and perhaps earn a bit of income further down the road.
Visit a free museum or zoo: Many cities, colleges, and universities offer free educational attractions, such as museum or zoo passes. Many banks, such as Bank of America, do seasonally as well. Make an effort to enjoy these free attractions. If your community doesn’t have free zoos or museums, call your local Chamber of Commerce and inquire about free to the public exhibits or free days for local attractions to add to your family’s social calendar for the upcoming months ahead.
Take a free college course: Did you know that you attend, and sometimes receive collegiate credit online for free at numerous online learning institutions for free? Great options include Coursera, Khan Academy, and the edX, a partnership between Harvard and MIT.
Cook some meals in advance: Spend some time this weekend cooking some meals in advance to store in the freezer. It’s easy to prepare casseroles, soups, pasta meals, breakfast burritos, and many other items all at once, then store them in portion-sized containers in the freezer for quick and easy reheating on a busy weekday. You’ll be glad you have pre-made meals on hand during the holiday’s next month! Here’s a great list from Crystal, of MoneySavingMom.com!
Build a basic net-worth calculator: A great way to ensure that you’re consistently making financial progress as a family, or for yourself, is to build your own net worth calculator. Once you have it set up, updating it quarterly is easy, and it can provide a great snapshot of your financial situation as well as show off your progress. Here’s a detailed guide to making one with any basic spreadsheet program.
Create a YouTube how-to video: We are all experts on something. Share your knowledge! All you need is a smartphone, as you can edit killer videos right on your iPad or iPhone with iMovie. Just create a video to demonstrate how to accomplish something interesting and useful. You’ll be a star before you know it, and helpful too!
Make a time capsule: Find a small box, and then walk around your house gathering items that represent the reality of your present-day life: A newspaper or magazine, photographs, recent receipts, letters or greeting cards, and the like. You could even include a digital flash drive with photos or a video. Then just put it all in the box, tape it up securely, and write a date on the outside saying when you’re allowed to open it. Add the date to your digital calendar online, and that’s it! One day you’ll enjoy reflecting on those items in the future and seeing how the world has changed.
Throw a Throwback Thursday party: Invite friends and family over to look through each other’s pictures, and then have a digital party where everyone scans and uploads their memories. There’s nothing better than getting together with family and friends and looking at pictures from when you were in high school. Besides, this will give your kids a little fodder as well!
So, that’s it folks, my 30 ideas for money-free weekend activities. I hope you all will be able to glean a few ideas for yourself, and perhaps start a few new free family traditions this weekend as well. And if you have any ideas on free family weekend activities, I’d love to hear about them below.
Here’s to the weekend,