This article first appeared at U.S. News and World Report Money.
With Memorial Day coming up – and with a summer that has a Fourth of July weekend in the middle and Labor Day weekend on the far end of things – there are many opportunities for people to enjoy the freedom of a three day weekend.
It can be tempting to spend those weekends going on a trip or hosting a big wallet-busting party or heading out for a big round of shopping. Those events, while fun, can really put a pinch on your wallet.
Instead, why not consider options for the weekend that bring lots of social fun, allow you to engage in enjoyable activities, and possibly even help you reshape your life, all without much expense? Here are four great options for your next holiday weekend.
Plan day trips. Instead of spending a lot of money to travel to a distant destination, look for interesting places within a few hours of where you live and plan multiple day trips to those locations.
State and national parks are a good place to start, but countless historical and cultural locations are spread all around the world. There are dozens of interesting places to visit and enjoy a day within two or three hours of your home. Find one of them, pack a meal or two in a picnic basket or backpack, and head there for the day.
Day trips can be filled with exploring, hiking, fishing, and many other activities that will cost you very little but can transform a nice day into something wonderful.
Take on an interesting project at home. This is actually my favorite option. Almost all of us have a project or two that we’ve been thinking about doing and putting off. Make a list of them, choose the one that seems the most enjoyable, and devote your long weekend to taking care of it.
This is a great way to get your children involved as well. Projects are chock full of teachable moments if you have a child around, so get your son or daughter out there with you. Teach the child how to use tools or why something needs organized or how to put something together. It might make the project go a little slower, but it transforms the project into a powerful opportunity to bond with your child and teach some things, too.
You can also take the project idea outside the home and volunteer for a community project. Many volunteer organizations run projects during long weekends and it’s easy to get involved.
Host a potluck or two. The big thing that holds people back from hosting dinner parties is the cost. It can be quite expensive to have several people over to your home for a nice meal.
That problem is easily solved by potluck. Simply assign every guest to bring an appropriate side dish and/or an item to grill. This drastically reduces your food costs, bringing the expense down to little more than what a typical meal would cost for your family.
In exchange for that, you get an enjoyable evening with friends. Over a holiday weekend, you can actually have multiple potlucks – or plan something special, like a slow-cooked barbecue meal that wouldn’t be feasible over a shorter weekend.
If the weather doesn’t cooperate, turn it into a “big night in.” Get a few new releases and have a movie night or pull out a deck of cards and a board game. You can easily fill up an evening with socialization and fun that lasts until the wee hours of the morning.
Have a personal “retreat.” This is an option that people overlook, but it can be deeply fulfilling. Take a weekend and just disconnect from all of the stress and distractions in your life. Turn off the television. Turn off the computer. Turn off the cell phone. Put down the to-do list.
Instead, spend the weekend getting in touch with yourself. Fill a day with taking care of nagging tasks (so that you’re not distracted later in the weekend), then spend the next day reflecting deeply on your life, then fill the final day with taking real steps toward what needs to be done. Spend the evening reading something that you’ve always wanted to read for personal fulfillment and get a few great nights of sleep without the threat of an alarm clock.
This simple process can turn a holiday weekend into something that deeply reaffirms your life and helps you to put your priorities in order. It might not be “fun” in the strictest sense of the word, but it can certainly lift up your life, take away stress, and put you on a new path that opens the door to greater joys.