For the last few months, my wife and I have been doing something every other weekend or so that we call a “money free” weekend, in an effort to live more frugally. It’s actually quite fun – here’s how we do it.
We are 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, we can’t spend money on any sort of entertainment, and so on. Since we often do our grocery shopping on Saturdays, on a “money free” weekend, we delay it to Monday or Tuesday.
We can use our utilities, but no extra expenses on these utilities. No renting movies on cable, no text messages that aren’t already covered by our cell phone plan, and so on.
An extra challenge: no television. Most of the weekends, we also did not turn on our television from the time we arrived home from work on Friday until at least Monday after work.
It’s an interesting challenge, and it teaches us several things about how expensive our lives really are.
First of all, it exposes how many fun activities we can do that are free. We go on walks, play in the park (with our toddler-aged son), play board games with friends (our current obsession is Ticket to Ride: Europe), read a lot, get household chores done, and so forth. Sometimes after these weekends, when we go back and do something expensive, we both question the reasoning for it – in other words, because of these weekends, our values are slowly shifting.
Second, we’ve become much more effective in milking real value out of our foods. Since we don’t go grocery shopping before the weekend, we usually spend Saturday morning taking an inventory of what we have on hand and making meals out of that. This often means some strange concoctions, but it also means that we’re digging into the back of the cupboard and using stuff we haven’t thought about in a while instead of just letting it go to waste.
Third, quality time with our child doesn’t revolve around consumerism. Instead of taking him to a toy store or something, we take him to the park or to the free public zoo or to the public gardens. He wanders around these, admiring the natural beauty and asking fifty million questions. Instead of stopping at McDonalds and tossing a bunch of garbage into him, we take a picnic basket to the park, spread out a blanket, and have a nice meal outside. We’ll go home and read him a few books, then he plays in the living room while we read or do something constructive. In other words, we spend our time doing activities that instill values we want in our child.
In a nutshell, weekends like this directly save us money, but the indirect benefits are even greater: it works on making our values and our sense of “normal” much more frugal, plus it also shows our son that you don’t have to just throw money up in the air and watch it blow away in order to have fun.
Give a money-free weekend a try sometime soon – and maybe try making a regular habit out of it. Your wallet will thank you, and you may just find that your values start to shift as well.