Weekend Projects: Learn Something New, Save (or Make) A Little Cash

Many of us find ourselves filling the weekend with minor, aimless activities such as watching football or a movie. Instead, you can fill the weekend with a fun activity that could teach you a new skill and save (or even make) a little money.

Even better, most of these activities are appropriate for an entire family to work on together for at least an afternoon. Consider it not only an investment in your wallet, but also a potential investment in the people most important to you.

Here are ten great weekend projects that can teach you something new, not stress yourself out, leave you coming out money ahead, and (if you wish) involve the whole family working together on something fun and memorable.

Make your own ice cream
Many people think it’s fun to take the family out for ice cream, but it’s much cheaper, tastier, and way more fun to have the family spend some time at home making your own ice cream. You don’t even need an ice cream maker if you just want to try it; you just need sugar, salt, milk, eggs, vanilla, whipping cream, and some fruit. Sci-Toys provides a great visual step-by-step guide for doing it. When I was young, this was a weekend tradition during the summer. We would take turns picking the flavors and we each had a particular part of the task to accomplish.

Air seal your home
If you’ve ever felt a frigid draft in your house on a cold winter day, this is a project that will pay huge dividends for you, not just in comfort but in saved money. The Department of Energy publishes a great guide on air sealing your home, detailing what you should look at and assess before starting and also what you need to do when you get started. A great way to involve the family is to challenge people to find cracks and drafts as you go around fixing them; make a game or a contest out of it. It’s also a great way to teach the young ones some basic home maintenance skills.

Make your own wine
I tend to prefer brewing my own wine to brewing my own beer (it tends to turn out better), but either way is a great little project for a weekend afternoon. You can go for the simplest method when you’re just getting started, and if you enjoy the process, move on to more complicated processes. HomemadeWine.net is a great resource if you’re thinking about trying this. If you’re wary about teaching your children this technique, don’t worry; there’s a great replacement idea for you near later in this list.

Clean out your storage space
Most of us have a room or a closet that’s used solely for storing stuff that we rarely use, or things that we just want to keep around for posterity’s sake. Set aside a weekend to just go through the room slowly. You’ll often find some things you can get rid of (old clothes, etc.) and you’ll always find some things that will trigger old memories. Take the tack that this is a trip down memory lane and do it with some other people if you can, so you can tell each other stories, and rather than being a boring task, it can become a fun one that can raise some cash, too, if you plan it right.

Make your own sauerkraut (or other ethnic food)
My family’s heritage is German, so we would regularly make homemade sauerkraut. We would make it in a large crock, which isn’t really reasonable for many people (not only because a crock can be a small investment, but also because most people aren’t interested in several gallons of sauerkraut), but you can make a batch of it using this recipe at home without much expense. If you have a different ethnic heritage (or even if you don’t, but want to try something interesting), working on a batch of a distinctive ethnic food can be a wonderful project, plus you’re saving money because it is homemade food instead of take-out.

Have a yard sale
Remember above when I mentioned that going through the storage space might raise some cash? Take some of that stuff you found and have a yard sale. Have your kids participate as well, and give them a cut of the proceeds. I strongly recommend having them sell some lemonade to the crowd if the day is warm; let them have the lemonade racket and they’ll probably make more money than you and have a good time doing it.

Make your own root beer
One of my fondest childhood memories is when we made a large batch of homemade root beer and bottled it in old Coca-Cola bottles. We made a huge amount of it and drank it for months; it was delicious in root beer floats and straight out of the bottle, so cold it was almost icy. Making homemade root beer is quite easy but time consuming; it’s a great way of learning about the process of making and bottling a beverage at home in a way that can involve the whole family. Plus, when you’re done, you have a ton of root beer that can be enjoyed for a long time with the whole family.

Repaint a room
Repainting a room is a task that many of us dread – it’s a lot of messy work for something that doesn’t really seem to pay a lot of dividends unless you’re about to sell your home. Yet there are few activities that really bring a house to a fresh new life than a room repainting – and it’s something inexpensive that can involve the whole family. From clearing the room to stripping the paint to picking out colors to putting on the new paint, everyone can be involved and you can transform a drab room into something much nicer.

Make your own soap
This is a wonderful little project that you can try at home; not only can you make your own soap, you’ll get to see some very interesting chemical reactions and you might wind up with some excellent gifts for others (with a little practice). Most soaps are quite easy to make (the hardest part for me is getting the supplies) if you put aside a couple of hours to make it and then some time for it to age, plus you can make soaps in the colors and scents of your own choice, not restricted by what you can buy at the store.

Decorate for the holidays
Why buy Christmas decorations when you can make your own? Making your own ornaments out of pine cones and 3D paper snowflakes is much more fun (and much less expensive) than buying a batch at the store, plus they’re much more festive. This year, try decorating with fewer lights and store-purchased ornaments and spend some time making your own beautiful trinkets for the tree and around the house.

If none of these projects suit your interests, but you’d like to find an interesting weekend project anyway, I recommend browsing through the archives at Daily DIY, as the site is devoted to such projects.

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5 thoughts on “Weekend Projects: Learn Something New, Save (or Make) A Little Cash

  1. Watching football is an aimless activity? If it’s American football, there’s so much strategy involved on each play that it’s more analogous to playing chess. It stimulates my mind in a different way than other day to day activities.

    I do enjoy making my own beer though.

  2. As one of those who linked in from Lifehacker, we may be less “passionate” but we are more focused on things that improve our lives. Excellent site here, I like your observations.
    Couple years ago our income dropped due to layoffs (red: fired) and my wife switching to her own business at the same time. And moving to a new house. We did it, and the discipline has been great, but I sure wish we had your site then, would have saved a lot of trouble.

  3. WForgot to add the important part: We had no money for Christmas decorations, so we took all the Christmas cards we got and put two hole punches in on oppsite sides near the spine. then we weaved a ribbon through, and had instant festive bunting.

    Guess what our kids favorite decorations are? We are a bit more selective on the cards we keep now, and it is a lovely way to tell the kids about each and every important relationship that a card sent represents.

  4. Holly says:

    Another fun activity that saves or make money is having a back yard garden. You save on produce, get your body moving and the extra can be donated to a local food bank or kitchen. There are online resources to help you find where to deliver your extra veggies so they can be used immediately.

  5. Xacto Hole Punches says:

    These look fun. Too bad I hate sauerkraut.

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