Updated on 05.20.07

A Frugal Saturday: Twelve Ways We Saved Money Yesterday

Trent Hamm

Quite often, Saturday is my worst day of the week for spending money. My wife and my son and I almost always wind up doing something that costs money. Yet, I recognize that the parts of the weekend that I’ll remember on Monday are the parts where we merely spent time together, not the parts where we spent money on stuff we didn’t really need.

As part of our attempt at an ultra-frugal May, we decided to just spend this Saturday around the house – with all of the house-hunting excitement, we thought it would be a fun way to unwind. Here are twelve things we did that we probably would not have done on a normal Saturday that saved us money.

We had banana pancakes for breakfast. We had three overripe bananas, so we just mashed them up with a fork, mixed them with two cups of flower, two teaspoons of baking powder, half a teaspoon of salt, an egg, and a cup and a half of milk. We just mixed it all together and suddenly we had pancake batter out of just the stuff we had sitting around the house. Banana pancakes are delicious.

My wife and I each pulled out three CDs we hadn’t heard in a while and played them in a small CD/clock in the kitchen. It cost only a penny or two of electricity and my wife got to hear me sing along badly with The Smiths’ “Girlfriend in a Coma” while my son danced.

We wrapped graduation gifts in the comics pages from the Sunday paper and old New Yorker covers. They looked bright, visually interesting, and kitschy, and the cost was less than a penny’s worth of tape.

We had homemade soup and sandwiches for lunch. The sandwiches were merely some leftover grated cheese from a meal earlier this week between two pieces of bread and cooked on a grate over wood. The soup was just chicken boullion with some leftover pieces of chicken in it and a few chopped-up vegetables. Cost: minimal. Taste: great.

We deep-cleaned things. Mostly, just things that we skip over because we often don’t have the time. Lots of window-spraying and such with our homemade cleaning supplies.

While our son napped, we went through every house that we looked at and made a final ranking of all of them. This was actually really fun, because we were largely on the same page with everything. We have one house that we love and one that we really really like and everything else falls in behind. Basically, this was good conversation.

We walked to the park and back. This burnt multiple hours, as our son wanted to swing on the swings and go down the slide and laugh and play and all that good stuff. Lifting him up to the top of the slide (he can’t quite handle the ladder yet) over and over again was a good workout, too – lifting a twenty five pound toddler from the ground to well over your head every fifteen seconds for most of an hour can be exhausting.

We had fresh asparagus, homemade poor man quesadillas, and grapes for dinner. The asparagus was out of a friend’s garden, picked only a day or so ago. The poor man’s quesadillas was just using the remaining cheese and putting it between two flour tortillas then grilling them. The grapes were easy, too. Another really cheap and rather quick homemade meal, but that was because we were all worn out.

All of us wrote letters to people. I wrote a letter to an old friend, as did my wife; our son went crazy with crayons on a sheet of paper writing a letter to his grandparents.

My wife and I had a very romantic evening after our son went to sleep. Hey, that’s a free activity!

We spent an hour reading together. My wife and I just cuddled up near each other under a down comforter and read. I finished off a book; she got part of the way through one.

We never turned on the television once. It didn’t come on all day, even after our son went to bed.

The entire day was incredibly fun and it cost almost nothing at all. Who needs to spend a lot of cash to have an enjoyable, happy, memorable Saturday?

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  1. Really interesting post – I shared some of these ideas with my wife – we are going to try some of these next Saturday. It is interesting how these “mundane” things make up the happiest moments of our weekends and our lives. I particularly liked your “no TV” and “no shopping” idea :-).

  2. Rich Minx says:

    That’s a really great list. It’s nice to be reminded that the simple pleasures don’t have to involve money at all.

  3. Very interesting post indeed, we made ready to eat meals for the whole week. We also dont have a TV in out apartment as our joint deciaion, so it does not rob away out time.

  4. Mitch says:

    My friends and I “partied” much of Friday and Saturday playing board games, watching a DVD for an hour, and taking walks, especially going over to the library twice to get more volumes of the “Fables” graphic novels (we were pipelining them). We did buy food and go bowling, but it was a nice weekend for “after finals” and not too hot for walking around.

  5. kim says:

    We have a Sunday night tradition in my house – pizza and a movie. We make the pizza together from scratch and pop some popcorn. We all eat together in the livingroom while watching a kid friendly movie together. I have found that our local video store almost always has coupons available for a free rental from ths children’s section. I resist all of the new releases and rent just the freebie. I have not paid for our weekly video in months! My kids look forward to Sunday night all week!

  6. MVP says:

    Love it! Finally, another couple who realizes they have everything they need to be happy and don’t necessarily have to have cable and a 55″ flatscreen TV, expensive concert tickets or go out for a $250 night on the town each weekend to have a great life. Cooking together, playing card, board and yard games and going for bike rides (not to mention some creative hanky panky!)are some of our favorite FREE things to do to share time together.

  7. Brett McKay says:

    Looks like you had a great day! Was this something your family planned out or was it completely spontaneous? It seems like my wife and I have plan in order to have days like yours. We usually end up spending money if we don’t have a plan.

  8. clkl says:

    Our lifestyle is just like this, all the time; Not as an “ultra-frugal” experiment, rather by habit, preference, and inclination. We enjoy activities less when they cost money.

    May you continue to find joy in each other’s company.

    Best of luck with the house-hunt!

    All the best,

  9. Your posts are really inspiring!

    I spent the weekend on a museum marathon with the BofA promotion. I saw so many amazing works of art – Pablo Picasso and the Vivienne Westwood exhibit. All without spending any money. There was an outdoor movie screening in the park I saw and didn’t spend a dime on food having brought my own snacks.

    And I read an old issue of the Economist and discovered some articles relevant to work.

    Good luck with the rest of May!

  10. I forgot to mention the Smiths along with the Cure are some of my favorite 80s bands. “There’s a light that never goes out” and “this charming man” are some of my favorites.

  11. plonkee says:

    Sounds like a nice day, surely though you made the pancakes with ‘flour’ and not ‘flower’.

  12. I would really love to do some of these things, but my wife needs more “fun” things to do. She doesn’t like to spend too much time at home, so I need to find cheap things to do out of my home.

  13. Andre says:

    You’re an inspiration as usual Trent!!

  14. Tyler says:

    I particularly enjoyed this post. I (like plonkee) was also wondering what kind of ‘flower’ would taste good in banana pancakes ;). My wife and I had a month similar to your frugal May. In April, we only spent money on doctor’s visits, rent and insurance. We documented our experience at http://tysqui.blogspot.com/2007/05/spend-free-april-is-over.html.

  15. KMull says:

    Sounds like an awesome day to me…

  16. Sweet Pea says:

    This was a great post! If I might add, my best recipe for fun weekends (esp. in the summer) Go to garage sales and snag up all the awsome board games people played once and and now selling for $.25! My husband and I have a huge collection and there’s always something fun to do, even if the power goes out. We have played many of these games over and over and over again, so the cost per play is so small, but the fun of listening to music, drinking some homemake iced tea and playing games all afternoon is still one of my favorite (frugal) ways to spend a weekend…

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