Updated on 04.16.07

Challenge Yourself To A Money-Free Weekend

Trent Hamm

Water LiliesFor 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.

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  1. rubyfan says:

    and for motivation, here’s the “Amazing Don’t buy stuff you can’t afford” Money Management Plan from SNL:

    Hilarious, but also illustrates why we’re in the mess we’re in.

  2. John Wesley says:

    This is a great concept and something that I want to experiment with it. The one problem, and the reason more people don’t do this every weekend, is that it basically means retreating from the rest of society.

    If you can’t spend, you can’t socialize, or so it seems at least. Most people would have hard time believing it possible and would be dying from boredom within hours. But I guess doing what’s best for you means stepping away from other people and showing them a different way to live.

  3. KRdaCat says:

    Great Idea Trent.

    My girlfriend and I will we be having a Money-Free weekend this coming weekend. Sounds like a great way to ‘enjoy life’ and not pay for the pleasure.

  4. rubyfan says:

    Aren’t you afraid the government will put you on the no-fly list for dispensing this kind of subversive information? ;-)

    Please keep it coming. Frugality is subversive.

  5. Gal Josefsberg says:

    Just to relate this article to your last one. A lot of “free” activities are very good for you. Walking, hiking, playing in the park, spending time with family, boardgames. These are activities that will challenge you mentally/physically or both and much more so than TV, movies and such. I often find that the best activities for your wallet are also best for your health.

  6. Sarah says:

    Love this concept. Other things you can do: work on crafts projects for which you already have the materials but you haven’t finished (a common problem among crafters); watch any movies or listen to any CDs that you’ve bought but haven’t gotten around to taking in (or watch an old favorite you haven’t seen in a while); if you already have a gym membership, try a new class; visit “pay what you can” nights at a museum (but consider long-term support of your cultural institutions); if you live in or near a city, look up a walking tour on the web and explore a new neighborhood; spend time volunteering at a local shelter or food bank (often you can get a free meal out of this, too).

  7. rohit chaube says:

    Great concept, looking forward to give it a try this weekend

  8. Amy says:

    I love this idea and I am looking forward to giving this a shot with my family. Thanks for the inspiration!

  9. Carrie says:

    That is a great idea. It is a little bit the same when there is no electricity. Sure it makes people angry because our lives are ruled by technology, but it’s probably different if we plan on doing it.

  10. Danni says:

    I like the idea. You make it sound easy to do. Maybe we should try this one also at home. This strategy will definitely save us money, especially from electricity.

  11. heather says:

    People are really stupid if they have to be told these things. I doubt anyone over 16 really goes out and blows a ton of money on the weekend.

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