Updated on 04.17.07

Fifteen Free Things To Do During A Money-Free Weekend

Trent Hamm

Water liliesYesterday, I wrote a well-received article about having a “money-free” weekend, which outlines the idea that you can not only save some money and entertain yourself by not spending any money for a weekend, but you can actually begin to train your mind to be frugal.

In response, “John Wesley” left the following comment:

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.

Boredom? Can’t socialize? These aren’t things that I associate with a money-free weekend. Here are fifteen great things you can do during a money free weekend that don’t cost an extra penny.

Play board games. We all have a dusty game or two in the back of the closet somewhere, so take advantage of it! Invite some friends over and have them bring a favorite board game with them. Try playing them, especially ones that are new to all of you.

Have a “cupboard potluck.” Dig out a bunch of ingredients from the back of your cupboard, then invite your friends over for a fun variation on the potluck dinner: instead of bringing a dish, bring unusual ingredients from their cupboard or freezer. See what you have, then work together to make something interesting. It’s basically a “free” meal and a fun evening for everyone involved.

Organize a walking tour. Walk to the interesting historical areas in your town or city. Pack backpacks full of food for a picnic in the park or on the village green (using stuff you already have, of course).

Write some letters. A handwritten letter in the mail from a friend always makes me feel wonderful inside – I love reading them. However, it takes some real time to send a letter back in response. Spend some time sitting down with a pen and some paper writing letters – the personal nature of these messages are very wonderful.

Have a quilting bee. My wife’s sister does this in her college dorm all the time. A group of them get together with spare cloth – often literally old curtains or clothes or bedsheets – and they sit around cutting them into squares and other shapes and sewing them together. With practice, the patterns can get very complex and interesting – and t-shirt material can make for a very comfortable and warm quilt.

Play football / soccer. Call around until you can find a soccer ball, then head out to any open field near you and play a pick-up game of soccer. All you really need is the ball, and don’t worry about it if someone is really bad at it – I used to play soccer on occasion with some people who were very good and I was still able to be involved. You can also do the same thing with a football, playing two handed touch football in the park.

Practice yoga. Check a book out from the library on basic yoga stretches, then practice them yourself or with a group. I’ve found stretching genuinely makes me feel much better about my life and the people around me.

Read a book. Want to be alone? Find a book you’ve always wanted to read from your own shelves or from the library and find a nice, comfortable place to read it.

Have a yard sale. Turn it from a “money-free” weekend into a “free-money” weekend. Have a big yard sale with your friends bringing stuff, too. If you have kids, take some of the early proceeds and buy them some lemonade packets so they can sell lemonade during the peak of the day on Saturday and Sunday. Get rid of junk you don’t want anymore and make some good pocket cash.

Get things done. Make a giant list of household chores you just haven’t gotten done, like cleaning out the gutters or waxing the kitchen floor – stuff where you have everything you need to do it, but you just don’t wanna. Then do it, do all of them at once. You’ll feel totally productive and alive at the end of the weekend.

Volunteer your time. Get some friends together to be involved with a community project, or just do it yourself. Either way, it costs nothing more than your time and you can actually make a difference in your community and the world at large.

Get spiritual. Do some meditation. Go to a religious service. Think about some of the deeper mysteries and open yourself to whatever answers may come to you.

Blow bubbles. This is a great one if you have kids. Get a gallon of water, then slowly stir in some liquid dishwashing detergent (a cup or two), slow enough not to make suds. Bend an old coat hanger into loops, dip it into the stuff, and blow through the loops. Experiment with different quantities to get the kind of bubbles you want – there is no “perfect” recipe.

Pick up that musical instrument and learn it. Around here, we have about fifteen musical instruments which we can both play to various degrees. Sometimes, I’ll practice with a keyboard or the harmonica; my wife likes getting her old flute out on occasion. These are things that were given to us a very long time ago – and there’s still a lot of entertainment and learning value in them.

Check the community calendar. Stop by city hall or a visitor’s center and see if there are any free community activities going on that weekend. Maybe there’s a municipal band concert or an ethnic festival going on that you haven’t heard about. Stop by and see what’s happening in your town.

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  1. C$ says:

    Left one off…

    It is an activity that most married couples engadge in… hopefully… it is VERY free and follows a fun night of potluck dinners and cheep wine you find in the back of your cupboard.

    Use your imagination.

  2. Lana says:


    These are great suggestions. Blowing bubbles, especially.

    In my town, in the summer, there are free concerts in the park every Sunday for several weeks. And I live in a small city, not someplace like New York.

    In addition to your suggestions, I would add:

    *Rent movies from the Library or swap DVDs with a friend. Films are one thing I absolutely love, and even with a Netflix subscription, I can always find time to watch more. Swapping with friends or hitting the library is a low-cost way to feed my addiction.

    *Grab a camera and a friend and spend a day shooting photos. With digital cameras, you don’t ever have to pay for prints if you don’t want to. Some of the best “adventures” I’ve had with friends have been just grabbing a camera and trolling cemeteries, old buildings, gardens, etc. If you have kids, this is a great, free way to save memories of their youth. (And if you couple this with blowing bubbles, the fun increases exponentially.)

    *Help someone else shop for something they need. This is especially helpful if you have knowledge of something your friend/family member doesn’t–i.e., your mother wants to buy a digital camera and has no clue; your good friend just started a new job and needs to update their wardrobe. Being a personal shopper for someone else gives me the opportunity to not worry about spending money myself while helping someone find the best value in what they need. And it probably saves that person some money too, as they’re instantly accountable to you for what they’d like to buy. Meaning they’re not going to run off with an impractical gadget they know nothing about if you’re there to show them exactly what matters in the product’s features.

  3. Kat says:

    The potluck idea reminds me of the stone soup tale (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stone_soup). A great idea to both socialize over food, and to encourage your friends to take stock of what’s lurking in their cupboards. (Especially helpful if you live in a climate that encourages things like weevils in pasta/rice).
    My home town has several free outdoor movie screenings and jazz/pops concerts throughout the spring and summer. If folks are worried about being cut off from socializing, by all means, get the word out before your weekend and encourage everyone to meet up at the venue and picnic.
    Another fun summer idea for kids is to plan a gathering at a house with a pool or kids’ splash pool. The adults can have some quality socializing time while the kids run themselves ragged. Fun times with friends, and kids who fall asleep on time – what’s not to like?

  4. Zachary says:

    I like the cupboard pot luck idea! My wife and I have been trying to play more board games together, too. It’s more social than television, and very cheap!

  5. Jay Wilson says:

    I’m a huge advocate of the board game – in fact I was just telling my g/f that we should rack up some oldie but goodies. Monopoly…Life…good times!

  6. Amy says:

    Adding a bit of glycerine to your bubble mixture will make them sturdier. I loved to do this when I was a kid. Also fun is to get creative with your wand…one of my favorites was an old strawberry basket, but you can also rig something very nifty with a piece of string and two drinking straws.

    Another thing I loved to do as a kid was sidewalk chalk art. Nothing like having permission to scribble all over the place. Also, homemade Play-Doh. I think the recipe involved flour, vegetable oil, salt, and food coloring, and helping to make it was half the fun. If you live in a warm climate and have a backyard, you can make a slip-and-slide out of a tarp. And my father bringing home an empty appliance box? That made my week (and probably my mother’s as well!).

    For adults, putting together a scavenger hunt requires a lot of advance work, but is amazing social fun. Casino games like Blackjack or Texas Hold-Em also feel more adult than board games but require only a deck of cards…you can play with pennies and give some sort of boob prize to the winner.

    Starting a book club can be very cheap too, though if you live in a small town you might have problems with the library running out of copies of your chosen book, so perhaps not technically free. Also violating the exact rules of the money-free weekend, but I think adhering to the spirit, my friends and I have a regular evening around a television show we all watch. Each week, someone hosts and provides snacks, and we all watch the show together and vent about it afterwards.

  7. Tyler says:

    My wife and I made a HUGE list of things we can do for free (if you want it, let Trent know and I’ll email it to him). It ended up being 155 items long! I suggest you dig deep in your brain and come up with a huge list like we did! We pull out this sheet anytime we want to do something and it never fails to entertain or relieve us from boredom. Trent’s list is a great start, just add on to it!

  8. Carlos says:

    You mentioned trying to avoid TV… I would add computers to that. I know it’s hard for my wife and I to avoid the internet, but it does provide for more quality time with our kids.

  9. Seraph says:

    I love that list. It’s a great starting point for some people.

    Also, I’d love to see Tyler’s list of 155!

    And I have a question. If you pay for a yearly zoo pass, when you go to the zoo (and pay nothing to get in because you have the pass) does that *technically* count as money-free activity?

  10. Lee says:

    How about that old CB radio you have in the closit? Dig that thing out and put up a base antenna, or put it in your car. There use to be BRAKES* where hundreds of people would go and meat in a viarity of ways, and it’s a lot of fun. The cb radio has died, so there is pleanty of room on the 40 channels. The ratio of men to women is like 500 to 1 so we need more women to get on the radddddddddddddioooooooo and talk to us and get togeather. We usta do foxhunts, where one car would go hide and transmit for one minuit every t minuits and the others would try to find them. :) then we would all go eat. Lee, DEADHEAD from denver CH20 amonst other channels.

  11. nate says:

    gee i found fun free things to do on weekends..read advise websites that will bore the pee out of you..like this one!

  12. Kate says:

    sorry but its hard to get excited about boardgames and blowing bubbles when you;re 24.

    Plus i tried to volunteer once for a fundraiser and they made me work in the admin department pushing papers all day long. (that was not fun!) Another time when i volunteered at a fashion show they made me run around getting ppl drinks. (that was not fun either).

    And quilting bees?? don’t get me started.

  13. walleyegirl says:

    Hey, Tyler! Send in the list of 155! We all want to see it!

  14. Deila says:

    Also, how about learning a new card game? (http://www.pagat.com/alpha.html)for games and rules.

    I recently taught The Husband a game called Hand and Foot, handed down from my grandmother. It is fun, takes some skill, and one game of it will kill about 2 hours.

    And I second the motion of giving up the 155 list!

  15. TMod says:

    I live in NYC and there are millions of free things you can do on any weekend (along with millions of outrageously expensive things you can do). The spring and summer are the best of course for free things since there are so many free concerts, shows, and movies in the park. But the winter is full of things as well too. You can find huge lists of events for any day, along with huge lists of off-beat recommendations. Personally one of my favorites is something rarely talked about but simply “exploring” the city. I usually do this with either my girlfriend or a friend or two, we just walk around the city, go into random courtyards, find shortcuts through little parks and alleys, very random types of things. We always find some cool new places that we would never find otherwise, like new little restaurants, stores, playhouses, etc. I’ve lived in NYC for six years now and I love it more and more everyday and am always finding MORE things to do, not less. Six years and I still feel like I’ve only done 1% of the things to do here.

  16. Sally says:

    Tyler – why don’t you just post that list of 155 free things to do on here, we all want to see it.

  17. Amanda says:

    well my husband only wants to play his stupid xbox live. so i get stuck in the house all weekend and i try to come up with cheap things to do to get out of the house…but he never wants to spend any money. so i need some help with ideas to get him away from this xbox.

  18. Kari says:

    Here’s a fun, creative, and free thing to do if you have digital cameras. Some friends and I gave ourselves a photo assignment and went out together to take pictures related to a specific topic. The first one we chose was “Angles.” We took photos, chatted, and at the end of the excursion we shared our five best shots.

  19. umwisam says:

    I like the idea of a garage sale but i just don’t know how to do it …. any ideas??
    I live in a city, hardly know a few people and nobody seems to have any garage sales here, besides i don’t want them to think as if i am out to collect money from them …

  20. chris says:

    After reading this, I am going back to work to make more money. I can not see any of this as fun.
    Really Quilting!!!!

  21. eric says:

    Love the idea, though I do think it’s very much ingrained in society that a fun outing involves spending. When my friends want to go out, it’s usually for a movie or food and drink. But I’d love to become the kind of friend that suggests these unorthodox things.

  22. Jihan says:

    Great suggestions, but I am hesitant on the board games. It IS fun to play board games but not if you play online or have only two people. I actually have a deck of cards, Scrabble, Triominoes, and a chess set and it’s enjoyable a few times.

    I am hesitant on board games also because I live in a small place, so storage would be difficult.

  23. anne says:

    I enjoyed reading all of your suggestions. Here are some of my suggestions; bake a cake, clean out your closet, draw, knit, write in a journal or write a short story, take your niece or nephew or kids to the park, go jogging or walking on a trail, watch a little league baseball game and cheer for the kids, grocery shop for your older parent/working mom/senior citizens in the neighborhood, fix something that needs to be repaired (leaking faucet, plug a leaking bicycle tire), clean the garage, mow the lawn, play hopscotch with your kids, visit animal shelters and play with the puppies/dogs/cats, make a pizza from scatch (use items that you already have for toppings), go to the beach,go to the bookstore, play charades, make a pie, watch tv and eat snacks, make up a game, research a topic you’re interested (at the library & on the internet), learn a new skill (woodworking, knitting, sewing, car maintenance, new language – get tapes from library), read your child a book, make a shake or a smoothie, do arts and crafts, go roller blading/skating, organize your desk, call an old friend, work out at the gym or exercise at home, call your family and just listen to them talk uninterrupted, water your plants, plant some flowers, try a new recipe, organize a fundraiser for your local school or organization, visit rest homes and talk to the residents (paint the womens’ nails, bring books, magazines and movies for them that you no longer watch), help friends with a project of theirs, have a cup of coffee and relax, bird watch, go to a nature or forest preserve and listen to the nature sounds and watch the animals, pick some wild flowers, have a cookout or barbecue (with things you already have on hand) at home or go to a park that furnishes a grill, have a family and friend outing at a park or your backyard (have sac races, running races, 3-legged races), make a photo album or a scrap book, make homeade birthday cards, make homeade cookies, volunteer to be a big sister/big brother at ymca or local community center,or plant a tree.

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