Updated on 03.15.12

Go Outside (77/365)

Trent Hamm

Over the last week, I’ve mostly discussed indoor activities when discussing inexpensive ways to spend time with your family. Art projects? Usually inside. Reading? Usually inside. Making things in your kitchen? Usually inside.

We’ve just been through an Iowa winter. Much of the last few months was spent on indoor activities. Today, though, the weather is beautiful. The sun is shining. The temperature is warm.

Open up your front door, and there’s much more to explore.

Go Outside (77/365)

If you can’t find something free and enjoyable to do outside, you’re not trying. Here are some suggestions.

Go on a wandering walk. Go outside your front door. Decide to walk left, right, or straight. Keep walking until you find the first interesting intersection. Go in the most interesting direction. Repeat until you’re on the verge of being lost, then find a new path home. I’m almost sure you’ll find something interesting out there.

Enjoy the services of your local parks and recreation department. Visit their website and see what kind of facilities they have and what kinds of classes are offered. The fields near our home are in almost constant use throughout the spring, summer, and fall, with activities for children and for adults.

Visit a park. National parks are beautiful, but can cost you. State parks are often just as beautiful and they’re often free. Pack a picnic lunch and head to a state park. Explore the trails, see what nature has to offer, enjoy a meal together, and get tons of exercise and fresh air.

Go camping. I never sleep better than I do when I’m camping. I love nothing more than going to some secluded area on a hot summer day, pitching a tent, exploring the area around me, building a campfire, cooking food over that campfire, playing an outdoor game or two, and passing out from the overdose of warm fresh air and lots of exercise.

Have a cookout. Invite some friends over. Put up a volleyball net or set a football out in the yard. Cook some food over a grill, share a meal together, and get lots of fresh air and exercise.

Start a garden. Rent a small tiller for the day from a hardware store (or borrow one from a friend) and till up a patch of earth near your home. Plant some vegetables, fruits, and flowers there. Check on it each day and keep the weeds away. Before you know it, you’ll have a bounty on your hands (or, at the very least, a learning experience!).

Play an outdoor game. Teach your child how to play catch with a ball. Start a game of tag, touch football, or soccer. Turn on a sprinkler and run through it (yes, I do this with my kids several times each summer).

Go to a local public swimming pool. Many communities have public pools with open hours. It’s a wonderful time to swim, particularly outside of the “peak” hours (early evening, usually).

Go to a free outdoor concert. These happen weekly in communities near ours. Just pack a picnic and a blanket, go to the concert site, kick back in the grass with the family, enjoy some fresh food and appreciate the wonderful music.

Get outside. There’s so much to see and do, and virtually all of it is free.

This post is part of a yearlong series called “365 Ways to Live Cheap (Revisited),” in which I’m revisiting the entries from my book “365 Ways to Live Cheap,” which is available at Amazon and at bookstores everywhere. Images courtesy of Brittany Lynne Photography, the proprietor of which is my “photography intern” for this project.

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  1. Kyle says:

    Trent doesn’t live near National Forests, but those are great places to camp. They don’t charge admission prices and there are a lot less rules – often you can camp wherever you want.

    National Park campgrounds are very compact and unless you sleep in an RV, you might as well camp in your back yard. We only go there to see the main attraction and never camp in them.

    Trent is right that state parks are a gem. They usually are established in great camping areas and they usually have spread out camping areas without so many rules that spoil camping.

  2. Lisa Newton says:

    Your advice, as always, is great. I truly think people don’t get out enough.

    After living in LA for 5 years and now in Florida, I greatly enjoy the weather and get out everyday, if possible.

    Even just a “wandering walk” can make a stressful day seem more relaxing.

  3. Shannon says:

    All but one to two of those things have a cost in my area (trust me, I’ve looked.) My local parks and rec department is wonderful! And costly.

    He does make a good point about the state park system. Though I will not camp, because I am an utter beast without a good night’s sleep, a lot of state parks do offer very inexpensive cabin rentals.

  4. josh says:

    awww what happen to the “jim” compliments? That is the only reason I am coming back to this garbage website.

  5. My wife and I love going for evening walks. It’s a far better way to have a conversation than sitting in front of a TV. It’s also free and healthy.

    And let me just second (third?) the note about state parks. I have quite a few around me and they’re incredible. Most are free but they’d be worth it even if they weren’t.

  6. Kai says:

    Nice photo! This outdoor set is MUCH better than the photos of cash, brochures, and webpages. I hope these nice ones can be used to encourage more creativity with future posts.

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