A few years back, my wife and I began experimenting with the concept of a money-free weekend to live more frugally. It’s actually a fun challenge – and one that helped us discover an incredible number of free things to do. To briefly recap that post, here’s the number one rule:
We’re 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, or spend money on any sort of entertainment. We delay grocery shopping, and just use up what we’ve got in the pantry. We can use our utilities, of course, but nothing extra such as a rented online movie.
The biggest challenge, for most people, is dodging boredom — figuring out fun things to do that don’t cost any money. So I followed up that post with 15 free things to do during such a weekend, 15 more things to do, and 15 deeply fulfilling things to do. Since then, many people have sent me more ideas for things to do on a money-free weekend, and we’ve uncovered a bunch of our own as well. Meanwhile, many readers have asked for a master list of all of these ideas.
103 Things to Do for Free
So, here we go – more than a hundred fun and free ways to spend your time on a money-free weekend. The list below includes the first 45 (with duplicates removed), plus about 60 new ones. If you’re inspired to try your own money-free weekend, hopefully this guide can act as a master list of things to do to make it more enjoyable. (Another productive way to spend that time is by working on your own business. Here are 50 small business ideas you could work on during a money-free weekend.)
Please note that everyone’s interests are different — you probably won’t find everything on this list fun (just as I can think of countless things other people find fun that I find utterly dreadful), but hopefully you’ll discover a few ideas that interest you. Anyway, here goes!
1. Check out the community calendar.
Look at your town’s website (as well as those of cities and towns nearby) or stop by city hall to find a list of events going on in the community, many of which are free. You’ll often be surprised at how many interesting (and free) activities are going on right now in your area.
2. Visit your local library.
Not only is a library a warehouse of books, most libraries also have extensive CD and DVD collections you can check out – perfect for a binge-watching weekend (see #91). Many libraries also have “story time” for young children, film nights, book clubs, concerts, author readings or lectures, and many other events that you may be unaware of – completely for free. Stop in and check out what they have to offer.
3. Get involved in community sports.
Many towns have community sports fields where both youth and adult sports leagues and activities are regularly going on throughout the weekend. Stop by, watch a game or two, and if something intrigues you, look into joining either as a participant or as a volunteer.
4. Listen to some podcasts.
Podcasts are perhaps the best free entertainment out there: top-notch audio programs available to you for free. Give them a shot – it’s easy to do using iTunes. Just visit the “Podcast” section of the iTunes Store and sample a few (here’s a guide to enjoying podcasts to get you started).
My favorite podcasts include The Splendid Table (on food topics), Marketplace (on economics and business), RadioLab (scientific and philosophical ideas), Fresh Air (interviews of general interest), This American Life (quirky general interest stuff), and This Week in Tech (technology news), among many others.
- Related: 30 Great Podcasts to Enjoy
5. Do a ‘bill reduction.’
Spend a few hours trimming your monthly expenses. How? Find ways to lower your regular bills. Ask for credit card rate reductions or consider moving balances that are charging interest to a credit card with 0% APR on balance transfers. Think about what monthly bills you can completely eliminate, then do the footwork to get rid of them.
This might be a boring task now, but if you can invest some time and trim $50 from your monthly bills for free, your future self will be very happy.
6. Play board games.
We have a pile of board games, mostly received as gifts, that we often pull out and play; our closest friend has a few choice ones as well. Classic games like Monopoly and Pictionary can be great fun, but our favorites are Settlers of Catan, Cartagena, Puerto Rico, and especially Ticket to Ride. (Here are some more board games that are great for groups.) Just dig through the recesses of your closet, find an old board game you haven’t played in ages, and bust it open!
7. Bake a loaf of homemade bread.
You probably have everything you need to make a loaf of bread in your kitchen right now (except for maybe the yeast – in which case you can make a quick beer bread with just four ingredients). Anyone can do it, and the fresh-baked bread comes out delicious. Here’s a detailed, visual guide to baking a simple loaf of bread with minimal ingredients or complexity.
8. Teach yourself how to juggle.
Ever wish you knew how to juggle? All you really need is three balls, a video showing you how to do it — and time to practice. Not only is juggling a fun activity to learn, it’s something that’s fun to bust out as a party trick on occasion (trust me, you can always get people to smile if you juggle three fruits in the kitchen while preparing something).
9. Learn how to change your car’s oil.
If your car’s due for an oil change, just bring home the oil and oil filter you need and teach yourself how to do it on your own. All you really need is an old pan to catch the used oil and a funnel to refill the oil tank and pour the old oil back into the canisters for later disposal. (Make sure you dispose of the old oil according to local laws; most gas and service stations will accept your used motor oil.)
Use your car manual as a guide for the procedure and you might just find it’s both a lot easier than you thought and a useful skill to have — plus it’s cheaper than taking your car to Jiffy-Lube (or wherever you go for oil changes).
10. Meet your neighbors.
Make an effort to introduce yourself to your neighbors if you don’t know them very well. If you meet any interesting people in your neighborhood, invite them over for a cup of coffee and a chat, just to get to know each other better.
Your neighbors could not only become your friends, they could also be a valuable resource – a friendly pair of eyes on your property when you’re away or a helpful set of hands when you’re trying to complete a challenging task.
11. Clear out your media collection of books, DVDs, and CDs.
Go through your collection, determine which items you’d actually like to keep, and get rid of the rest. You can either sell them at a used media shop, swap them online using services like PaperBackSwap and SwapADVD, or donate them to a local library or thrift store that accepts used books and DVDs. In either case, you’ll declutter by getting rid of stuff you don’t watch, read, or listen to anymore, and possibly earn a bit of money – or at least some shelf space.
12. Hold a ‘cupboard potluck.’
Go through your cupboards and find any items that might have slipped to the back over time. Invite some friends to do the same, then get together for a potluck dinner prepared from only these ingredients and whatever else you have on hand. Besides making for a “free” meal, it generates what I call creative success through constraint and a lot of fun for everyone involved.
13. Make a ‘101 Goals in 1,001 Days’ list – then start on some of them.
A 101 Goals in 1001 Days list is an effective way to codify all the things you’d like to do in one place, so that when you have spare time, you can just turn to the list and do what’s next on it.
On your money-free weekend, spend some time thinking about what belongs on this list: your biggest short- and near-term goals, both personally and professionally. When it’s finished, you’ll be ready to get started turning your goals into reality.
14. Make decisions about and write out your will.
This is a thought process that many people put off, but it makes you feel quite relieved when it’s done, adding to your peace of mind and relaxation. Spend some time thinking about what you want to happen to your personal assets when you die, particularly in terms of the personal mementos that you want others to have and where you want the value of your estate to go.
Do you want it all to stay with family members? Do you want to remember a charity? Then, when you’ve figured it out, sketch out the basics of a will. Later, you’ll likely have to hire a lawyer to prepare it for you or use a site like LegalZoom, but just having those decisions made doesn’t cost a thing and is a big mental relief.
15. Do a household maintenance walk-through.
Go through your home and look for any little maintenance tasks that need to be done. Do filters need to be replaced? Are there any burnt-out light bulbs?
Here’s a maintenance checklist that can give you some ideas as to what to look for. It might not be the most fun activity you can think of, but it’ll add subtly to your enjoyment of your home when it’s done: cleaner air, light bulbs in place, and peace of mind.
16. Start or join a fantasy sports league.
Whether it’s baseball, football, basketball, hockey, or soccer, there’s always a pro sport in season somewhere. You can go to Yahoo! Sports, CBS Sports, or ESPN and easily start a free fantasy sports league for you and your friends. Even when you’re just playing for bragging rights, a fantasy league can spur competitive banter and endless discussion between your friends as the season unfolds.
17. Organize a self-guided walking tour.
Research the interesting historic and cultural sites in your town, then go on a walking tour of them. Pack a lunch in your backpack and have a picnic on the village green or in the park. You can easily turn this into a full day if you live in a compelling area.
18. Teach yourself how to knit.
Learning to knit requires two needles (a dollar, or probably free if your closet looks anything like ours), some yarn (extremely cheap and also a potential back-of-the-closet candidate), a lot of patience, and an instructional video or two.
Try making a scarf for a friend or a small blanket for a new baby in the home of a friend or a family member. While it’s not quite free, you’ll learn a useful new skill — and if you stick with it, you’ll make things much more valuable than the input cost of a bit of yarn. Before long, you might even be able to sell your knitwear on Etsy.
19. Take some photos.
Take your phone or digital camera out with you and take pictures of anything you find interesting. Take lots of them, then go home later and see if you’ve taken anything beautiful and compelling. Great images can lay the groundwork for homemade greeting cards (yep, keep going downwards for more on this), nice desktop wallpaper, screensavers, personalized gifts, craft projects, wall hangings, or other interesting uses.
20. Share those photos with others.
It doesn’t cost anything to post your favorite photos on Instagram or Twitter, of course. And if you want even more long-term exposure for your work, sign up for a free Flickr account, then upload some of your most interesting pictures to share with others. Spend the time to title them appropriately, add interesting captions, and allow them to be used under a Creative Commons Attribution license so your images can be enjoyed by as many people as possible.
21. Start a blog on a topic that interests you.
You can start a blog for free using WordPress or Blogger. (You’ll have a clunky URL — such as yourblog.wordpress.com – but you can always buy a domain name if you find you enjoy it.) Join such a service and start a blog on a topic that interests you. Not only can it be a ton of fun, it also helps you improve your communication skills, reach out to others, and perhaps earn a bit of income down the road as well.
22. Organize a potluck block party.
Get permission from the city to do this before you try it – ask if you can block off a street for a block party on a certain date. Then throw yourself into organizing it. Go door to door, telling people about the block party, and inviting them to bring something. Ask if they have tables and/or chairs that can be used for it. Then, on the day of the party, set out the tables and chairs you borrowed and dig in. Since you’re the host, just contribute one of the “cupboard potluck” dishes you made from idea #11.
23. Visit a free museum or a zoo (or find out when you might be able to get in for free).
Many cities and colleges have free educational attractions, such as museums or zoos. Make an effort to enjoy these free attractions.
If your community doesn’t have free zoos or museums, call them and ask about opportunities for “free to the public” exhibits or “free days” — many museums open their doors for free or charge “pay what you can” admission one day a week. You can even ask whether they issue free passes upon request. Local libraries sometimes loan out museum passes for the day as well. You’ll often find there are many opportunities to enjoy museums, zoos, and science centers without any cost at all.
24. Learn the basics of a new subject.
It’s never been easier to learn so much about so many different topics for free. Here are a few ways to learn something new this weekend:
Go to MIT’s OpenCourseWare, find a topic you’re interested in, download a bunch of MP3s of lectures on the topic, and listen to them while you’re doing household chores. Some great suggested starting points: microeconomics, basics of philosophy, western philosophy, and introductory physics.
In fact, you can get a college-level education on virtually hundreds of topics for free online. Great options include Coursera, Khan Academy, Open Yale Courses, and edX, a partnership between Harvard and MIT.
You can also watch thousands of TED Talks online — short, dynamic, and often inspiring lectures on an incredible range of interesting subjects, from personal experiences to sociology to groundbreaking scientific research. Or fire up iTunes, then click on the “iTunes U” option on the left hand side, where you’ll find tons of material there to teach you the basics of countless topics.
25. Cook some meals in advance.
If you already have a bunch of basic food staples on hand, spend some time cooking some meals in advance to store in the freezer. It’s easy to prepare casseroles, soups, pasta meals, breakfast burritos, and many other items all at once, then store them in portion-sized containers in the freezer for quick and easy reheating on a busy weekday.
Not only is this way cheaper than eating out or buying convenience foods, it’s also healthier — and it can be more social, too. Missing some ingredients but have an abundance of others? Team up with friends and make it a social event – share ingredients so that you can all take some casseroles or other dishes home for the freezer.
26. Build a basic net-worth calculator for yourself.
One great way to ensure that you’re consistently making financial progress is to build your own net worth calculator. Once you have it set up, updating it is easy, and it can provide a great snapshot of your financial situation as well as show off your progress. Here’s a detailed guide to making one with any basic spreadsheet program.
27. Have a quilting bee.
All you need is a bunch of spare cloth (old shirts will even work, as will old curtains, old sheets, and so forth), some needles, thread, scissors, and some friends. Just get together, cut out squares of interesting cloth, and start sewing. You can stuff the inside with soft excess cloth, like t-shirts and such, instead of buying batting, and you’ll create a warm and interesting quilt over time.
28. Practice origami.
All you need is some scrap paper and a bit of time. Start with the simple things, like cranes and frogs, then you can try harder stuff like an origami iris. Making fun creations out of paper is a surefire way to delight and surprise kids, and a well-made origami piece constructed from interesting paper can be a beautiful decoration.
29. Make a how-to video for YouTube.
Share your knowledge! All you need is a camera that captures video or a smartphone and (optionally) some video editing software – much of which is open-sourc and available free, in app form or online (such as OpenShot or Shotcut). Just create a video to demonstrate how to accomplish something interesting and useful.
Start off by writing a script for yourself, then turn on the camera and follow your script. When you’ve got a take you’re happy with, upload it to YouTube and let others enjoy it. If it’s useful and entertaining, the viewers will come.
30. Play soccer (football).
When you think about it, soccer is perhaps the simplest, most adaptable game in the world: All you need is some open space, some friends, and a ball (but even an old can works in a pinch). Designate whatever is available as goals, then kick the ball around.
Don’t worry about being terrible at the game – as long as everyone’s just having fun, it really doesn’t matter how bad you are. Trust me – I’ve played football with Europeans who spent their entire lives playing while I’d played perhaps an hour of serious football in my life, yet I had a lot of fun (albeit with a lot of falling down and jumping out of the way).
31. Make a time capsule.
Find a small box, and then walk around your house gathering items that represent the reality of your present-day life: A newspaper or magazine, photographs, recent receipts, last week’s grocery store list, letters or greeting cards, and so on. You could even include a flash drive with photos or a video you and your family make for your “future selves” to watch.
Put it all in the box, tape it up securely, and write a date on the outside saying when you’re allowed to open it — say, 10 or 15 years from now. You’ll probably have fun compiling a slice of your daily life, and you’ll enjoy reflecting on those items in the future even more, when your lives and the world have changed.
32. Open up a ‘time capsule.’
You may not have set out to make an official time capsule 10 or more years ago, but chances are you have some old photos, high school notebooks, or other mementos stuffed in a box somewhere, whether in a closet, under the bed, or in the attic. Pull them out and grant yourself the time to revel in those old memories or share them with your kids.
33. Scan your old pictures.
If you have a digital scanner at home, put it to use and scan that pile of old prints you just dug out. Don’t have a scanner? Taking a photo of a photo with your smartphone is a viable substitute (make sure there’s ample natural light). Digitizing these memories is a good way to safeguard them, since photos left in an attic or basement can deteriorate or get stuck together after a while.
If you have a rotating screensaver of pictures, scanning in old prints and adding them to the rotation will make your screensaver all the more amazing. Plus, it becomes easy to just attach them to emails and send them to friends and family — or post them on social media on “Throwback Thursdays.”
34. Have a film festival.
Invite some friends over and ask them each to bring one of their favorite DVDs. Then just settle in with some snacks (whatever you have on hand) and burn a lazy afternoon and evening just watching movies together. It’s a ton of fun and it doesn’t cost anything at all.
35. Seduce your partner.
Really, is there any way to have more fun than that for free? It’s fun, romantic, great exercise, and it can help heal any relationship problems you might be having. An afternoon in your partner’s arms will make both of you feel better, and it won’t cost a penny.
36. Do some networking.
Spend an afternoon drafting emails to professional contacts, just to see what they’re up to and to let them know what you’re up to. Set them up to send en masse on Monday morning. While it might sound boring, it can open up countless doors for your career if you do it consistently, and help you build new relationships and friendships — and all it takes is a little bit of spare time.
37. Practice yoga – or try it for the first time.
All you need is some floor space and a blanket to do most yoga poses. Try out a basic yoga session to see if you like it. It increases flexibility, improves concentration, and holding some of those positions for long periods can be a powerful workout.
38. Try Geocaching.
Part outdoor adventure, part treasure hunt, Geocaching — hiking in search of hidden “caches” you can track by their GPS coordinates — is one of our family’s favorite frugal activities. If you have a GPS device or a smartphone, you don’t need to buy anything else to get started.
Just visit Geocaching.com and type in your home address (or the address where you plan to be walking or hiking), and you’ll likely find a few geocaches stashed in the area. Pick one, add the coordinates to your GPS (or just use the app on your smartphone), and head out the door, letting your device serve as a treasure map.
39. Do a neighborhood cleanup.
No need to organize a formal activity. Just walk through the shared spaces in your neighborhood (parks, sidewalks, etc.) with a trash bag and a pair of gloves, and pick up the litter.
Not only is it a pleasant way to get your blood going, it also beautifies your neighborhood and the surrounding area, not just for your own enjoyment, but for everyone. If you want to really get into it, invite people that live near you to get involved as well and make an event out of it.
40. Build some paper airplanes.
Design and build a bunch of different paper airplanes, then have a competition in the back yard to see which one flies the best. That might mean the one that goes farthest, or the fastest to a finish line — or you can experiment with flaps and try to make your plane do stunts.
This is a great way to use up some scrap paper, particularly old newspapers. You can easily turn it into a contest – the winner gets to pick what activity to engage in next, or gets to choose what you’re having for supper.
41. Rearrange the furniture in a room.
It’s amazing how much you can refresh a room just by moving the furniture into new positions. Try moving the couch to a different wall, then moving the entertainment center elsewhere. Take your bed and turn it 90 degrees, then move the dressers to match the new configuration. It can completely refresh the look of the room and give you a good workout to boot.
42. Read an entertaining book.
Look around your house for a fun book to read, perhaps something loaned to you by a friend or something you received as a gift, and curl up and let yourself be sucked into the story. I’m a sucker for Stephen King novels – I can just pick up any one and quickly be sucked straight into the plot for a fun afternoon’s read.
43. Build a giant blanket fort.
If you have kids, there are few things more fun than an afternoon spent building and playing in a gigantic fort in the living room. Use chairs, blankets, and tables to make an enormous hidden structure, then hide in there and play games and read books.
If they’re a bit older, build two forts (on opposite sides of the room) and have “fort wars” – toss small beanbags and pillows back and forth. No cost, but an afternoon that’s a ton of fun.
44. Call a family member or a friend you haven’t spoken to in a while.
Not only is this a chance to catch up with another person who’s important to you and firm up your relationship, it can also be a very entertaining and enjoyable way to spend an hour or two.
45. Start a natural collection or an observation notebook.
In other words, spend some time in nature collecting items of interest (like particular rocks) or making observations of things. Perhaps you’ll want to look for birds, or maybe your passion is rocks or feathers. Whatever it is, get your hiking boots on, get out there, and see what you can find. Here’s some advice on how to get started.
46. Start a compost bin.
All you need is a barrel or a large bucket (or, if you live in the country, some open space). Put your vegetable waste, coffee grounds, and eggshells in that bucket; you can add some yard waste such as grass clippings and leaves, too. (Don’t put meat, fish, or dairy products in your compost pile.) On occasion, scoop in a bit of dirt from the ground.
Move the contents around regularly and keep it a bit moist. Over time, the compost will turn almost black. At that point, you can let it dry out and you’ll have powerful, perfectly natural fertilizer for your lawn or garden.
47. Have a yard sale.
Hosting a yard sale or garage sale is a great way to spend a money-free weekend — and a potentially lucrative one at that. Not only does it give you an excuse to clean out unwanted clutter from your home, it’s something the whole family can participate in, offering an entire weekend’s worth of entertainment and activity (and a nice little wad of money at the end to boot). Yard sales are a great way to turn excess clutter into extra cash, and that’s a win for everyone involved.
48. Learn a foreign language.
Doubt this can be free? There are a lot of ways to learn a foreign language online, from podcasts that teach language skills, to apps like DuoLingo and Language Zen, to YouTube videos and many other free language learning opportunities. You can often find popular self-taught foreign language courses like Rosetta Stone at your local library, too. Search around for resources for any language that you might want to learn – you’ll find tons of materials to help you.
49. Deep-clean the room in your house you spend the most time in.
One great afternoon project that will provide aesthetic value for years is deep cleaning a single room in your house, ideally the room you’re in most often. Getting that room pristine will subtly add to your enjoyment of that room for quite a while. This means going the whole nine yards – moving everything out, scrubbing the walls, thoroughly cleaning the floor, cleaning all of the items in it, and so forth. When you’re done, the room will feel fresh and new in a very subtle way.
50. Make some homemade greeting cards.
Whether you want to make homemade birthday cards, thank-you cards, or Christmas cards, all you really need is some card stock or some cheap blank cards from your local dollar store, plus some photographs (or a desktop printer). You might also want to have some other creative printed materials on hand – I like to keep old New Yorker covers for purposes like these.
Use your pictures and other elements to create unique greeting and holiday cards, then save them for the appropriate occasion. Here are some tips on what to write on the inside.
51. Take a nap.
Seriously. Most people do not get adequate sleep during the week. Why not just kick back and take a snooze for an hour or two? It’s the ultimate free energy refresher.
52. Get things done.
Almost everyone has a long list of things to do “when they have time.” Use the fact that you’re intentionally spending a money-free weekend to in fact get some of those things done.
Clean up the house. Dust the front room. Sweep the basement floor. Fix that old toaster. Go through the stuff that’s accumulated in the garage. At the end of the weekend, you’ll have accomplished something useful that you can feel good about, plus your wallet will be fully intact.
53. Dig up your family tree.
Take a peek at Genealogy.com or Ancestry.com and see what you can find out about your ancestors. If your family has been in the area for a long time, your local library can help you track down centuries-old birth certificates and other records. And don’t forget to ask your oldest living family members what they remember about their own parents, cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents.
Try to assemble a family tree, and see if you can link to any distant cousins or long-lost family members. Doing this can give you a much clearer picture of your heritage and help you get in touch with your family roots.
54. Sit down with your partner for an afternoon and talk about your goals.
Spending some time with your partner discussing goals can go a long way towards getting you both on the same page in your relationship. Find out what your partner wants out of life and what you can do to support it, then share your own desires. Find areas where you’re working in concert toward something bigger. Doing this can only lead to more clarity in your relationship. Here are some tips for getting started.
55. Play ‘Calvinball.’
To play the wonderfully disorderly sport often portrayed in “Calvin and Hobbes,” all you need is a ball (or a few balls), some number of children, some open space, and a good imagination. Just kick the ball around (or throw it) and make up rules as you go along. With three or more kids, a game of Calvinball can go on for a good hour with everyone having a great time.
56. Do some puzzles.
57. Volunteer your time.
There are countless volunteer projects out there that need nothing more than your time. A Saturday working for a volunteer cause is a Saturday well spent: You can meet other people in your community while making a positive contribution to society and working your body and your mind for the benefit of others. You may even pick up a new skill, and either way, it will leave you at the end of the day knowing you used your gifts to help out others.
58. Get your financial papers in order.
This may not sound like a fun activity up front, but the peace of mind it gives you will make your life a lot more relaxing. Spend an hour or two organizing all of your statements and other financial documents. This is a perfect time to start your own filing system. If you’re more adventurous, try initiating an electronic filing system, as it will save you significant space and make information retrieval easier (though it requires a bigger time investment up front).
59. Turn on the water sprinkler.
This is another great way to have family fun with kids. Just run out a hose in the backyard, attach a sprinkler to the end, and turn it on, shooting the water up into the air. Darting back and forth through the cold water on a hot day is a ton of fun for kids — and for parents, too.
60. Try a basic meditation technique.
Meditation is a spectacular way to push stress out of your life and calm yourself. Knowing how to meditate effectively and doing it regularly can be a major part of your stress management, and it costs nothing. Here’s a wonderful basic meditation technique to get you started – there are countless others out there. Try a few and see which ones work well for you.
61. Get involved in an open source programming project.
If you’re a computer programmer, there are few more intellectually stimulating ways to get involved in your passion than to be involved in an open source programming project. One role that almost every project can use is a person who’s willing to fix mundane, boring bugs – finding that one line of code that’s causing a minor issue and fixing it. Look for a project that’s compelling to you and dig in.
62. Teach yourself a card trick.
Card tricks are a fun way to entertain people in almost any situation. Many tricks rely on knowing a specific pattern, some basic sleight of hand, or a combination of the two. Learning a clever card trick and mastering how it’s done can be a great way to spend an afternoon, especially since you can use the skill again and again as a party trick. Here’s a great one to learn – it’s really clever and can utterly baffle people.
63. Attend a religious service.
Even if you’re not a believer, attending a religious service can be a worthwhile educational experience. I really enjoy attending services of different faiths, as the varieties of religious experience are quite fascinating and incredibly insightful. Plus, most religious services – if you pay careful attention – offer a ton of intellectual food for thought no matter what your beliefs are. A religious service is always a worthwhile experience.
64. Start a workout routine.
Most basic exercises – push-ups, sit-ups, jogging, and so forth – require no extra equipment at all. Spend some time doing research into fitness and figuring out a basic workout routine that will work for you, then do the basic “stress tests” you’ll need to do to figure out where you’re at.
For example, the one hundred push-ups routine is very useful, but you need to couple it with other exercises, such as leg lifts, prone lifts, and jogging. You can also try this 10-minute cardio workout that gets progressively more intense, incorporating jumping jacks, push-ups, burpies, and other free exercises.
65. Read a ‘Great’ book.
By this, I mean a book that genuinely challenges both your beliefs and ideas as well as your language skills. Reading a great book is always a good mental workout.
I recommend trying out any of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novels or any essential work of philosophy to get started. Try hitting the library and checking out A History of Western Philosophy by Bertrand Russell, The Executioner’s Song by Norman Mailer, Sophie’s Choice by William Styron, or Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison – all of which deeply challenged and moved me. These books are deep, challenging reading – read them slowly and you’ll grow as a person.
66. Go swimming.
Almost every town has a community swimming pool, public pond, or some sort of area where residents can swim – lacking that, go to a state park with a public swimming area. Swimming is wonderfully invigorating and often makes me feel very peaceful – best of all, it’s something you can often do for free.
67. Get involved with public access television.
If you’ve ever wondered what goes into the process of producing a television show, most communities offer the resources for you to do just that. Stop by your local public access station and see what opportunities are available there. You can usually get involved for free in an ongoing program as an extra hand and learn a great deal about the whole process.
68. Blow bubbles.
Just mix one part liquid dish soap with 15 parts water to make a homemade bubble solution. One quick way to do this is to just mix 1/4 cup dish soap with 3-3/4 cups of water. Use filtered and fairly soft water if you can.
Then, take a wire coat hanger, bend and twist it into a small loop or two, and you’re ready to go. Another idea: Take a tin can or coffee can, remove the top and bottom and hammer down any sharp metal edges, then dip the end in the solution and wave it in the air. Blowing bubbles is fun at any age, but it’s especially fun if you have small children who love to chase them or are just learning to blow them.
69. Start a journal.
Let’s face it, we start to forget some things — especially the little details — as we get older. A journal can be a powerful way to recall the events that happened in your life that made you who you are. Getting in the habit of writing down the events of your day each night is a great way to remember the specifics. Entries on what you’re thinking about now can be the basis of powerful memories and reflections in the future. Plus, it can offer a release from the tensions of the day.
All of that for just a pen and an old notebook? It’s a great free way to spend some time.
70. Write a letter to your future children or grandchildren.
All of us have some advice or some stories inside of us that we want to someday share with our children, grandchildren, or other loved ones. Take some time to write these things down with the intent of giving them to that person some day. In the event that you pass on, you can be sure that they’ll still receive the story or advice you wanted to tell them. This can be a very powerful way to consider your feelings and memories as you format them in a way that they can be shared with the ones you care about the most.
71. Make Christmas gifts in advance.
If you know already that some people will be on your Christmas list, why not spend some time now making them interesting and thoughtful gifts and saving yourself some money over the long haul? Make them some homemade soap, some homemade hot chocolate mix, and maybe a bottle of homemade beer as a gift. Prepare all of these items, then go ahead and box and wrap them, since they’ll stay good for months.
Not only is the gift less expensive than what you’d spend at your local department store, it’s also more thoughtful, and it’ll save you time during the harried Christmas season.
72. Go ‘coupon scavenging.’
If you get the Sunday paper, scavenge the coupons out of it, see if there are any for products you normally buy, and chuck the rest. If you find several coupons, then it might be worthwhile to scavenge. Stop by any friends or neighbors who also get the paper and ask if you can have their flyers when they’re done with them, then clean out the useful coupons in those, too.
For example, if you buy V8 Fusion as the default fruit juice for your kids (it’s far healthier than almost anything else like it that you could give them) and you spy a $1-off coupon for a bottle, every coupon you scavenge is like finding a dollar bill, and it costs you nothing.
73. Pick up a musical instrument and learn it.
Yes, you can find an instrument for free — and learn how to play it for free as well. Just hit Craigslist and Freecycle looking for freebies, then utilize YouTube and other resources for tutorials. Here’s a detailed guide to learning an instrument for free. With a bit of diligence and effort, you can start from nowhere and learn to play a song on your own instrument for no cost.
74. Plan next year’s summer vacation.
Think about some options for your next trip and what you want to do in general, then start researching the specifics online. Do some detailed comparison shopping for airfare, lodging, or vacation packages, and even set up alerts for cheap deals and tickets. While you’re at it, research some of the best travel credit cards, which can help save even more money. Gather up all of this research, then have a family meeting about the trip to make any final decisions.
Not only will all this advanced planning save you a ton of money, it can actually be a lot of fun researching a potential trip and it gives you more time to get excited about it. In fact, studies show the anticipation of a fun experience typically brings more enjoyment than the event itself.
75. Pick up (and read) a copy of the town’s free newspaper.
Many cities have a free newspaper that you can snag at the grocery store – some cities have quite a few of them. I love them – they’re free reading that keeps me informed about the local area and also lets me know about free upcoming events.
Around here, we have several free newspaper options – Toons and Cityview are both well worth reading. Try looking in the front lobby of your local library for your free newspaper, or in the front of your local grocery store.
76. Play with a pet – it doesn’t have to be your own.
An hour spent playing fetch or Frisbee with a dog or rubbing its belly is an hour well spent, and the same can be said for time spent curled up petting a cat. Spend some quality time with your pet or with the pet of a neighbor or a friend; animal shelters are sometimes in need of volunteers to walk or play with their rescue pets as well. Every pet loves attention and a bit of exercise and interaction, and petting an animal can lower your blood pressure and reduce stress hormones.
You could even take this time to start up a side gig as a pet sitter, and make some extra cash on your money-free weekend.
77. Go on a wandering walk.
Step out your front door and go in whichever direction looks the most interesting. As long as you have some basic navigational skills, you won’t get lost, and you can turn around or backtrack whenever you get bored or hit a dead end.
All too often, we tune out our immediate surroundings during our rushed commute to work or school. Who knows what kind of interesting stuff you might notice in your neighborhood if you take your time meandering?
78. Hold a baby.
To me, there are few things more enjoyable than holding a very young baby. They smell wonderful, are usually warm and soft, and often drift off to sleep right in your arms. I don’t even mind the crying ones, as some whispering in their ear can usually calm them down.
There’s nothing better than sitting all relaxed in a chair with a soft, sweet-smelling newborn in your arms. If there’s a new parent in your circle of friends or family, why not offer to relieve them with a couple of hours of free babysitting?
79. Exchange massages with your partner.
A great massage is incredibly relaxing and enjoyable, but they can also be really expensive. Instead of shelling out the cash, just stay at home and exchange massages for free with your partner. Agree to spend 15 minutes or a half an hour massaging each other deeply and you’ll find that you’re both quite relaxed and happy afterward – and perhaps ready to try other free and fun activities.
80. Help out an elderly or disabled friend or neighbor.
There’s always a person or two in your life that could use a helping hand, but often are too proud to ask. One great way to bridge this gap is to just stop in and visit and pay attention – if they need something, you’ll usually find out. Then just volunteer to do it and get started on the task.
Quite often, you’ll find that it’s the simple things that really help – reaching something on a high shelf or managing a simple household task. And that little effort can make all the difference. Few things can make you feel more fulfilled than helping someone you care about in their moment of need.
81. Start a book club – or find one to join.
If you like reading and know other friends that enjoy it, too, consider starting a book club with them where you all read the same book for a week then meet to talk about it. It can transform reading from a solitary activity into a more socially oriented one, and with a library at your disposal, it can be a free activity as well.
82. Play a card game.
A deck of cards and a few friends are all you need for a fun afternoon. Games like bridge, canasta, pinochle, pitch, euchre, hearts, spades, and 500 are not only intellectually challenging, but are intensely social activities as well, drawing you out to interact with others around you.
This is a perfect activity for an afternoon with friends and relatives, and it costs basically nothing at all. And you don’t have to stop with cards. Here are 20 great games you can play with stuff you probably have lying around the house already.
83. Have an ‘entertainment swap’ with a friend.
This one’s pretty easy. Just have a friend bring over a pile of their own DVDs, CDs, books, and video games that they think you’d like. When they arrive, exchange an item for an item as a temporary swap. This will not only refresh your media collection for a while, but can provide a great opportunity for you to talk about your interests with a friend.
84. Take a child to a playground – and actually play with the child.
Take your child, or a child of a family member or a friend, to the local park. But instead of just watching the child play, dive in and participate, too.
Go down the slide. Swing in the swings. Climb across the monkey bars. Not only will the child adore you for it, you’ll find playing like that is simply exhilarating – a little taste of childhood all over again.
85. Explore a blog you like.
If you’re reading this, you’re probably at least a casual reader of at least one blog. What you might have forgotten, though, is that most worthwhile blogs have tons of useful and entertaining stuff in their archives.
Dig deep in the archives of one of your favorite blogs. You can start with The Simple Dollar by visiting my author page – a listing of all of the articles I’ve ever posted – and clicking through to the ones you find interesting or browsing some of the categories those posts fall into. Many popular blogs also have “best-of” indexes or similar features.
86. Explore Wikipedia.
You can also allow yourself some time to get lost down a Wikipedia rabbit hole — when you look up a tidbit of history, then start clicking deeper and deeper to learn more about related events and interesting historical subplots. Since each entry cross-links to so much other information, you could go on forever. Wikipedia, despite its imperfections, is like candy to the curious mind.
87. Work for a political campaign.
Really interested in politics? There are a lot of ways you can work for a campaign from your own home whenever you have the spare time (like during a money-free weekend).
One great way is to get involved with a phone bank. Basically, you call up people to provide information about your candidate of choice. You can do this using the free weekend minutes on your cell phone or by using software provided by the campaign. Other volunteers are often needed to go door to door handing out flyers or collecting signatures. Just contact the campaign you support, and ask how you can help out.
88. Clean out a closet.
We’ve all got spaces in our living areas that accumulate junk, and it’s often a small psychological burden – we dread going in there and digging for something we need. Well, why not get rid of one of those burdens? Clean out a closet in your home.
Find out what’s actually buried in there and get rid of the unimportant items. You might even find some interesting things you’d forgotten about, and you’ll feel a lot better about your organization when you’re done.
89. Play Frisbee at the park.
Get a friend (or a pet) and dig out that old Frisbee from your closet, then head out to an open field and toss it around. It’s a lot of fun, a great excuse to run around and stretch and jump, and it doesn’t cost a dime.
90. Take a long, soaking bath.
You’ll notice many of these suggestions don’t cost money — they simply cost time that you may not otherwise grant yourself. When was the last time you treated yourself to a long, relaxing bath? Fill up a tub with warm water, strip down, get in, and relax. I like to do this with a bottle of wine, and I’ve even read a book while in the tub. Just stretch out and soak for a while and your stress will melt away.
91. Binge-watch a great TV series.
A cold or rainy weekend is perfect for plowing through episode after episode of an addictive or amusing show. If you already have a Netflix or Amazon Prime subscription, you have unlimited access to thousands of movies and commercial-free TV shows — including some critically acclaimed TV series perfect for “binge-watching” if you’ve never seen them before. Many libraries also loan out complete seasons of TV series on DVD.
Popular series available for streaming on Netflix include “Stranger Things,” “Breaking Bad,” “Mad Men,” “Arrested Development,” “Parks and Recreation,” “Orange Is the New Black,” “Master of None,” “Gilmore Girls,” “Sherlock,” “Lost,” and even old favorites like “Cheers” and “Friends.”
With Amazon Prime you have access to “The Wire,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” “Veep,” “The Sopranos,” “Catastrophe,” “Downton Abbey,” “The Americans,” “Veronica Mars,” and many others.
92. Attend a dress rehearsal.
Many performance groups hold dress rehearsals before opening night that are free and open to the public if you call in advance, particularly if you have young children. Give the theater a ring and ask if there are open dress rehearsals for a particular show, and then enjoy the show for free! It’s a great way to give your kids a taste of theater at no cost.
93. Attend a free community class.
Many institutions and stores offer free classes on the weekends on all sorts of topics. Stop by a local food store and catch a free cooking class, or a hardware store to learn about a home repair topic.
Got kids? Try something like the Home Depot Kids Workshop, where they offer free how-to clinics, crafts, and projects for kids ages five to 12. I’ve seen these going on while stopping by Home Depot on a Saturday morning, and they look like a lot of fun!
94. Donate some unwanted things to charity.
If you’ve sorted through your stuff to clear out the clutter, but don’t want to have a yard sale, consider giving the stuff you don’t want to charity. Not only will you have a cleaner house, you’ll have the good feeling of knowing your items are going to be used by someone who actually needs them. Get receipts for your donations, and you’ll have some extra tax deductions next April, too.
95. Discover new music that you like.
Try out free music services like Pandora or Spotify. Pandora allows you to enter a musical “seed” — your favorite band, song, or album, for instance — and generates a radio station based on that information, playing songs with similar “musical DNA.” Give it a whirl – you’ll be surprised at the amount of good music you’ve yet to discover that you’re able to listen to for free.
96. Revisit a favorite book or favorite movie.
Most of us have some works of writing or film that simply resonate with us on a very deep level. If a certain book brought you to tears, restored your faith, or shook your core years ago, it might be worth reading again.
It can be a reinvigorating exercise, and you’ll be amazed at the little details you’d forgotten or even missed the first time. I like to re-read “Self Reliance” by Ralph Waldo Emerson, and continually draw new inspiration from it.
97. Build a cardboard castle.
This is a great one if you have kids. Stop by an appliance store and ask if they have any extra appliance boxes you can take home, then flatten them and load up your vehicle.
When you get home, use them to build a giant cardboard castle in your living room or in your backyard. Cut out doors and windows, and attach multiple boxes together to make rooms. This can be a great afternoon of fun for free!
98. Dig an old video game console out of the closet and play some of your favorites.
A lot of families have old video game consoles in the closet – an ancient PlayStation or Super Nintendo, long forgotten about, with a controller and a few games. Dig out that old console and hook it up to a television, then relive some of the memories of the games you used to play for hours. I did this not too long ago and found myself replaying a good chunk of Final Fantasy IX.
99. Do some amateur stargazing.
Go outside on a clear evening, preferably away from city lights, and look up at the sky. Use some handy star maps or an app such as SkyView Free to know what you’re looking at. Spread out some blankets on the ground, lay flat on your back, stare upwards, and realize how magnificent the universe is around you.
100. Go on a hike or a long walk.
Look up some local hiking or walking trails, and just take off. Let yourself get absorbed into nature and simply enjoy the journey. Go at your own speed – this is for your own personal enjoyment, after all.
101. Take a stab at writing poetry (or other forms of creative writing).
The basics of poetry are easier than you might think – just try writing down what’s on your mind. Whatever you’re thinking about, just write it down. That can provide the basics of any poem.
Then, just read through the stuff you’ve written down, choose the words that seem beautiful to you, and assemble them until the whole work means something. This can be a deeply enlightening and personal experience, actually, and one that really stirs the creative juices.
102. Go on a bike ride.
If you’ve got a bicycle and a helmet in your garage or closet, you already have everything you need for some good exercise and some good fun. Head outside and bike away. Almost every town and every state park around here has an extensive array of bike trails, so you can almost always find somewhere new and interesting to ride. Plus it’ll help get you into shape really quickly.
103. Have a ‘snowball’ fight.
With a little imagination, this is something you can do even if there’s no snow on the ground. Just crumple up a dozen or so sheets of white printer paper into “snowballs,” set up opposing forts in the living room (sofas make great “snowbanks”), and let them fly. You won’t end up with snow down the back of your neck, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a cup of hot cocoa afterward.
Hopefully, this list will provide for a ton of fun money-free weekends. Want some more tips? Here are 100 additional tips for saving money.
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