A while back, I introduced the very popular concept of a money free weekend, where a person, a couple, or a family elects not to spend any money over a weekend as an experiment in frugality. To aid this, I made a fifteen free things to do during such a weekend, then followed it with a list of fifteen more free things.
Recently, my wife made a very astute point related to this, almost off the cuff. She stated that most of the things that she finds really fulfilling don’t cost a thing. I asked her what she meant and she started rattling off all sorts of things that brought fulfillment to her – and most of those things really were free.
Call a family member or a friend that you haven’t spoken to in a while. Most people in the United States have a cell phone, and most plans feature unlimited nights and weekends. Take advantage of those free minutes to call up a family member or a friend that you’ve felt some disconnect from lately and just have a nice chat.
Deep-clean the room in your house that you spend the most time in. Scrub it down. Wash the walls. Carefully clean the carpets. Pull all of the cushions off of the furniture and thoroughly vacuum underneath them. Thoroughly dust everything. Clean the windows until they gleam. Do any little touch-up tasks that you discover. You’ll find that when you sit back in this room when you’re done, it will feel as though your sanctuary is refreshed.
Sit down with your spouse/partner for an afternoon and talk about your goals. Here are some tips for getting started with the talk, but once the ball is rolling, there are a lot of things you can cover. Talk about how you both spend money and why. Figure out where you’d like to be in a year, five years, ten years, and so on. Come up with ways to get there. You might also want to talk about your feelings on children and other such things. The goal is to just get deeply in touch with the person you’re committed to and what they’re thinking.
Try a basic meditation technique. I used to think that meditation was pretty much silly and overrated, but I gave it a sincere try once at the behest of a close friend. Meditation is amazing and has become a part of my daily routine, usually in the early morning. The technique I use most commonly is focusing on my own breathing and allowing my mind to drain of everything else. Look into some meditation techniques online, find one that looks interesting, and give it a shot.
Read a “great” book. These can be had for free at your local library (for the most part). I am currently digging through the list of Pulitzer Prize winners for Fiction; here’s a complete list. Another great list of books is The Modern Library’s list of the 100 Best Novels of the 20th Century. A few great novels that truly moved me and made me think include
Invisible Man, Atlas Shrugged, and Beloved.
Volunteer. There are few things that leave me feeling fulfilled more than spending a day during a weekend volunteering for some group or another, although I often have a hard time talking myself into it at times. Take a day and work for a volunteer project. A good place to start looking is on church bulletin boards, even for non-Christian volunteer activities – groups like Habitat for Humanities often put postings there. For a while, I kept up a free book exchange table in a retirement community and it was one of the best things I ever did.
Clean up your community. If you don’t have a weekend volunteer project to join up with, start your own. Go around to the neighbors and ask if any are interested in cleaning up an area in your neighborhood, then manage the whole weekend yourself. Clean up roadside trash, trim up any shared areas, clean up any waterways, mow where it’s needed, and so on. If you get a lot of people involved, you can really make a big difference in just a weekend.
Write a handwritten letter to someone. Take a pen in hand, sit down, and tell someone how important they are to you. Then drop the letter in the mail or put them somewhere where they would be found in the event of your passing. I have several of these written, stowed away in a place where I’m pretty sure they’ll be found rather quickly if I were to pass on.
Exchange massages with your partner. Give each other a half hour long (or even longer) massage. This is something that my wife and I have done before while our son was sleeping. There’s something very special, intimate, and relaxing about it.
Take a child to a park – and actually play with them. This is especially true if you have your own child or there’s a niece, nephew, or young cousin available to you. Just take that child to a big park and do a lot of the same things they do. Go down the slide with them. Swing on the swings. Take a spin on the merry-go-round. Play a big game of tag. I mean this seriously: spending an afternoon at the park doing things like this with my son is the most fulfilling thing I do.
Take a long, soaking bath. Fill up a bathtub full of water, definitely on the warm side. Climb in it, sit back, and just soak for a while. If you happen to have access to a hot tub, use it (of course), but a normal bathtub filled up with almost hot water can feel magical. I often like to read a magazine while doing this and I’ll stay in it for an hour, even if it makes my skin a bit pruny.
Do something kind for someone else. Do you know an old person who is having a hard time getting around? Perhaps a disabled person that has a hard time keeping their kitchen clean? Go visit them and just take care of some of their household chores for them. Sit down with them and play a game. Bring the ingredients for a good home cooked meal, prepare it there, and eat with them.
Donate some unwanted things to charity. Go through your house (hot tip: start with your wardrobe) and identify items that are useful, but perhaps just not that useful to you. Take them to a charity and donate them. Even better, if you happen to know people who could really use the items, take the items directly to them and cut out the middle man.
Take a long walk. I’ve often found that one of the best ways for me to unwind is to go somewhere rural, find a good place to walk or hike, and just go walking for a period of time. I stop often, sit down, look around, and just let myself unwind. I find this works very, very well after a stressful week. You can do this alone or with others – I often find that being alone works well for me, but it may be a good thing to do with others. The key is to take it slow and admire your environment and the clean, fresh air that such environments provide. If you’re getting tired, don’t hesitate to stop for a long while. You might even want to try a meditative activity out there.
Do something that has been nagging at you. I often find that there are several weekend-size projects sitting around that I keep putting off because I don’t want to invest the time. Yet, almost every time, I find when I put aside a weekend to get it done, it’s almost always well worth it and I feel fantastic having taken care of the task. For you, it might be one giant task or it might be a long list of little nagging things, but devoting a weekend to getting them done is almost like a spiritual cleansing.
Although all of these things are free (or close to it), the real value here is that these things can provide some strong fulfillment. Spend a weekend recharging your body and your spirit – and know that you’re not blowing cash to do it.