You want to save money, but you also want to get out and have some fun. Traditional activities such as dining out, movies and concerts have become expensive.
Fortunately, you can enjoy a night out or an exciting weekend for little expense by exercising a little creativity. In fact, the times you remember most fondly will likely be those where you got together with family and friends and spent the least money.
Avoid soaring entertainment expenses and have more fun by taking advantage of the wealth of free or inexpensive activities in your own neighborhood.
Sign up for a community newsletter that lists upcoming events. Many of these local events are inexpensive or free. Most communities feature indoor and outdoor festivities such as agricultural fairs, spring flings, craft fairs, music festivals and showcases of local heritage. Pack your own lunch or eat before you set out to save on food.
Assemble a group of friends, and hold potluck dinners at a different house each week. Assign the main course to the host, and have guests bring side dishes and desserts. It is easier and cheaper to buy food in bulk, especially if you pay attention to sales.
Add an activity that interests all of the guests, such as an after-dinner board game.
Spring for soft drinks and popcorn, and invite your friends over for a movie night. Watch a DVD you already own, or borrow one from a friend. Many libraries offer a good selection of DVDs. Consider classic films and new releases, which generally appeal to a variety of tastes. If you are feeling creative, choose a theme and ask your guests to bring related snacks.
Invite your friends over after dinner to play card or board games. Games, unlike concerts and movies, are great for encouraging conversation and laughter. Ask your friends and family to bring some favorites to expand your selection.
Offer games that both kids and adults will enjoy. Search yard sales and second-hand stores to find board games at a fraction of their original price.
School Plays and Concerts
Support your schools and enjoy some great entertainment by attending plays and concerts put on by local kids. Go with a group of friends, and make an evening of it. Admission prices are much lower than those for professional plays and concerts.
While the performances may be less polished, the enthusiasm level is likely to be higher, and you will all feel good at the end of the evening.
Public libraries offer free entertainment to children and adults alike. Most public libraries feature summer story hours for children to promote reading. Many of these programs offer prizes, which may include movies passes and tickets to sporting events.
Adults can take advantage of books, digital e-books, magazines, newspapers, music CDs and movies. See if your library offers culture passes, which allow families to attend science centers and museums for free.
Free Days at the Museum
Museum admission can be expensive, so take advantage of discounted and free days that are generally offered once a month. Museum websites will tell you when these days are scheduled.
Take your kids to a pick-your-own farm to get fresh vegetables and fruit at bulk prices. Picking starts in March for asparagus and runs through September or October for apples. Larger farms may offer hayrides, face-painting, tractor rides, petting zoos, storytelling and corn mazes.
Time your visit for the morning when it is likely to be cooler, and remember to bring a stroller for the little ones.
Try your hand at letterboxing, a high-tech treasure hunt requiring only a notebook and stamp. Visit the Letterboxing North America website to print out clues to the location of a box hidden in a public location. The box will hold a logbook and stamp. You will mark the logbook with your stamp to show that you have found the box and then imprint your own notebook with the letterbox stamp.
Eventually, you and your family will have a notebook filled with the stamps of letterboxes you have found. Kids will benefit from outdoor exercise while developing map-reading and puzzle-solving skills, and everyone will enjoy the thrill of a treasure hunt.