It’s not easy for me to save money when I’m bored. As many times as my mother told me to find something to clean when I don’t have anything else to do, I’m sorry to say that I never really fell into that habit and tend to want to go out and have fun when I have some down-time.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to go out and have a good time. In fact, a bit of recreation can help you be more disciplined in other areas as you won’t feel deprived. The key is to plan ahead and find ways to have fun without busting your entertainment budget.
Here are a six of my favorite free and low-cost ways to enjoy my free time.
1. Free events at local museums. Not only do many museums have free days, many also offer free or free with admission activities. We’ve done everything from a family art day complete with demonstrations, arts and crafts and face-painting to seeing a film festival and attending special traveling exhibitions.
2. “Pay What You Can” night at the local theater. I love going to plays and musicals but I can’t afford to see as many shows as I would like to for full price. Luckily, my local community theaters schedule one or more pay what you can showings for each run where the suggested donation is just five dollars, compared to thirty or more for a regular ticket. It’s not only frugal but the crowd is usually friendly and enthusiastic making it a good way to meet new people, too.
3. Free movie screenings. If you live in a larger city, you can sometimes get passes to see new films for free. The way to get into these screenings varies by location and the film – sometimes you have to call in to get passes, others you show up and it’s first come first serve. These opportunities are usually advertised on the radio and in local papers. A good way to stay abreast is to search for a freebies or bargain hunter type blog in your area and follow them on Twitter or Facebook. It’s important to ask fast because these passes go quickly!
4. Free concerts. Summer is peak season for free outdoor concerts, but indoor concerts happen all year long. Check out local colleges and churches to see what’s available – you’ll be surprised at the wide variety of musical genres on offer. One church in the downtown area of my city does an annual Spring concert series at lunchtime on Wednesday that features everyone from a world class opera singers to the Navy band to famous Stax recording artists. Your local free weekly paper is a great place to look for concerts, most are now also available online.
5. Learn a skill for free or the cost of materials. Do you like to work with your hands? Many home improvement stores and arts and crafts supply stores offer classes for free or for the cost of the materials you’ll use to make your own project. Many churches and community centers offer everything from square-dancing to pottery throwing to jewelry making classes. Don’t worry if you don’t have a friend to go with, as this is the perfect opportunity to meet new people.
6. Volunteer. Okay, this is technically work but somehow working for a good cause that you don’t have to do seems far less burdensome than the work you have to do (even if somebody is paying you!). Helping a cause that you are passionate about is a deeply satisfying way to spend time. While the work won’t always be laugh out loud fun, you will forge deeper connections to your community which is one of the keys to true happiness. Be prepared to be willing to work in whatever capacity that you are needed and go in with a positive attitude.
What are your suggestions on ways to have a good time without spending a lot of cash?