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Keeping Frugality Fun

There is nothing that will squelch the joy in frugality faster than pinching your pennies so hard you never have any fun. And if you’re planning to practice thrift for the long haul, you need to strategically come up with ways to keep life interesting, exciting and fresh. Otherwise, you’ll likely burn out before a few months are out.

Just because you don’t have a lot of money or are trying to live on little doesn’t mean you can’t find ways to have fun and splurge a little without breaking your budget. Here are a few things we’ve done:

::Have a bookstore date. We did this often back in our law school days, when there was almost-zero wiggle room in our budget most months. We’d browse books, buy a drink to share (usually paying for it with a card I’d earned through reading emails from MyPoints!) and sit and read and talk for awhile. It made for a very relaxing evening that cost us next to nothing!

::Go out for coffee. Nowadays, we don’t often have time for leisurely bookstore dates, but we use our Starbucks gift cards earned through Swagbucks for fun (and free!) dates.

::Visit the pet store. Can’t afford to go to the zoo? A pet store is a great alternative. Our children love to peer into all the different cages and aquariums — and we’ve never had a pet store owner have a problem with us just dropping by to browse.

::Plan a nicer dinner each week. If beans and rice make up a large part of your diet, plan ahead so that one night per week, you have “feast.” You could go all out and re-create food from one of your favorite restaurants at home. Or, you could keep it simple and just try a fun new recipe or make your family’s favorite dessert. If you can’t even afford that, add a table cloth, your best dishes and candles to your normal fare to make it seem extravagant. No one will probably notice you’re eating beans and rice yet again if they are distracted by the beautiful candlelight. 🙂

::Stop by the library. The library was one of our favorite places to frequent when we were on a very limited income. When my husband was in law school, there was little else we could afford when it came to entertainment, so we spent countless hours and evenings at the library. And we checked out hundreds of books, CDs and DVDs. Best of all, that particular library had no late fees!

::Go shopping at CVS. This might seem a little crazy, but back when I was playing the drugstore game really hot and heavy, we oftentimes used extra ECBs to splurge. And some nights, we’d divvy them up and see who could get a better bang for their bucks by hitting up the clearance section of the store. It felt like a splurge, but it didn’t affect our pocketbook.

::Have a Loose Change Date. During the first few years of our marriage, any extra pennies or nickles or dimes we had, went into a change cup that we kept in our kitchen cupboard. Once a year, when we were feeling particularly like we just couldn’t keep on living like no one else and needed some sort of pick me up, we’d take the change cup to the bank and exchange it for dollar bills.

You know that money was tight, because usually after a year of putting in our extra pennies, nickels and dimes, all we’d have would be around $7-$8 collected! But that $7-$8 could meant we could rent a movie at the $0.50 movie store and get dinner at a fast food restaurant with coupons. And you know what? A little splurge like that often did the trick to re-invigorate us on our frugal journey.

How do you keep frugality fun at your house? I’d love to hear your ideas!

photo by Maddy Lou

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  • I was thinking about this same topic at the beginning of summer break. I composed a list of free things to do as well as a list of things to do under $10 as a family. You can check out my list on my blog. My husband and I have also learned how to create romantic dinners at home… instead of spending a fortune on date nights. I can honestly say that the dates we have at home far surpass anything we could do on the town in our budget. Thanks for this topic! I think everyone needs a break from time to time, as well as a little positive reinforcement. You are always an inspiration, Crystal! XOXO

  • Jennifer E. says:

    Wow Thank You So Much For That Post!
    Me And My husband Have Been Really Pinching That Penny Lately Trying To Get Out Of Debt. We Have Just Been Feeling In Such A Funk With Nothing To Do Becuase Of No Money To Work With And Alot Of Stuff Free We See Is Mostly Kids Activites And We don’t Have Any But These Are Some Great Ideas Thank You So Much!


  • Rachel says:

    *Visit all the parks in your area.
    * Take walks on all nature trails.
    *Get a book from the library and learn to identify different birds.
    *Identify different trees. Make a notebook to collect your leaves.
    *Feed the kids “happy meals”(brown bag-homemade lunch) from the kitchen window or back door-kids can “drive thru”on their bikes.
    *Visit a nursing home to sing to the residents.
    *Bake some goodies to take to a friend having a hard time.
    *Make a care basket from the “stockpile” to send with a college bound student.
    Put a puzzle together.
    *With loose change go bargain shopping at garage sales.(I find so many new toys, puzzles and games I save for Christmas)
    *Rearrange your furniture.
    *Take a drive in the country.
    *Have a homemade Ravinia(it’s an open air concert that starts at dusk complete with blanket on the ground and a candlelight dinner) The classical music can come from a radio out the window! Very romantic, free and no need for a sitter the kids can be asleep in their beds!
    *Make a list of all your blessings!
    *Write a love note to your husband!
    *Leave love notes for your kids to find.

  • amanda says:

    Great ideas! I just had to comment on the BEAUTIFUL picture!

  • Amber says:

    we save the bread ends from our loaves of bread in the freezer. when we feel like we have a good amount saved up, we thaw them out and take them to the local park/lake where we feed the ducks. my daughter always has a great time doing this!

  • Dana says:

    This was so encouraging today!!! My husband and I just made the decision to do a major cut in spending to pay off a nasty 2nd mortage. I really to hear that it will be ok for my kids to do this!! I am sure this has been said but my three young children and I go to the library EVERY week and cut out a ton of books/DVDs, etc. I am thinking about going twice per week this fall to go to story time as we are not enrolling my son in preschool as a way to cut our budget.

  • Courtney says:

    Great post! I’m very inspired…especially after reading all of the wonderful ideas in the comments. My husband and I are still adjusting to living on one income now that I’m a SAHM. Our big weakness is eating out on the weekends. I feel guilty and responsible for not providing meals or coming up with ways we can eat out for less. My husband likes to be out and about on the weekends with our 11 month old so I need to come up with some ideas for free things we can do. A lot of times we end up going shopping and of course that is just too tempting. We have really gotten to the point now where we have to do something. I’ve been couponing and saving a lot more on groceries and doing the drugstore game for toiletries, but the eating out is really becoming a problem.

  • Patti says:

    I suggest visiting your Chamber of Commerce for ideas of places to visit locally or look in the telephone book – there are often a few pages about your town (or one you are visiting) and even coupons! We live in South Carolina – where many people come for vacations so we know there are a lot of special spots that maybe we take for granted. My husband and I grew up in a tourist town and could not believe the number of peers who never visited any of it! We have a hard time convincing our teenage son that there are many places he and his friends or dates can go for free but he is finally discovering the joy of being creative (he doesn’t know it’s frugal!). We have been married over 30 years and still enjoy frugal times together – this past weekend we went to a showing of “Jaws” at our local Cultural Center – total cost $12 for both of us. Sitting in a luxurious theatre makes a huge difference and it’s great to hear the audience echo famous lines. This series is called Hollywood Classic Movie Nights. Great fun! But our local park is also offering free family movies if even $5.00 is too much for a ticket.
    I also think many new moms can band together to form a babysitter cooperative so you can have some free time without paying babysitter fees. If you don’t have a group of friends – find just one couple to swap with and get started that way.
    As you can tell, it is all in how you look at life – half full or half empty.

  • Krystal says:

    Going out for fast food would mean we have to drive 20 minutes into town and cost us a lot of money that we don’t want to spend on cheap food the kids love. Last night we had fake McDonalds. We made fry boxes out of cardstock and food wrappers out of wax paper. They decorated them with their crayons. When the frozen fries (that I got on sale) were baked and the burgers were out of the skillet I put them in the boxes and wrappers and placed them on a cookie sheet (tray) to carry them to the table. It was cheaper, healthier, and for some reason more fun!

  • We like to find local state parks or even parks and walk around. It’s great exercise, and being in the fresh air is amazing. We also try to find things that are low-cost and save that for the weekend. 🙂

  • Karla says:

    Our family has recently started to live more simply, but you are right. We need to make sure we take some time to have fun. I like your idea to meet friends for coffee. Other inexpensive things I enjoy are reading a book (usually borrowed from my mother-in-law or a friend), writing, playing with my children, and taking classes on-line. I am taking a free creative writing course offered on-line by the University of Utah ( Learning something new is always fun.

  • Carol says:

    We keep an eye out for free outings in our area, i.e. our town hosts a free summer concert series on Friday nights in the summer. In Louisville, KY, the Kentucky Shakespeare Theatre has free performances in the summer. A local orchard has a Familiy Fun Fest (of course, they are hoping you buy something, but you don’t have to!) In the summer, the local movie theater has free movie mornings for kids. There are nature walks anytime of the year at the state park. I hope this doesn’t sound weird, but larger cemeteries can be beautiful places to walk, especially if they are decorated for Memorial Day or Veteran’s Day. Many have beautiful statues also. Does the local college have an art or history museum? May not be a large collection, but could be interesting. There are a lot of possibilities.

  • This idea is really for your kids. (unless your hubby likes to bake)
    When it’s cool outside (which is only a few days a year here in sunny warm Florida) I like to open the windows, turn on the music & bake goodies with our kids, using up some ingredients that I have on hand. We all love this. Except for the clean-up of course. If we make lots…we share with neighbors.

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