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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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  • We had some fun with the kids during a winter storm last year. We made “robots”, had buddy bath time and they played on the back deck with our shovels.

  • Amber says:

    I love bookstore dates but seeing the pets in the pet store makes me BAWL like a baby. The hubs will not accompany me to any pet stores!

  • Patrice says:

    One of our local radio stations has a weekly “half off” deal for various local restaurants. Every month or so, we’ll buy one of these deals and have a date night. Grandma watches the kiddos and we’re able to go out to a really nice restaurant for usually somewhere around $13 including dessert!

  • We like to get sushi and then grab a cheap bottle of wine. Get out some candles, eat on the floor in the living room on a picnic blanket after our kids are in bed, and have a nice romantic date night in. We get a redbox movie (usually for FREE with a movie code) and the whole date night will cost us under $10!

    • Katie says:

      @Lauren Greutman, How do you get sushi and a bottle of wine for under $10?? Please do share. We love sushi, but it costs at least $30. Thanks!!

      • @Katie, They sell freshly made sushi at our local grocery store for $3.99 per California roll. The wine will last us 2 dinners, so usually we buy a cheap bottle for $5. If you live near a Trader Joes they have great wine for cheap!

      • Kassandra Wood says:

        @Katie, Our local Publix and Bi Lo Grocery Stores have sushi… the California Rolls also run about $3-$4 and some of the yummier rolls are around $7. I developed an allergy to wine, so no more wine, but we still have our romantic candle-lit sushi dinners at home… And, our kids usually get oven-baked pizza that night, so it’s a win-win! I guess dangerous minds think alike, Lauren. 🙂

    • Wow…that is a great Idea!

    • Emily says:

      @Lauren Greutman, I do this too! Wow, and after reading all the other posts from other Sushi affectionados, it’s really reassuring that we’re on the right path to frugal luxury!

  • christi says:

    I try each day to ask the Lord to show me one thing that I can do with my kids that will make a memory. 99% of the time, it doesn’t involve spending any money. It can be have a boy help me out in the kitchen. That takes them for a loop! Or, just saying “yes!” to jumping in rain puddles and giggling with them. Yesterday, it was coming home from church and throwing an old quilt on the picnic table and actually packing my basket to go out into the backyard for lunch. They thought it was great! The things our children will remember have less to do with the money we spend on them than the state of our hearts while investing our time in them.

  • Chrissy says:

    This may sound kind of silly, but this is what we’ve been doing for the past year and all the credit goes to my creative husband; we’ve been attacking the radio contests in our area. My husband manages a bagel shop, so on his down time he calls to win anything and everything he can to keep us entertained and save money. In the past 8 months, we’ve won over 10 times and have enjoyed, tickets for movies, festivals, restaurants, concerts, musicals, and grocery store gift cards. I thought it was silly until we have something new each week to do and for FREE!
    We just went to a festival and although it wasn’t that much to do but walk around, my husband looked into what was available with the radio station’s booth, and they had a prize wheel there. We won a dinner cruise and tickets for the drive inn!

    • Beth says:

      @Chrissy, I think this is a great idea, epecially if you have time to make the calls!

      We haven’t ever won a radio contest, but recently won tickets to the circus. We couldn’t have afforded to go otherwise, and it was a great experience for our 3 year old son. I’m definitely keeping my eyes open for other contests like that to enter.

    • MJ says:

      @Chrissy, I agree, people don’t take advantage of radio contests enough. I’ve won countless gift certificates, shopping sprees, tickets to amusement parks, I won 10 tickets/backstage passes to one of my favorite artists, and even a weekend trip to Los Angeles!

    • Sandi Ragusa says:


      We do this too! We have won so much great stuff. We always get to go out to dinner or concerts or little shopping sprees. Even the silly stuff is great when it’s free.

  • Sarah says:

    We do “family movie night” at our house. We will get a $5 pizza and usually we have a coupon for free breadsticks. We will pick a movie that we already own, lay a blanket on the floor and eat our pizza and watch the movie. For dessert, we pop popcorn. Our boys love being able to eat in the living room and I love not having to cook one night!

  • My husband and I are both runners, so we love going to Saturday morning running dates. To make it memorable, rather than just running in our neighborhood, we’ll drive to a new or favorite trail and then go for a run! Then we come home for waffles and eggs.

    It’s so much fun to run together!

  • We’ve done trips to the pet store as well (and even just checked out the fish at Walmart!)

    I’ll turn the sprinklers on for the children to run through, and we’ll follow that up with homemade popsicles.

    We don’t have the money for a sitter for six children, so our dates are at home. After the children are in bed, we play board games (my favorite is Sequence) and maybe drink some hot chocolate. Sometimes we’ll watch something together on Hulu.

    My children love when we have candles at home on the dinner table (this works better in the winter, when the sun sets earlier, though!) Another thing that I do is to grow flowers at home so that I can have floral arrangements on my table on a regular basis.

  • Jan says:

    Board game night (or, anytime)! My mom saved all the games my brother and I played as children: Scrabble, Parchesi, Sorry, Battleship, Twister, Candy Land, checkers, Life, etc. I’ve found lots of good games at rummage sales or on the clearance racks at Target, or uber-cheap with coupons (Pictureka card game is one of my teen DS’s favorites … we really laugh at some of the combos.)

  • Amy Scott says:

    Hi Crystal,

    Just wanted to add my voice to the throng of Congrats on your first debt-free house. I just saw today that you finally did it.

    I’m not sure what post you deleted, but I will guarantee that there will be a few loud voices that don’t appreciate the “how we did it” stories.

    I hope you continue your journey to financial independence, producing passive income streams with investments if the Lord leads you that way. Just a few years ahead of you in this journey, but wanting you to know, we still drive old clunkers too.

    Amy Scott

  • Leah says:

    My town puts on a lot of free events, so I usually try to attend those (free concerts every Friday and Sunday all summer) with my little one. There are local town expos and festivals occasionally that are free, too.
    I also like to rent a Redbox movie w/ a free code. Bonus when I win a bottle of wine at work (I work in a restaurant, and we occasionally have contests where we win free bottles of good wine) and can relax w/ a glass of wine and a movie!
    I do treat myself to dinner w/ a friend, too. I particularly like going out for Mexican- it’s already cheap and I can usually find coupons to make it an even better deal 🙂

  • Just a quick point of clarification… using those ECB’s really DOES affect your pocketbook. If you are purchasing an item because the ECB makes it cheap or free, and then blowing the ECB’s thinking of them as “free” money, then the item still cost you the original amount.

    • Crystal says:

      @Seth @ Boy Meets Food, I’m referring to extra ECB’s you earn through overage. Back in the good ole days, I could easily make $3 out of pocket turn into $30 in ECBs So I’d roll and then blow a little of the overage. 🙂

      • Ellen says:

        Ah, so glad to hear I’m not the only one that does that 😉 There are times where I’ve rolled money over so many times and need a week or so “break” from the CVS thing, so I’ll spend my remaining ECB’s on some chocolate or a few goodies/surprises for everybody at home— bubbles, little trinkets or toys, a new lip gloss, microwave popcorn, etc (just things that we consider treats and not everyday staples in our lives). I consider it my little reward for working so hard for several weeks straight!

    • Karen Rucker says:

      @Seth @ Boy Meets Food,

      Technically that’s true. But if the Extra Care Bucks (or Register Rewards) are about to expire, it can be a nice treat to use them to lift your spirits.

  • Beth says:

    We like to take picnics on Sunday. Usually, we just bring leftovers to eat, but we go to a beautiful park, eat in a new setting, and enjoy the sunshine. Afterwards, we walk or play frisbee.

    We like to take bike rides together.

    We hate renting, but love that our appartment community has a pool, and head there often on summer evenings and weekends.

    We attend community activities whenever possible- holiday merchant walks, concerts in the park, festivals, clowns at the mall, etc. While some of these aren’t things we’d pick to do if there was a price tag, we always seem to have fun together and take away something as well.

  • Bethany says:

    We do a lot of the things you mentioned. Pet store and Barnes & Noble trips were staples when we were dating. Now my husband and I enjoy running to Redbox (we’re close enough we can literally run or bike to one) and popping corn in our Whirly-Pop. We also like to play games, go on picnics, or go to free or cheap concerts. We’re fortunate to have a couple movie theatres nearby which have $1.00 admission on certain days or BOGO coupons in the paper/mailers.

  • I love this post…I took notes to add to my list of fun on little to nothing for our family. Some things that we do include…roasting hot dogs on sticks over the grill and following it with some mores…going to one of the wonderful free park/playgrounds in our town (they are really great). My hubby and I played the free version of Rock Band Free on his IPod Touch. We did lots of giggling and had a great time…board games are biggies for us and walks at the park. A little treat for little money is .49 ice cream cones at McDs or making our own pizza and watching one of the great movies on ABC FAmily. Love this post!!! Got to find a great idea for a family night this week and you helped a lot!

  • Chris says:

    My grandparents grew up in the Depression era. No one had much money. Every Saturday night as children, the adults would play euchre and other card games and talk about their lives.

    My grandmother and her brother and their spouses kept this up until well into their 80s (2005), when my grandfather became too ill to keep up the foursome.

  • Amy R. says:

    We do a lot of the same things that have been mentioned. Also, our town has free summer movies in the park following a free concert. $1 kids movies over the summer on Wednesday mornings are sometimes fun as well. We also use the summer time to rotate books and toys out of the shed or garage…and then play with all the “new” toys and read the “new” books. We do spend a LOT of time at the local library and frequent the pet stores as well. We also love to explore new libraries. There are so many GREAT libraries, so every year we do at least one “Library Week” where we visit a bunch. Then we have the kids write reviews of them, etc. When we find good ones, we go back! There’s toys, games, books, magazines, etc….our family really enjoys hanging out for hours. We’ve even crossed state lines to visit libraries!

  • Mandi Harris says:

    I would be interested to know your new financial goals now that you have bought your house 🙂 What do you plan to save for now?

  • We go on bookstore dates all the time, even though we have a bit more room in our budget now. We can take our kids which saves us a sitter. We hardly ever buy anything, but we love browsing!

    Also, because we’re nerds, we love watching old Star Trek episodes after the kids go to bed. Some you can watch online, or you can record them, or you can get them from the library.

  • blue-eyes says:

    Our neighborhood has a kid’s pool with slides and mushrooms, so we go to that at least 3 days a week. I also take the kids to State Parks, last week it was a Gold Mine. They’re all free; all I had to pay was $2 last week so they could pan for gold. We also live near the Charlotte Motor Speedway and most NASCAR drivers have their shops here, which are all free. They have museums and you can watch them work on the cars, interactive movies, etc.. Luckily, I have 3 boys that love cars!

  • Nikki says:

    We use the website. We trade homes and pet care with someone in another region. Makes it so much fun. Additionally, sometimes we watch other people’s pets at their houses in exchange for playing in their pool. They like their pets to be home, doesn’t cost them anything, and we have a change in scenery. 🙂

  • Amy says:

    i think you need a little fun money–we have $18/month for date night & try to be super creative to allow it to go far…plus we insist on one date/week. Living in Chicago lends itself to lots of free festivals and great free walks around the city, but it’s super nice to splurge on dinner out even if it means not spending any money one month to have 2 months of money the following month.

    It’s all about being incredibly budgeted and knowing where every single dollar goes! Then you know you can squeeze in a few dollars for fun stuff!

  • Karen Rucker says:

    With four kids, a lot of our time seems to get wasted on running errands, doing chores, and trying to accomplish something. For us, a real treat is simply having some UNscheduled time. So we make it a priority to have time each week when nothing is planned, no one is in a hurry, and there’s no agenda. The kids tend to use that time more creatively, drawing and painting or building with blocks. And my husband and I will just watch an old movie on TV or read together. It’s a blessing to just spend some time alone without feeling pressured to make things perfect.

  • One thing that my son and I did when I was pregnant with my daugher is grab a donut at dunkin donuts, then drive over to the airport. Park on the side of the road near where the planes were landing above us, sit in the side of our van with the door open and watch the planes for an hour. Cost us $1.50 for 2 donuts and an hour of fun!!!

  • Katherine says:

    My husband and I budgeted some money one month to purchase a few disc golf frisbees. We go out almost every weekend (sometimes multiple times!) and play on various courses in the area. Our area has several courses near our apartment. It’s great exercise, lots of fun (even though we aren’t very good at all!) and a nice challenge for just a small investment of money in the beginning (unlike regular golf courses, disc golf courses are FREE to use).

    • Lana says:

      @Katherine, You can even play frisbee golf without a course. Just map out differnt places that are goals around the neighborhood or whatever. Our son who is a Sr in college and his friends do this on their college campus.

  • abbie says:

    My husband and I put the kids to bed and then start a fire in our fire pit outside (we live in the country). We will sit by the fire and talk. (Maybe eat a few marshmallows too!) Or, we will have a cookout with the kids first. We also take family bike rides either by our home or we will put the bikes in the truck and go in town or to the trails.
    We aren’t movie watchers (for the most part) so our away from home dates are usually Barnes and Noble, the Christian bookstore, go to a park and walk around. I must add that an excellent, date night movie is “Fireproof”. You can probably get it from your library or church. Wonderful, every couple should see!! 🙂

    • Cathie says:

      @abbie, Our church had a special “Fireproof” movie night. I have to say, it was amazing. I purchased the book “Love Dare,” and sent it to my son, who is currently butting heads with his wife. (Of course, the movie at church was free!)

  • Melissa Adam says:

    These are such great ideas! 🙂 We don’t have sitters or family close, either- so most of our fun dates in my opinion are picking up food. I don’t get out of the house a lot with my two kids due to one of my kids’ special needs, but I use free gift cards from e-rewards, swagbucks, discovercard cash back redemption sometimes to get extra on certain cash back towards restaurants, stores, etc. (On a side note: we treat our credit cards as though we are using cash and use an “envelope system” in a different way with a spreadsheet for each category and I plug in receipts and deduct for every purchase as though it’s coming out of our checking account- we always pay the credit card in its entirety every month and have no problems with it- it allows us to stretch our dollar even more when they run special 5% cash back times, etc., which is kinda fun).

    Back in the day, we’d have “dates” at the hospital cafeteria as we were there all the time and used the free $3 money passes for nursing moms (I had a baby in the NICU at the time) to go towards our meal- we’d get the specials offered at the cafeteria, and have a “romantic” date for free. 🙂 Ha.

    We like to go to parks, fountains around KC or the plaza, picnics, Cabelas to look at the fish and animals, the local mall that’s rather dead and let our kiddo run around when it’s raining (there’s only a few stores in it anymore). My kids even love going to the “store” with me and driving one of the huge carts together (they’re only 14 months apart and both under 2 so that’s quite entertaining for them!) =)

    Anyway, all that to say those are the ways we splurge. 🙂 My one son was on a feeding tube and so it was difficult to “go out” on dates ever in the past, but now it’s a lot more fun when we can! Taking the boys to go places is a little easier now that we don’t have that attached! 🙂 And it allows me to get out of the house.

  • Rachel says:

    A few months ago we read through “Our Love Story,” a scrapbook I made documenting our dating! It was fun to read through and look at the pictures and recall sweet memories 4 years later! I think we’ll make this at least a yearly “date”!!

  • ann says:

    There is a lovely bike trail near our house. We go biking for a few hours every weekend instead of heading to the mall. Our friends join us sometimes. On our way back we get a ton of books and dvds from the library. My husband and i love cooking…so we spend some quality time in the kitchen preparing good food on weekends. Thats more like a big project!! 🙂 and then have an amazing dinner at home. This keeps us and our savings going strong. Every once in a while we do use the ‘loose change in a jar concept’ to eat out at fast food joints and the ‘ECB splurging concept’ for shopping therapy.

  • Colleen says:

    Growing up, my parents barely squeaked by. Of course, we didn’t know this then. But every couple weeks my mom would make a HUGE pot of sauce, and we’d set the table with her grandmother’s china and wine glasses. us kids had milk, but we felt so fancy eating spaghetti of those beautiful plates.

  • karen says:

    Our local reptile store is awesome (and right next to the yarn store!!). The owner spent 30 minutes telling my kids all about different species of lizards, snakes, and turtles. He even took a small lizard (well it’s body was bigger than my hand!) out of its cage so the kids could pet it. Much less depressing than a big chain pet store.

  • Daisy says:

    Just like up north in the dead of winter, our hot, hot summers in Arizona keep us housebound. Without “fun” money, we really start to crawl the walls. My kids build forts with couch cushions and blankets. We push the couches together and pretend it’s a boat, even try fishing with a hanger, extra yarn, a glob of tape and some light small toys as “fish”. I’ll make banana bread in the morning (have to cook or bake in the morning to cut down on electricity use during off-peak and keep the house cool) and have them smash the bananas that would otherwise be tossed in a couple days. We play with playdoh, make drawings on the computer via Paint or Gimp (free downloadable graphics program), do science experiments, or read books (read easy readers backwards, which is usually hysterical). We did the summer reading program at our library and got two free books. When school starts up again, I’ll take advantage of the free playgroups/storytime groups at the library or book store to get me and the baby out of the house and actually get to talk to other moms in real life (not just old high school friends on Facebook). We also rent FREE videos from our library. I usually have to wait a while to get them, especially new, new releases because there will be a waiting list, but I waited to see them from when they were in the real theater (haven’t been in one of those for years) anyway.

  • Daisy says:

    Oh, we also have A LOT of rocks in AZ, so we paint them and they decorate my garden.

  • Janet says:

    Here are a few of the fun things we do that are low/no cost…..

    Attend our Wednesday night church supper – it’s dinner for under $20 for the 4 of us and a movie or just catching up.

    We also gather our friends for a pot luck to play cards or games. Kids are invited so there are no babysitting costs.

  • Alyssa says:

    Me and my man’s favorite frugal (sort of) thing to do is go to Ikea! Clearly, there is a lot of temptation to buy stuff, but it’s also fun for us to just walk around and plan what we want to get at a later date. We usually spend atleast 3 hours there each time we, and always end our trip by eating at their food court (which often has free or bogo meal days). We’re young, and we just moved in together last year so we’re buying all of our furniture from here room-by-room. We scrimp and save in certain areas so that we can splurge on what’s important to us beautiful, functional, quality- furniture!

    • Amanda says:

      @Alyssa, Ikea is even better with kids. Grab some cheap food, take advantage of the kids’ seating area, and then hang out in some of their living rooms and apartments. I usually end up with a spatula, or something else I needed, but you can spend ages there, and no one’s going to be annoyed by your little ones. There’s also free babysitting in Smaland.

  • Daisy says:

    Whoops! I put my e-mail address as my website (sleep deprived). My website is

  • Ellen says:

    Some girlfriends and I have once-monthly pitch-in dinner night. Moms only. It is SOOO nice to have some time away and enjoy the fellowship of other moms sans kiddos and hubbies. We also get together with all the familes for occassional pitch-in cookouts and whatnot. We have coming up where we’re going to set up a projector in the backyard and watch a kid-friendly movie!

  • Molly says:

    We frequent the Redbox quite a bit. Dollar movies for the win! Also, I get credit when I consign the kids’ clothes and toys, so I can go “shop” for them and it doesn’t cost us money. Also, I find saving money super fun in and of itself – the CVS thing rocks my world, so honestly, I get a kick out of being frugal. We want for some things we used to have (MAC lipstick for me, and magazines), but honestly, life is better, and living frugally lets me still splurge every now and then (like on the Famous Footwear deal today – 2 pair of shoes for 20 dollars. My old flats literally had a hole in ’em!)

  • Jackie says:

    When my husband and I were in college we grabbed some of our laundry quarters, dug through the cushions of his pick-up and hit the local grocery store, Denny’s, movie theater and student center to play the claw machine games. Because we were in a small college town, everything was within walking distance of campus. For about $4.50, we ended up with a couple of big stuffed animals and had a blast entertaining the other shoppers, restaurant and theater patrons. To this day, it’s my favorite date that we’ve ever been on.

  • Lana says:

    Hubby and I are both ‘seniors’ at McDonalds so we can get brewed coffee for 40 cents-we have a beautiful new Mc D’s that is a great place to go and talk. Our college kids home for the summer never give us time to talk as they are ALWAYS talking. They are the last 2 of 5 and I know how fleeting this time is so we let them talk when they are home and run away for alone time.

  • I recently wrote a post about this exact topic after we spent what was an equivalent to $8,470 per hour on a particular event – you’ll have to watch the video to understand.

  • Staci says:

    Here’s my post on frugal family and date night fun. Check it out here:


  • Esther in Mid-Michigan says:

    It’s actually kind of fun discovering frugal to free entertainment for my two boys. In the summer they have a library reading program where they get to earn library $ by reading books! Then in early September, the library has a “carnival” where they get to spend all those hard earned dollars! They have a blast and it’s all free!!!! Also, our neighborhood Kroger just had a Neighborhood Block Party where they had “Free” games, dunk tanks, clown painting, fire trucks, even free food! The kids had a blast and they even won some free food coupons at local fast food restaurants to use at a later date 🙂

  • Megan says:

    Heck throw your quarters in the change jar too! We’re a family of four who lives on less than $20,000 a year (no welfare or tanf assistance) and ever couple of months our change jar reaches around $100

    • Crystal says:

      We were living on around $10K per year at the time, so we didn’t have any quarters to spare! 🙂

      • @Crystal, I feel lousy! My husband and I are having a hard time emotionally living on his income while I go back to school. The discipline it takes to budget and follow through is tough but we try to keep our eyes on the prize. It still stinks but we are trying to move forward and keep our heads up! I would also love to know if you ever made any slip ups and what you did to get back on track!? I think that could help so many others, including me. 🙂

  • Jo says:

    THANK YOU! This is just what I needed today. It can get so depressing always staying home and I hate never being able to go out with my girlfriends. These are great ideas!

  • DeAnn says:

    I can relate to how it feels to just really need a night when you take a break from frugality! I usually suggest Chinese food- we have a locally owned restaurant nearby that is cheaper than McDonald’s, plus you have leftovers for another meal!

  • Makayla says:

    We do all of those things. We just had a loose change date this past weekend. We also enjoy taking advantage of our library’s museum passes, making museums free or just a couple dollars, free concerts in the park, picnics in the park, candle lit dinners, dance classes (get a how to DVD from the library), building things together with cheap or free wood from the scrap pile at home depot, going to free how to workshops at home depot or lowes or going on hikes or walks on the beach. My husband is a fabulous cook and I’m allergic to just about everything so we can’t go to restaurants even if we have coupons. For our anniversary every year we find deals and make fancy meals for until $15. It’s just as good as any restaurant.

    • Hannah says:

      @Makayla, I’ve always wanted to take a dance class! My husband thinks it’s a ridiculous idea, probably not least because he doesn’t like the thought of learning to dance in public. I never thought of getting a how to video from the library.

      That’s what we did for birthing class before our first son was born. We couldn’t afford any of the classes we saw available, so we got the video from the library. It’s called Laugh and Learn About Childbirth and that’s exactly what happens when you watch it. It was fantastic and I’m so glad we chose that route.

  • Kelley says:

    we used to take the boys camping at a state park…permits are cheap, I’d make sure we had fishing gear, stuff for smores, we’d tell stories or play cards by the lantern light or just listen to the “sounds” of the night! Great times were had by all with very little cost for sandwiches, drinks, etc.

  • Brandi says:

    Our mall has an awesome play area. The kids and run free and it’s air conditioned. Very important for those hot Texas summers. Great way to burn off some energy before nap time!

    We frequent the play ground in the cooler months. We also take a long daily walk.

  • 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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