If you’re under the impression that budgeting and being frugal means there’s no room for fun, then this post is for you! Our fun budget is usually zero, but our family has lots of fun. You don’t need to spend lots of money on entertainment to have a great time!
Whether you are looking for frugal entertainment temporarily while you work toward specific financial goals, or you want to change to a more frugal lifestyle, there are lots of great ways to have fun without spending a lot of money.
Churches, community groups, libraries, schools, and college campuses are having events all the time and they are often free (and often include food).
The library is a great place to start. They have lots of free family activities, especially during the summer. We’ve attended magic shows, puppet shows, wild animal shows, concerts, and carnivals all for free at the library. And that’s in addition to the story times, art projects, and science projects that they have going on.
Speaking of the library, ours actually has LOTS of fun and educational toys that the kids can play with anytime. It’s a great free place to go for entertainment in the summer (and it’s air conditioned)!
Look online for free local events and entertainment. You’ll be surprised at what’s out there that you didn’t know about. Whether it’s a parade, athletic event, or concert in the park circuit, cities and towns have a lot of fun things going on.
If you plan ahead you can even get free or reduced admission to events that normally charge a fee.
A few years ago I learned that our county fair gives free admission to anyone who brings an entry for the daily food contest. There’s also one day of the fair when kids get in free. Mike and I enter the daily food contest on the same day kids get in free and just like that we’ve got a free family activity!
One of our favorite forms of entertainment also happens to be absolutely free. We love hiking, camping, and spending time outdoors. Thankfully all of our kids do too. We live in a great area in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada range where we’re an hour away from big mountains and deep winter snow and a couple of hours from the ocean. We have access to just about every outdoor activity you can imagine.
Even if you don’t live close to beautiful wildlands, most communities have well-maintained walking and biking trails that are free and very accessible. Take advantage of these places for entertainment and exercise. We love going on family bike rides together or even just a walk.
If you’re like us and enjoy a more rustic experience, find a park or forest near you. Did you know you can camp for free on most land managed by the National Forest Service or the Bureau of Land Management. It’s called dispersed camping. We love it!
If you’re fine with no running water or bathroom facilities, you’ll get to enjoy the great outdoors without being surrounded by a bunch of other campers in close quarters.
Save on Food
What do we do when we get together with friends? We eat! That can get expensive though. Instead of going to a restaurant and paying too much for food, get together and have a potluck instead.
I know the word “potluck” sounds a little old fashioned. You’ve gotta think beyond your church function or dinner at grandma’s. Make potlucks fun by having a theme. You could have Mexican night where everyone brings their favorite Mexican dish. You could have a taco bar or potato bar. Or bring toppings for pizza and make gourmet pizzas together.
You could have a chili cookoff! Or an ice cream sundae bar. The list goes on and on!
Host an Event
Instead of going out, host an event yourself and have others come to you! They’ll probably appreciate the opportunity to save money on entertainment too. It doesn’t have to be a big overwhelming event. Just invite another family or two.
- Have a barbecue, have everyone bring their own meat and a side dish to share.
- Have a movie night where everyone brings a snack to share.
- Borrow a projector and head outside for a backyard movie on a summer night.
- Have a board game night or video game competition along with a dessert bar.
- Have a bonfire with hot dogs and s’mores.
Our family loves doing karaoke. Did you know you can search just about any song along with the word “karaoke” over on YouTube to get the music )without the words) and the words on the screen? If you have a microphone, great. If not, it’s still a lot of fun singing with just a hairbrush! It’s fun with friends or just with your own family.
Save Money with a Deal on Entertainment
Not everything is free, but when you can, take advantage of a deal on your entertainment. Group buy deal sites like Groupon and Living Social often have great dining and entertainment deals that are a fraction of the normal price.
Plan your entertainment based on the deals you find. In addition to saving money, you’ll also discover new places and events that you didn’t know about. We’ve been able to add some new restaurants and events to our family favorites thanks to these sites.
Be Sure to Plan Ahead. If you wait until Friday night to decide what you’re going to do for the weekend, you’re more likely to fall into old spending habits. Being frugal requires some planning, especially if frugality is a new habit for you.
If you’re hosting your own event, you’ll need some time to prepare for it to be successful. And if you’re going for free and cheap community events, you’ll need to mark your calendar ahead of time so you don’t miss out.
You can do this!
You can seriously have a lot of fun on a low or non-existent entertainment budget. Between activities at church, library events, other community events, exploring the outdoors, getting together with friends, and enjoying time at home with our family, we don’t really even have time in our schedule for costly activities.
What do you usually spend money on when it comes to entertainment? Do you love seeing new releases in the theater? Or going to concerts? Or regular trips to Disney or other amusement parks? Or maybe you regularly go out for drinks with friends.
Whatever it is that you’re spending your entertainment budget on– How can you cut out or cut back on the expensive activities and replace them with something that costs nothing or at least costs less.
Remember you can decide if this will be a temporary change while you’re working toward a goal or a permanent lifestyle change.
Day 19 Challenge
Grab your Frugal Fresh Start Workbook and write down a list of frugal entertainment options that you would enjoy. Look at your calendar and schedule one in.
You might also consider making a list of non-frugal activities that you will avoid or limit.