Fun Without Money?

For those of you who have read my introduction you’d already know that I spent 7 years paying off divorce debt on one income, and for those of you who haven’t, you know that now.  Seven years is not a whole lifetime, but it is still long enough a time that you can’t just keep your head totally down and have no fun and no life.  I sunk almost all of my income into clearing off that debt (would be 3 years debt free if not for two emergencies that required me getting back in a bit), not much at all left over.  So while I only rarely kept a little disposable income for special occasions or an odd treat, for the mostpart I tried to stick to things that would cost very little, if nothing at all to keep myself occupied.  My main focus in life was getting to debt free, so it wasn’t at all hard to do.  For any of you who might be in a similar situation and frequently find yourself bored and feeling lost, because sometimes we even forget about the most obvious things when left to our own devices, here are several suggestions for you that will keep you so busy and entertained this summer you’ll forget you’re saving money in the process:

  1. Pick up a tourist brochure and go play tourist in your own town or city.  Chances are there are some walking tours or unique or historical sights you have never seen, or never stopped to appreciate.  It can be as educational and/or fun as you’d like.  My brother and I have done this together in the past.  I’ve also gone on the night time haunted graveyard tours at the nearby cemetary.  It costs literally a couple of dollars.  Similarly…
  2. If you’re in a city hop on a bus or subway and if it is safe to do so, stay on until you get to a stop you’ve never been to before.  Spend some time wandering around and checking out the area, doing some window shopping finding new stores, stopping for coffee and maybe some new reading at that quaint looking little coffee or book shop, then try to find your way home again.  Don’t forget your camera! When I was 18 and had just moved to a new city this was how I learned my way around it, and also found my favourite cafes in the process.  Although…
  3. If you have a vehicle and a full tank of gas, drive to the next town over and have an ‘adventure’ day.  Be a tourist for the day and even if it’s just a small community, find fun things to check out – everywhere has their own history, tourist or sightseeing spot or beach.  And maybe, just maybe that corner ice cream shop they have signs for everywhere really is the ‘best little ice cream shop in the world’.  You get to be a tourist and see new things but still be able to make it home to your own bed.
  4. It’s almost summer!  Hit the beach!  Enjoy some sun, build a sandcastle, swim, take artsy blog photos.
  5. Shakespeare in the park, outdoor symphonies, curbside musicians, even buskers and street artists.  There is always something of an artsy nature going on outdoors in a park, an amphitheatre or town square somewhere.
  6. Outdoor workout classes.  Many instructors take to the outdoors during summer and typically offer a free class anywhere from once a summer to once a week.  Try them all or pick one consistently.  Even in the very small city in which I live I have seen at the very least yoga, tai chi, Beachbody and fun run groups.  I’ll admit to having never joined in on one of these, but I prefer to…
  7. Swim, run, jog, bike, hike, canoe, jump rope, kayak, play a pick up ball game, surf, go waterskiing/tubing/wakeboarding, play tennis (we have a few outdoor courts that are open to anyone to walk in and use), rollerblade (the city I used to live in had a cross country paved trail running through it, down a scenic route), badminton, volleyball, SUP (stand up paddleboard), climb or rappel if you have the equipment, dive, walk…. there are numerous ways you can stay active at little to no charge and have a great time.
  8. If you’re a golfer and just can’t justify the expense, hit the driving range.  The one at our local golf and country club charges just for the balls, not the usage (I also own my own clubs – which I bought on clearance for a steal – so that avoids the equipment rental also).  Yeah, you’re not playing 18 holes, but I find it ultimately more satisfying and actually prefer it to golfing any day.
  9. Beach parties, BBQ’s, fires, beach music festivals.  People want to be outdoors and enjoy the season, not indoors spending money.  There is always an occasion somewhere.
  10. Sidewalk sale block parties and farmer’s markets.  You don’t even have to shop, but there are likely to be some fantastic sales, some fantastic food vendors, people to run into or excited tourists to people watch (if that’s your thing – and I don’t mean it in a creepy way), and a fun energy all around from all of the people out there doing the same thing you are.
  11. Free tickets?  Most events where I live are sellouts.  People I know buy and hoard tickets to everything going on in the summer as soon as they become available (it’s a small place, with not many venues for community events, so they are sought after commodities by everyone who lives here), and the week or day of the event people frequently find that they can’t attend and are giving them away.  I wound up with two VIP tickets to two nights concerts when my sister decided she and her husband weren’t interested in the bands playing.  I’ve also wound up with a lot of promo tickets or VIP passes from friend’s businesses when they realized they weren’t able to go.  The most important part of this is, don’t be a jerk.  Thank and do something nice for your friends back, and compensate or return the favour somehow for those who have lost their own money.
  12. Volunteer.  If you volunteer for events you’ll get a front row pass to the action, maybe a few tips or goodies, and likely an event shirt.  I’ve never done this but know many people who do it regularly.  I’ve just found if it’s an event worth going to, I want to enjoy and take it all in rather than working at it.  If you volunteer for community projects, soup kitchens, meals on wheels, whatever, you’re going to get to learn your town better, have interesting conversations with interesting people, you can add it to your resume or student community service hours if need be, and feel a sense of pride, knowing you are doing some good.  I’ve done tree planting, a small town vet’s office, a wildlife rehab clinic, even volunteered at the library and just did a local high school student mock trial.
  13. Community arts centres or community living centres.  Ours have community gardens, paint nights, poetry, cooking classes and then some.  I went to a pie baking workshop here once.  It was a lot of fun, I baked my first pie, and it tasted delicious.  The only thing they ask is that if you can, purchase one of their calendars or make a small donation to the centre.
  14. If you have frequent flyer miles, cash some in.  Depending on what your program/s is/are, you could pick a friend or relative who live elsewhere and would be happy to have you visit and stay with them for a weekend and hop a long weekend flight, you could take a round trip train ride, you could book a hotel room in your own or a nearby city or town to be pampered and get away for a night or two, or for a romantic weekend.  You could even redeem for some merchandise, which allows you to browse and shop, get some packages in the mail (who doesn’t love those?), and maybe even get yourself something new to play with (Airmiles has a lot of smaller items, but sometimes even has things like kayaks, bikes, scooters, water/sports equipment, includes things like event/park/ski/pool/site admission, and just having your card will get you discounted entry into many places, including amusement parks).
  15. Get your museum’s/planetarium’s schedule for special events.  Many times there are free admissions.  Other times they may have special events or speakers (mine has a cooking demonstration/class each spring once a week featuring different ethnicities traditional foods each week, which I have attended twice now), at a nominal admittance fee.
  16. Checking out libraries, local pools and arenas schedules is great for those with families – there are usually different free kid’s activities and the odd open family day.
  17. Have a standing weekly coffee date with a friend or two.  It’s 1-10$ every week or two, gets you out and gives you something to look forward to, gives you a change of scenery, and gets you regular face time with your girls or bros.
  18. Head on down to your favourite pub.  My favourite has 5$ Friday charity beef on a bun dinner, inexpensive sampler trays of their own craft beers, brewery tours (for the tourist in you), and daily drink specials.  Yours may have a happy hour.
  19. Eat clean and from the earth.  Groceries are one area I splurge a little extra on, but nothing at all beats the taste, freshness and quality straight from nature – the real organic stuff.  You can garden (which is actually quite a satisfying activity), forage (berry and tea leave picking), go fishing, or hunt for sustenance (if that’s what you do).  The best eating summer I ever had was the one in which I had raided my mother and my aunt’s gardens (no space for one now at my apartment), scoured the farmer’s markets, had gone to a farm and wound up purchasing fresh meat and cheese straight from their private store, bought eggs straight from a hobby farmer I know, went fishing, got a few birds, picked Labrador tea, raspberries, strawberries and blueberries, picked my own crab apples (for jelly and apple butter), and then hit up an Italian bakery for some pasta and gnocchi.  I had a fun time doing a lot of this, got outdoors a lot, wound up on a dairy farm tour, and partook in activities (I personally think berry picking is an event – I love it), and while I didn’t think about it at the time, saved at least several hundreds off of my summer grocery bills.
  20. Indulge your inner child and go find a park with a swing-set or other apparatus to play on.  You’d be surprised how much fun this can be.  Take your kid, go by yourself, with a friend, a significant other, your dog.
  21. Pack a picnic and go somewhere with a view to eat it.  Again, don’t forget your camera.
  22. Chess or checkers in a park.  Not in my town, but other places have this.
  23. Find a hammock, deck, tree or rock and enjoy the sun or shade napping and/or reading something off your summer book list.
  24. Find a city savings guide or coupon book and go try out new places or things.  Many of the newer boutiques in my town have free giveaways with a coupon from our local magazine, for no purchase necessary touristy items or in store credit draws.  I grab these and use them at local shops I’ve never been into before – I get something fun out of it, and get to check new places out this way.  I went back to four or five of these shops to do most of my Christmas shopping last year (I have a big family) because of having gone in there for the free item.
  25. Instead of going to the theatre to see a ridiculously priced movie you didn’t really want to see, spend a date night or friend date in watching a rented or Netflix movie, pick up some popcorn, find a pizza or other takeout special.
  26. Blow up that old kiddie pool, or find a cheap one at a discount shop.  Your kids or pets will love it, and you’ll have fun watching them enjoy it.  Or maybe, just maybe, you’ll just want one to lounge in your backyard by yourself.
  27. Go camping.  Tent it, or borrow or dig out a camper.  Go with a group or go it alone with a pet (but be safe).  If you’re scared of the wild hit up your nearest camping/provincial park – which will cost a fee, usually – or even just your back yard.  Cook over the fire or barbecue.  Enjoy nature.  Watch the stars.
  28. Check out fairs and expos.  When I was 18-20 I lived in Calgary, where they have the Stampede every year.  Admission was expensive (and me and my friends were all young and broke), but if you went first thing in the morning you would get free admission for the day, then could take off to hit up the free city wide pancake breakfasts, go take a nap or go to work or school or whatever it is young people do again, and then come back later in the day to enjoy the rides or midways, or the daily outdoor concerts with fairly popular artists and then fireworks.  I’m not sure if it’s the same now, but may still be, and you may be able to find things of this nature in your own locality.
  29. Play in a sprinkler.  Either in your own yard, or grab a cold (non-alcoholic) drink, ice cream cone or popsicle on a hot day and go for a walk in a residential area; see how many sprinklers you can get splashed under.  This is fun with kids, but fun can be had alone or with a friend or pet doing this too.
  30. Wash, wax, detail your own car.  You’ll get outside, get some exercise, get – and take pride in – a clean vehicle, and save money on the carwash.  And if you’re at all like me, you’ll have fun doing it.

After years of trying out different things, ranging from free to $100+ a head charitable events and concerts, I can actually say that I am at a point in my life where the free events and activities bring me the most satisfaction and happiness.  I have also learned the most from these things.  I do derive pleasure from more expensive outings and charitable events, though there is a lot more pressure to behave a certain way, to adhere to a certain schedule and timeline, to dress in a certain manner, and frequently you don’t know many of the people in attendance or get to choose the company you’re in, not to mention come the end of the evening I find they cost far more than the initial ticket price would have had you think (if you’ve ever been to a 3 or 4 figure a head or table charitable event, that fee is just the starting point).  These types of things can take a lot of enthusiasm out of the whole outing.  I usually have much more fun out on the lake with my guy and my mutt doing just about anything, enjoying the sun, beaches or water than I do most anything else that costs money.

What about you all?  What are your favourite low cost outings?  What types of activities are you getting up to this summer?  Anything on this list you’ve tried and have an interesting story to share about?


Author: thebrokegirlsguidetobetterliving

Welcome! I am "thebrokegirl", aka Mandy. And what makes me a broke girl? Being a single income household, living the best life I can alongside my big grumpy dog obviously, but also because I'm not perfect - I'm broke - I'm a work in progress, which is exactly how I want to stay! My passion for writing, research, trying new things and wanting to help and inspire others are what inspired me to start this blog. So what makes me an expert on better living? Nothing! I'm just a girl trying. And what is better living? It's mindfulness, small changes, simple acts, baby steps to help make your day, your health, your environment, your life just that little much better. I'm on a lifelong journey to level up my life, and invite you to share that journey alongside me!

8 thoughts on “Fun Without Money?”

    1. Thank you so much for the nice response! I found it to be one of the more rewarding experiences I have gone through – it forced me to really evaluate my priorities, to be creative when need be, and helped me to learn a lot more life skills. Hope things are going well with you! So happy you found it helpful.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Our new favorite free activity is to make a maze outline with sticks. My kids love trying to trick their maze goers with dead ends. It serves three purposes: 1. Fun 2. Critical thinking skill development for my kids 3. We pick up the sticks from the yard.

    We also enjoy time at the creek. Empty ice cream buckets or butter tubs make perfect holders for pretty rocks, water, crawdads, and other treasures.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh my gosh, that is fantastic! I’ve never heard that before. Such a great way to inspire creativity in them also. Your kids are very lucky to have you as a parent. It sounds like you have a lot of fun, and that they also get a lot out of your adventures. Thanks for reading and commenting!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. So glad you enjoyed! Summer is my absolute fave season – and it seems such a shame to be indoors wasting money when you can be out adventuring or just taking in the sights and smells and sounds. I recommend taking loads of pics everywhere you go, and keeping your eye out in the community for local photography contests – my town has different ones like our annual phone book cover competition, amateur local lake/ activity / festival themed ones, with various fun prizes. Not a big deal, but friends of mine have wound up in local calendars and had their pics featured in the next years phone book, which is always kind of fun 🙂 Prizes usually range from tickets to something to small cash prizes. Always an idea worth considering 🙂


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