Frugal Frivolity

by Lyn Michaud


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Fun, when considered a luxury, might be the first thing cut from a budget. However, having fun relieves stress and having fun with people you care about builds relationships. My daughter and I plan regular Girls' Adventures, my husband and I share Date Night and the whole family gets together for Discovery Day. Planning in advance adds excitement and anticipation.

Need frugal fun ideas to keep from falling back on the old-standby of dinner and a movie? These are just a few options to consider for activities while getting to know someone, taking the family out for a good time or rekindling romantic sparks. Everyone has an idea of what constitutes fun though trying something new is rewarding.

Outdoor adventures combine fitness and fun and can be tailored to abilities, skills and fitness levels. Walking and hiking require nothing more than time and can be made special with a picnic packed from home. Take along a small backpack to hold drinking water and lunch in a soft-side cooler. Other possibilities including taking up a new sport, mountain biking, one-on-one basketball, yoga, rock climbing and bird watching. Practice safety first. Use protective gear and check equipment to keep it in proper working order.

Many businesses and organizations capitalize on holidays. Every region has a special race adapted to the season: "coffin races," "stretcher races," "outhouse races." If an object can be put on wheels or floated on water, it'll be raced somewhere. During the winter holidays, attend a tree trimming or sliding party followed by hot cocoa or cider or enjoy the celebrations of another nation. Participate in Easter Egg Hunts. Watch parades and fireworks. Try pumpkin chucking or toilet seat tossing. Find your way through a corn maze or haunted house. Go on a hayride. Honor patriotic duty at Veteran's Day celebrations at national cemeteries or memorials and shake hands with veterans and thank them for their service.

Cultural connections can be found way-off-Broadway at colleges, religious centers, high schools and even in the local park. For intellectual pursuit, attend a public lecture at the local college. Community groups organize events. Libraries and bookstores host author readings and book signings. Other options include free or inexpensive concerts in the park, factory tours and festivals. Wander through a museum or art gallery together and enjoy afternoon tea.

Not-for-profit organizations rely on volunteers throughout the year and the volunteer gains something from the experience. Opportunities vary from one-day projects to longer commitments and are open to a variety of age levels. In addition to clean-up projects, you might choose teaching English to non-native speakers or being a docent at museums, zoos and wildlife parks. Maybe you'd prefer taking care of animals at a sanctuary or building houses. You can take part in an archaeology dig or collect scientific data for a researcher. With volunteer opportunities, training is usually provided so being an expert isn't necessary. It's a chance to meet new people and get a positive feeling of doing something good. As a thank you, the host often provides perks to maybe free lunch, snacks or free passes to share.

Fundraisers aren't free or necessarily cheap, but they do let you enjoy a good time and donated money goes to a good cause. This year might be the year to attend the spaghetti dinner at the Fire Station, try regional foods at one of the churches or social clubs, sample wine at a tasting or watch pets and models show off fashions.

Attractions like movies, amusement parks and festivals can be expensive. Try putting $2 to $3 per week into a Fun Fund to pay the expense. A little research can get you big savings. Take advantage of "quick peek passes" to get an idea of whether you'd enjoy spending the day at an amusement park. Some parks offer next day passes if you arrive within a certain time before closing and you can use the short time to look around and plan your future visit. Listen to your favorite radio station for ticket give-aways. For teens, a part-time job at an amusement park might provide an additional perk of free passes.

Intrigued and wondering where to find similar frugal fun opportunities? Newspapers provide listings of upcoming events for their readers. To be extra frugal, read the paper at the local library or check out the events listings online for local chambers of commerce, cultural districts and radio/television stations. Check with university and hospital public relations offices, high school offices and social clubs and religious organizations for events open to the public. Ask people if they know of any special events or for recommendations. You might be surprised how many free or inexpensive fun things are available in your area.

Take the Next Step:

  • Just because you're frugal doesn't mean you can't have a little fun. Begin looking today for the many frugal fun things that are available in your area.
  • Visit www.stretcher.com/menu/topic-d.htm#familyactivities to find other great ideas for frugal entertainment and activities.

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