Wednesday, January 4, 2006

Wallet-Friendly Entertainment Options: Don’t Be Bored Out of Your Gourd When There’s Fun You Can Afford

Author: Nick
Category: Money
Topics: ,

They say that the best things in life are free, right? I don’t know about you, but I can think of some really great things that cost a helluva lot of money. Once ocean cruises, fast cars, and big houses cost zero dollars, then maybe we’ll believe what “they” have to say. (Or maybe they were talking in a metaphorical sense about love, family, friendship, and the feeling of happiness within oneself. If so, awww.)

There seems to be a general understanding in today’s society that having fun goes hand in hand with spending money. Trip to the ballpark? That’s fifty bucks a person right there. A movie and popcorn? Eight hundred dollars! Not ending this with a corny MasterCard reference? Priceless. Er, wait…

Just because it can cost a hundred bucks or more for four hours of entertainment doesn’t mean it has to. My wife and I have found plenty of ways to have fun for little or no money. Now before you go getting your head in the gutter over that last statement, here are a few things we enjoy doing that don’t cost much and can even be enjoyed with friends…

Have fun for free or cheap

  • Board games do not necessarily mean “bored” games. You can find all of the classics–Monopoly, Scrabble, Twister, and countless others–for cheap in most toy stores and online. If you’re worried about the games getting old quickly, or if you’ve already exhausted your massive game closet, try some of the new variations on older games like Triopoly and Super Scrabble or try any of the dozens of excellent games geared toward gatherings of friends. Some games can be a little pricey, but they’re something you can hang on to and play again and again for years to come, so the cost quickly amortizes.
  • Good movies at public libraries. They might not have the mind-boggling selection of your local Blockbuster, but your nearby public library may carry new release videos for a small fee or possibly even free. Many libraries also lend the latest music CDs. While you’re there, you can even pick up some books to read. Remember books? Those things that we used for information before the internet? They’re not just for kindling!
  • Look for free things to do in your town. Chances are your taxes are paying for them already, so get out there and enjoy them! Just down the road from here in Washington, D.C., there are tons of free places to visit.
  • Go to the mall, but leave your wallet at home. Tegan and I love doing this since there are several large malls in the area. The bad thing about shopping malls is that they’re concentrated money-suckers. It can be extremely difficult for someone (like, say, a husband who loves seeing his wife wear cute outfits) to keep a closed wallet when there are so many shiny things leaping out at you saying “Buy me! I’ll make your body look gorgeous or your room look psychedelic.” If you make the trip without the cash or credit cards in your wallet, you can feel free to try on adorable clothes (bring a camera and take shots of you and your friends in thousand-dollar outfits!), picture that seven-foot flamingo statue in your living room, or gawk at a thirty-carat diamond necklace without having to worry about busting your bank account.
  • A walk in the park or any of the other million things you can do with a wide-open space. Grab a ball, frisbee, or gigantic tub of water balloons and spend the day with friends at a park. Chase the kids off the playground and relive your childhood monkey bar and sand castle memories. Bring a picnic basket full of food you put together yourself and avoid the high prices of eating out. Or take your special someone on a private walk and … get to know each other better. Just be sure you’re really alone if things get exciting. Yes, I’m talking to you, crazy couple from that park a decade ago who didn’t realize I was fifty feet away hiding in the jungle gym.
  • Volunteer your time. While this one is probably obvious, there are many people out there who are willing to volunteer their time, but they associate volunteering with work and no fun, or they don’t really know how to go about volunteering in the first place. Sure, if you volunteer for something that you have no interest in, it can be tedious and scare you away from volunteering in the future. I highly recommend the free online volunteer opportunity matching service VolunteerMatch. You can locate a variety of service opportunities in your area, and you can even select from different categories that will help you find a volunteer position you’ll actually enjoy. Volunteering is a great thing and helps make this country a wonderful place, but why shouldn’t volunteers actually like what they’re giving their time to do?
  • Read this blog! Okay, so maybe the best thing in life is free since it doesn’t cost you anything to partake of my wisdom and wit. How lucky you are!

These are just a few of the ways you can keep the entertainment in your life while omitting the wallet-sucking action. If you still don’t believe me that spending and having fun can be mutually exclusive, just lock your pocket book in a safe for a few days and try out some of the items on this list. Better yet, send your money to me and I’ll hold on to it for you!

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