Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Fun Free-For-All

10 free (or almost free) things to do with your family and friends this summer...


I am on a budget. Everyone I know is on a budget. In this economy there are few words I hear as often as BUDGET. So I like to find things that will easily fit into my budget. There is a surprising amount of available options. Some of them might seem like common sense, but honestly, most of these I would not think about on the fly. When I try to think about things to usually means my 3' long to-do list on the fridge.

1. Go on a wandering walk. Just head out your front door and go in whichever direction looks the most interesting. As long as you have some basic navigational skills, you won’t get lost, and you can turn around or backtrack whenever you get bored or hit a dead end. Along the way, who knows what kind of interesting stuff you might find?

2.  Make Christmas gifts in advance. If you know already that some people will be on your Christmas list, why not spend some time now making them interesting gifts and saving yourself some money over the long haul? Make them some homemade soap, some homemade hot chocolate mix, and maybe a bottle of homemade beer as a gift. Prepare all of these items, then go ahead and box and wrap them, since they’ll stay good for months. Not only is the gift less expensive than what you’d spend at your local department store, it’s also more thoughtful, and it’ll save you time during the harried Christmas season.

3.  Build a giant blanket fort. If you have kids, there are few things more fun than an afternoon spent building and playing in a gigantic fort in the living room. Use chairs, blankets, and tables to make an enormous hidden structure, then hide in there and play games, read awesome blogs, watch funny videos on your laptop, and read books. If they’re a bit older, build two forts (on opposite sides of the room) and have “fort wars” – toss small beanbags and pillows back and forth. No cost, but an afternoon that’s a ton of fun. (Picture courtesy of  The Shoes We Wear)

4. Make some homemade greeting/birthday/Christmas cards. All you really need for this is some card stock or some cheap blank cards from your local dollar store, plus some photographs (or a desktop printer). My stepson loves making pop up cards! Just use pictures and other elements to create unique greeting and holiday cards, then save them for the appropriate occasion.

5.  Practice origami. All you need is some scrap paper and a bit of time. Start with the simple things, like cranes and frogs, then you can try harder stuff like an origami iris. A well-made origami piece constructed from interesting paper can be a beautiful decoration. If you are a Star Wars fan like my husband you might even want to try something like this awesome Yoda!

 6. Have a quilting bee. All you need is a bunch of spare cloth (old shirts will even work, as will old curtains, old sheets, and so forth), some needles, some thread, some scissors, and some friends. Just get together, cut out squares of interesting cloth, and start sewing. You can stuff the inside with soft excess cloth, like tee shirts and such, instead of buying batting, and you’ll create a warm and interesting quilt over time.

7.  Do some puzzles. I enjoy doing jigsaw puzzles, sudoku puzzles, and crossword puzzles. You can find a huge number of these puzzles online for free. They’re a great way to stretch your mind a bit at the kitchen table for a half an hour or so, solving a problem with just your intellect. If you are not a puzzle person you could have a family game night with boardgames or video games.

8. Volunteer your time. There are countless volunteer projects out there that need nothing more than your time. You can always volunteer to walk dogs at your local animal shelter, weed your elderly neighbor's garden, build with Habitat for Humanity, or spend a weekend sorting clothes at a family services store. A Saturday spent working for a volunteer cause is a Saturday well spent – it gives you a full day spent making a positive contribution to society, working your body and your mind for the benefit of others, and leaving you at the end of the day knowing you used your gifts to provide for others.

 9. Build some paper airplanes. Design and build a bunch of different paper airplanes, then have a competition in the back yard to see which one flies the best. There are many different designs to choose form if you want the "professional edge". This is a great way to use up some scrap paper, particularly old newspapers. You can easily turn it into a contest – the winner gets to pick what activity to engage in next, or gets to choose what you’re having for supper.

10.  Turn on the water sprinkler. This is another great one for family fun with kids. Just run out a hose in the backyard, attach a sprinkler to the end, and turn it on, jetting the water up in the air. Then run around in the water. Lots of fun for the kids – and it can be a ton of fun for the parents, too, if they run through the sprinklers.

Don't forget to check your local library or city website to find free festivals and activities in your town. Sometimes you can even find good stuff by simply googling "free things to do in [insert your city and state here]."

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