One of the biggest misconceptions about living frugal is that it has to be boring. Chances are that every time you read a post from a personal finance blogger that takes their frugality to the extreme you envision that their idea of a fun Friday night is sitting around on the living room floor with only one light turned on while they clip coupons and rinse out plastic sandwich baggies with rainwater for re-use.
While the above scenario may certainly be true of some people I will be the first to admit that I am not naturally a frugal person as I enjoy figuring out ways to make more money rather than spend less money. I am all for saving money especially if I can automate the process by doing something simple like using a cash back credit card rather than a debit card when I make purchases but I will admit that sometimes I do struggle to come up with ways to have some fun on a weekend without breaking the bank. That being said, let's see if we can put our thinking caps on and try to come up with a lot of free (or close to free) ways to spend a Friday night that are just flat out fun as well.
In the spirit of Tom's recent post with 10 great ways to save money on Valentine's Day (where admittedly you HAVE to spend money or else end up on the doghouse for months) let see if I can list off 14 free or close to free ways to spend a Friday night that are also fun and then please chime in via the comments below with any ideas that you would like to add.
#1 Invite People Over for a Karaoke Party
You may think that throwing a karaoke party sounds like it could be expensive because you have to buy food, drinks, a karaoke machine, etc. right? Wrong. If you plan ahead then you can ask all of the people who are coming to bring a couple of drinks, a vegetable tray, cheese & crackers, etc. You might even end up at the end of the night with more food in your refrigerator than before the party! If you don't have a karaoke machine and you don't have any friends that have a karaoke machine then not to worry as you can play free online karaoke. Simply do a Google search for “free online karaoke” and find an option that works for you.
#2 Help Someone
OK, this might not be the first thing that jumps into your mind when you plan out fun filled ways that you can spend a Friday night but let's be honest – helping people offers a level of satisfaction that a night of partying just cannot match. Get involved with your church or a local community organization to see if you can help out with projects like feeding the homeless, working in a soup kitchen, volunteering to work with kids, etc. and you may just find that giving of yourself is not only a free way to spend a Friday night but also a fun and rewarding use of your time as well.
#3 Play a Board Game
You almost can't go wrong with classic board games like Monopoly, Scrabble, Clue, etc. but also if you are tired of the standard fare when it comes to board games then invite some friends over and have them each bring their favorite board game and a snack and you will not only get some low cost (i.e. free) snack options to serve but maybe everyone will also learn a new board game like the increasingly popular Settlers of Catan that will turn into a new favorite.
#4 Run a Scavenger Hunt
Scavenger hunts can be fun for both younger kids and adults alike. Sure, it may sound a little corny at first but if you have young kids then a scavenger hunt around the house or a nearby park is a sure fire winner and a great cheap way to have some quality family time. If you do not have young kids then invite some friends over and plan your own adult scavenger hunt that can span all across town and be filled with witty clues and even dares (“Hug 3 convenience store clerks and take a penny from each of their give a penny/take a penny dishes”).
#5 Go Hiking
Sure, you could just go for a walk but hiking is much more fun because it's adventurous, right? If you don't know of any good trails close to you or just want to try something new then check out Backpacker.com to find trails ideal for hiking and exploring near you.
#6 Start a Book Club
Love to read but want to step up your bookwormishness to a whole new level? Why not start your own book club? You can use a free website like GoodReads.com and be off to the races reading, debating, and reviewing books with your friends in no time. I recently started a book club myself with some friends and we are working our way through the Newsweek Top 100 Books List.
#7 Go to a Local Coffee House for Live Music
The great thing about the local music scene is that it's live, easy to get great seats for, and usually free or close to free. Check your paper or call around and find out what local bands and performers are going to be performing near you and go out and support your local musicians.
#8 Throw a Movie Critic Party
Of course, you knew that you would expect so see at least something in this list about watching a movie but why not take it a step further and invite some friends over to watch an older movie or a movie that is considered to be “high brow” and then either have a serious movie critique from everyone watching or just make spend the time making fun of the movie and pretending to be movie critics.
#9 Peruse the Local Art Galleries
If you really want to be pretentious then why stop at becoming a movie critic? Grab a group of friends and peruse the local art galleries.
#10 Go to a Dog Park
If you have a dog then head out to the dog park for a fun night of playing fetch, chase, and “quit trying to maul that poor collie” (if you are like me with a Bull Mastiff and a Pit Bull that are too used to playing rough with each other to bring to the dog park anymore – so for me this idea is crossed off of the list for the future but if you have a reasonably well behaved dog then go for it!) If you don't have a dog then steal one. (Kidding!)
#11 Have a Mini Olympics
Head out to a local high school or college campus and use their track to have a miniature Olympics. This works great if you have young kids as all you need for a fun night of family fun is a stopwatch and some bottles of water. If you want to really get fancy you can make this an ongoing event that masquerades what is really just a workout and keep track of all of the participants starting weight, starting BMI, time it takes to run a mile, etc. and then track improvements over time.
#13 Go to a High School Sporting Event
You might end up paying a few bucks for a ticket but high school sporting events are usually a lot of fun to watch and are quite cheap to boot.
#12 Go Swimming
Grab the family or some friends and head to a nearby lake or pond and jump right in. It's definitely free and you could even ramp up the fun factor by going skinny dipping but of course that would depend upon the company.
#14 Go Geocaching
I have never done this myself but I know some people who do this on a regular basis and I can see how this might be fun. Check out Geocaching.com to learn about how it works.
What Ideas Do YOU Have?
OK, I gave it my best shot. What ideas do YOU have for spending a Friday that are cheap and fun?
About the Author: Joel is a Certified Financial Planner™ and the owner of 4 Web based businesses. Some of his most recent projects include consumer websites with information about credit cards, auto insurance, and health insurance.