25 Cheap (or Free) Thrills
So we’re all a little bit broke, right? Or maybe not owners of a bank account of Switzerland-esque size? Regardless of your income, it’s always fun to enjoy the cheaper things in life, isn’t it? A few things that I love to do when pay day is looking a bit farther away than I’d like:
1. Ride a bike/scooter/motorcycle
Summer was made for bike rides along the river, filling your basket with goodies from the farmers market. Or with puppies. If you have a friend with a scooter or motorcycle, ask for a ride. Bonus points for taking it on windy roads!
2. Pick fruit
Why is it more awesome to pick fruit than just buy a bushel? I surely don’t know, but it really is more fun, isn’t it? I love apple-picking in the autumn, pretending that I live in a J. Crew catalog. Check out pickyourown.org for listings of farms near you.
3. Afternoon movie matinee
Because every movie is better if it costs $4.
4. Leave love notes on strangers’ cars
Tell them they’re fabulous and crazy intelligent and that you like their coat. Or that you know that that thing they’re working on? It’s going to be great. Or just a note that says “I know you can do it!”
5. Have a picnic
Food tastes better when it’s eaten outside, on a blanket, in the company of ants. Pack up your favorite nibbles and head somewhere lovely and green.
6. Potluck and games night
If you want to have some friends over, but can’t afford footing the bill for a fancy dinner, invite everyone to bring a dish, pull out your favorite old board games and play a few rounds of Trivial Pursuit. Or, really, Girl Talk.
7. Get a free makeover at the make-up counter
Okay, they’re probably expecting you to buy something. But you can always feign distaste at your make-over and storm out. Or, if you’re classy, you could just tell them that you’re shopping for a new look.
8. Throw a Naked Lady Party
But not like that, you dirty bird! Invite your favorite ladies to your place, bringing over the clothes and accessories that they’re no longer feeling to trade with each other. Borrow a few full length mirrors, put on some RuPaul, throw together some cheap appetizers and you’ve got a super cheap, really fun party.
9. Take a bus adventure
I have extolled the virtues of bus adventures before, but let’s belabor the point a bit, shall we? Buy a full-day pass on your city’s bus line, pack a lunch and your camera and head out to explore the city. Bonus points for getting off at the same time as that cute hipster!
Improve your karma, meet cool people and do something fun? That’s a win/win/win, y’all! You’ll obviously get the most out of a volunteer opportunity that corresponds to your interests, so I’d give volunteermatch.org a try. I searched ‘writing’ and found 667 volunteer opportunities!
11. Go to a museum’s free day
It’s always fun to ogle dinosaur bones or paintings, but it’s more fun if it’s free. Check out museumfreedays.org for free days in major cities. In the Twin Cities area, The Walker is free on Thursday nights, The Minnesota Children’s Museum is free the third Sunday of every month, and The Minnesota Institute of Arts and The Weisman are always free!
12. Go to the library
Why pay $7 for the latest Vogue when you can peruse it for free at your library? Check out DVDs, language-learning CDs and Twilight (in the event that you refuse to spend money on that delicious foolishness).
13. Go to an open mic night
Whether you favor a poetry slam, comedy or some tender-hearted singer/songwriters, there’s certainly an open mic night in your city that caters to your whims. Sure, you’ll see some stinkers, but you might also spot the next Lily Allen! Here’s a collection of all the open mic nights in the Twin Cities.
I looooove karaoke. Largely because I’m (erroneously) convinced that I can rock ‘Heart of Glass’ like no other. If you’re too shy to take part, at least you can be entertained by the group of ladies yelling out ‘I Will Survive’ or the fifteen dudes who are going to sing that song about having friends in low places.
15. Engage in a covert, fitting room photo shoot
Dress up in your most impressive outfit and hit up those crazy expensive boutiques where you can’t even afford the socks. Pull a few great outfits off the racks, try them on in those over sized fitting rooms and document the whole thing on your digital camera. This girl has some fantastic photos from doing just that! If you can’t own the clothes, at least you can remember how you look in them.
16. Airport people watching
I’ve spent an abnormal amount of time in airports over the last few years and watching tearful departures and joyful reunions never, ever gets old.
17. Beauty school spa day
If you’re not afraid to let a supervised student work on you, you can get crazy, crazy cheap salon services. The Aveda Institute in Minneapolis offers $13 haircuts that include a wash, dry, head massage and makeup! For less than the cost of an entree at Applebys!
18. Real estate open houses
Barring marriage to a professional athlete, I will never be able to afford a home in the neighborhood where I currently rent an apartment. But! That doesn’t mean that I can’t stop in at the real estate open houses, check how the other 5% lives and eat a lot of free cookies.
19. Utilize some sidewalk chalk
My nine-year old neighbor is always doing this – drawing and labeling robots and, oddly, sprinklers. Draw a hop scotch on the sidewalk in front of your favorite coffee shop and see how many people will hop through it.
20. Photo scavenger hunt
One of my 30 before 30 goals is to complete a 26 things photo scavenger hunt. You can find August’s list here. What a lovely way to spend a summer evening, no?
21. Attend a cultural events
No, not the opera. Does your city have a large immigrant or refugee community? Check out their events calendar and you could find yourself at an awesome Day of the Dead party or an “Auspicious Wrist Tying Ceremony” like I attended a few weeks ago.
22. Watch the Wizard of Oz while listening to The Dark Side of the Moon
Seriously, that business matches up in an uncanny way. Particularly great for a rainy Sunday night.
23. Buy a Sunday paper to split with a friend, and read it while mulling over a coffee
I love doing this. It’s so much more gratifying than checking cnn repeatedly. You can be those people who say “Listen to this!” or “What’s a five letter word for ‘Egyptian king?'”
24. Get a free pass to a swanky gym
Work out, shmurk out. How about swimming a few laps in the pool, doing a bit of rock climbing and then sitting in the sauna? Yes please! Lifetime Fitness offers free 7 day passes.
25. Feed the squirrels/ducks/geese
Okay, I know this isn’t 100% kosher and that animals should be left to forage for themselves. But! If the old ladies are going to do it, you might as well join the fun, right? Two slices of bread have never been so much fun.
What fun things do you do when funds are low?
p.s. More things to do here: The Social Side.
•Thank You Sarah!•