When we’re on a tight budget, be it for whatever reason, we tend to allocate for the fun or entertainment portion of our lives last. While it’s sometime easy to and simpler to stay at home, fun is extremely important to our mental and physical health. The best way to fit this kind of relaxation into your lifestyle is to plan a small amount on a weekly or monthly basis for fun, and to think take advantage of the myriad of free and low cost opportunities out there. This makes it easier to budget for the occasional “big fun”, and sometimes more willing to step out of that box, if you will.
One of the easiest ways to do this is to explore all the free and low cost opportunities in your immediate area. It’s the first day of fall, although you wouldn’t know it where I live. The outside temperatures are in the nineties and that will probably continue into October. Even so, I’m slowly making the mental adjustment that happens as we move from one season to the next. One of the reasons I especially enjoy fall is that there are so many things to do within my little budget where I live. I encourage you to look around and see what is near you that you can explore. When looking for things to do, think outside your traditional “box” if you will. Some suggestions:
Make a fall errand a destination. . At my neighborhood pumpkin patch they have a maze, pumpkins carved in eighty styles, free or cheap apple cider and even hayrides on occasion. I can spend a few hours there, come home with a small pumpkin and know I’ve enjoyed my day. My local farmer’s market goes well into October. Although the produce is less varied, they still have a wide variety of foods, nuts and baked goods. They also have music, and its a nice way to spend a morning. I may have a coffee, a brownie, visit with the vendors and eventually head home.
Look for seasonal festivals. This weekend my town is having an Oktoberfest. There will be vendors, demonstrations, German music, and decorations. I’ll walk, people watch and the price of my day will be beer and a pretzel.
This may be the best time of year to enjoy nature. We don’t have falling leaves here in Dallas (or at least we don’t have leaves that change color much!). We do however, have huge lavender farms nearby. During the fall there is one day where they each open up for free all day, and with free parking. The drive on the way is beautiful and relaxed as well. The farms allow you to cut lavender from the field at will. In the fall you can grab your own veggies and zinnias for a minimal fee. A group of gals from my church take the very nice drive there on a Sunday afternoon. We usually spend half a day. We wander through the fields, grab a flower or so and enjoy the outdoors. Shortly, I will drive from Dallas to Denver. I’ll watch the leaves change, take lots of photographs, stop at a roadside stand or two and grab some hot cider. What’s normally a pretty boring trip ends up being a mainly fun day.
Look at your local paper as well as your city paper (or website). Don’t just look at fall festivals, but other freebies as well. The Dallas Morning News Online has a list of fifty free things to do in the area.
Check out local malls and shopping centers through their website. Texas at least seems to be moving away from indoor malls and toward outdoor shopping areas with center squares. My venue has a fall fest and walk/run coming up.
These are just a few suggestions on ways to fine some frugal fall frolics. Use your imagination.
Remember that fun and entertainment, like anything else needs to be budgeted for. Sometimes when we are on a strict budget, this seems to be the first thing to go. I tend to take advantage of every free thing on the planet. But the truth is, not everything is free, and we need fun, socialization, entertainment to keep us sane, healthy and engaged. I tend to allow myself ten or fifteen dollars a week, making it a game most weeks to see how much I can come home with.
Another part of budgeting for “entertainment” is, like anything else, planning. Know which hours a festival or fair is more likely to be at half price. I enjoy a beer and pretzel, and I like to taste new things (not that German food is new to me). But I prefer that on those rare occasions I actually eat away from home, they be at places like the French restaurant my offspring will treat me to this weekend. This means that I eat before I leave, and my foods and beverages are bough for the experience, not out of hunger. Depending on the trip and the destination, it may mean I take my own beverage and/or food. Two Christmases ago my children bought me a picnic basket similar to this one-I love it! If you know you’ll be tempted to spend more than you budgeted, leave the cars at home and keep an extra ten or so in the car.
So, use these ideas, grab just a little cash, and go have fun this weekend!!