I followed that up with 15 things to do during such a weekend, 15 more things to do, and 15 deeply fulfilling things to do during such a weekend. Since then, lots of people have sent me ideas for activities for money-free weekends, plus we’ve uncovered a bunch of our own. Look at your town’s website (as well as those of cities and towns nearby) or stop by city hall to find a list of events going on in the community, many of which are free.
Not only is a library a warehouse of books, most libraries also have extensive CD and DVD collections you can check out.
Many towns have community sports fields where both youth and adult sports leagues and activities are regularly going on throughout the weekend. My favorite podcasts include The Splendid Table (on food topics), Marketplace (on economics and business), RadioLab (scientific and philosophical ideas), Fresh Air (interviews of general interest), This American Life (quirky general interest stuff), and This Week in Tech (technology news), among many others.
We have a pile of board games, mostly received as gifts, that we often pull out and play; our closest friend has a few choice ones as well. You probably have everything you need to make a loaf of bread in your kitchen right now (except for maybe the yeast). If your car’s due for an oil change, just bring home the oil and oil filter you need and teach yourself how to do it on your own.
Make an effort to introduce yourself to your neighbors if you don’t know them very well. Go through your collection, determine which items you’d actually like to keep, and get rid of the rest. Go through your cupboards and find any items that might have slipped to the back over time.
On your money-free weekend, spend some time thinking about what belongs on this list: your biggest short- and near-term goals, both personally and professionally.
This is a thought process that many people put off, but it makes you feel quite relieved when it’s done, adding to your peace of mind and relaxation. Research the interesting historic and cultural sites in your town, then go on a walking tour of them. Learning to knit requires two needles (a dollar, or probably free if your closet looks anything like ours), some yarn (extremely cheap and also likely laying in the closet if your home is like ours), a lot of patience, and an instructional video or two. Try making a scarf for a friend or a small blanket for a new baby in the home of a friend or a family member. Sign up for a free Flickr account, then upload some of your most interesting pictures to share with others. Get permission from the city to do this before you try it – ask if you can block off a street for a block party on a certain date. If you already have a bunch of basic food staples on hand, spend some time cooking some meals in advance to store in the freezer. One great way to ensure that you’re consistently making financial progress is to build your own net worth calculator.
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, thread, scissors, and some friends. Start off by writing a script for yourself, then turn on the camera and follow your script. This might be a boring task now, but if you can invest some time and trim $50 from your monthly bills for free, your future self will be very happy. You may not have set out to make an official time capsule 10 or more years ago, but chances are you have some old photos, high school notebooks, or other mementos stuffed in a box somewhere, whether in a closet, under the bed, or in the attic. If you have a digital scanner at home, put it to use and scan that pile of old prints you just dug out. If you have a rotating screensaver of pictures, scanning in old prints and adding them to the rotation will make your screensaver all the more amazing.
Not only is it a pleasant way to get your blood going, it also beautifies your neighborhood and the surrounding area, not just for your own enjoyment, but for everyone. Design and build a bunch of different paper airplanes, then have a competition in the back yard to see which one flies the best. It’s amazing how much you can refresh a room just by moving the furniture into new positions. Look around your house for a fun book to read, perhaps something loaned to you by a friend or something you received as a gift, and curl up and let yourself be sucked into the story. 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.
Not only is this a chance to catch up with another person who’s important to you and firm up your relationship, it can also be a very entertaining and enjoyable way to spend an hour or two.
In other words, spend some time in nature collecting items of interest (like particular rocks) or making observations of things.
All you need is a barrel or a large bucket (or, if you live in the country, some open space). One great afternoon project that will provide aesthetic value for years is deep cleaning a single room in your house, ideally the room you’re in most often.
Whether you want to make homemade birthday cards, thank-you cards, or Christmas cards, all you really need is some card stock or some cheap blank cards from your local dollar store, plus some photographs (or a desktop printer). Use your pictures and other elements to create unique greeting and holiday cards, then save them for the appropriate occasion.


Try to assemble a family tree, and see if you can link to any distant cousins or long-lost family members. Spending some time with your partner discussing goals can go a long way towards getting you both on the same page in your relationship. This may not sound like a fun activity up front, but the peace of mind it gives you will make your life a lot more relaxing.
If you’re a computer programmer, there are few more intellectually stimulating ways to get involved in your passion than to be involved in an open source programming project.
Card tricks are a fun way to entertain people in almost any situation. Many tricks rely on knowing a specific pattern, some basic sleight of hand, or a combination of the two. Even if you’re not a believer, attending a religious service can be a worthwhile educational experience. For example, the one hundred push-ups routine is very useful, but you need to couple it with other exercises, such as leg lifts, prone lifts, and jogging. By this, I mean a book that genuinely challenges both your beliefs and ideas as well as your language skills. I recommend trying out any of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novels or any essential work of philosophy to get started. Almost every town has a community swimming pool, public pond, or some sort of area where residents can swim – lacking that, go to a state park with a public swimming area.
In other words, we can’t make a run to the store to buy food, we can’t spend money on any sort of entertainment, and so on. No renting movies on cable, no text messages that aren’t already covered by our cell phone plan, and so on.
You’ll often be surprised at how many interesting (and free) activities are going on right now in your area.
Stop by, watch a game or two, and if something intrigues you, look into joining either as a participant or as a volunteer.
Classic games like Monopoly and Pictionary can be great fun, but our favorites are Settlers of Catan, Cartagena, Puerto Rico, and especially Ticket to Ride. All you really need is an old pan to catch the used oil and a funnel to refill the oil tank and pour the old oil back into the canisters for later disposal. If you meet any interesting people in your neighborhood, invite them over for a cup of coffee and a chat, just to get to know each other better. Invite some friends to do the same, then get together for a potluck dinner prepared from only these ingredients and whatever else you have on hand. Spend some time thinking about what you want to happen to your personal assets when you die, particularly in terms of the personal mementos that you want others to have and where you want the value of your estate to go.
Sports, CBS Sports, or ESPN and easily start a free fantasy sports league for you and your friends. Take lots of them, then go home later and see if you’ve taken anything beautiful and compelling. Spend the time to title them appropriately, add interesting captions, and allow them to be used under a Creative Commons Attribution license so your images can be enjoyed by as many people as possible. Some great suggested starting points: microeconomics, basics of philosophy, western philosophy, and introductory physics. It’s easy to prepare casseroles, soups, pasta meals, breakfast burritos, and many other items all at once, then store them in portion-sized containers in the freezer for quick and easy reheating on a busy weekday. Once you have it set up, updating it is easy, and it can provide a great snapshot of your financial situation as well as show off your progress.
Start with the simple things, like cranes and frogs, then you can try harder stuff like an origami iris. All you need is a digital camera that captures video or a smartphone and (optionally) some video editing software.
Pull them out and grant yourself the time to revel in those old memories or share them with your kids. Then just settle in with some snacks (whatever you have on hand) and burn a lazy afternoon and evening just watching movies together. It’s fun, romantic, great exercise, and it can help heal any relationship problems you might be having.
Pick one, add the coordinates to your GPS (or just use the app on your smartphone), and head out the door, letting your device serve as a treasure map. Just walk through the shared spaces in your neighborhood (parks, sidewalks, etc.) with a trash bag and a pair of gloves, and pick up the litter. If you want to really get into it, invite people that live near you to get involved as well and make an event out of it. Use chairs, blankets, and tables to make an enormous hidden structure, then hide in there and play games and read books.
Put your vegetable waste, coffee grounds, and eggshells in that bucket; you can add some yard waste such as grass clippings and leaves, too.
There are a lot of ways to learn a foreign language online, from podcasts that teach language skills, to apps like DuoLingo and Language Zen, to YouTube videos and many other free language learning opportunities. Getting that room pristine will subtly add to your enjoyment of that room for quite a while. You might also want to have some other creative printed materials on hand – I like to keep old New Yorker covers for purposes like these.


If your family has been in the area for a long time, your local library can help you track down centuries-old birth certificates and other records. Doing this can give you a much clearer picture of your heritage and help you get in touch with your family roots.
Find out what your partner wants out of life and what you can do to support it, then share your own desires. You can find a huge number of these puzzles online for free, and they’re a great way to stretch your mind a bit at the kitchen table. A Saturday working for a volunteer cause is a Saturday well spent: You can meet other people in your community while making a positive contribution to society and working your body and your mind for the benefit of others. Just run out a hose in the backyard, attach a sprinkler to the end, and turn it on, shooting the water up into the air.
Knowing how to meditate effectively and doing it regularly can be a major part of your stress management, and it costs nothing.
Learning a clever card trick and mastering how it’s done can be a great way to spend an afternoon, especially since you can use the skill again and again as a party trick. I really enjoy attending services of different faiths, as the varieties of religious experience are quite fascinating and incredibly insightful. You can also try this 10-minute cardio workout that gets progressively more intense, incorporating jumping jacks, push-ups, burpies, and other free exercises.
If you’re inspired to try your own money-free weekend, hopefully this guide can act as a master list of things to do to make it more enjoyable. Here’s a detailed visual guide for making a simple loaf with minimal ingredients or complexity. Even when you’re just playing for bragging rights, a fantasy league can spur competitive banter and endless discussion between your friends as the season unfolds.
Great images can lay the groundwork for homemade greeting cards (yep, keep going downwards for more on this), nice desktop wallpaper, screensavers, personalized gifts, or other interesting uses.
Not only can it be a ton of fun, it also helps you improve your communication skills, reach out to others, and perhaps earn a bit of income down the road as well.
Go door to door, telling people about the block party, and inviting them to bring something. In fact, you can get a college-level education on virtually hundreds of topics for free online.
Team up with friends and make it a social event – share ingredients so that you can all take some casseroles or other dishes home for the freezer.
You can stuff the inside with soft excess cloth, like t-shirts and such, instead of buying batting, and you’ll create a warm and interesting quilt over time. A well-made origami piece constructed from interesting paper can be a beautiful decoration. Taking a photo of a photo with your smartphone is a viable substitute (make sure there’s ample natural light). While it might sound boring, it can open up countless doors for your career if you do it consistently, and help you build new relationships and friendships — and all it takes is a little bit of spare time.
It increases flexibility, improves concentration, and holding some of those positions for long periods can be a powerful workout. Take your bed and turn it 90 degrees, then move the dressers to match the new configuration. At that point, you can let it dry out and you’ll have powerful, perfectly natural fertilizer for your lawn or garden.
This means going the whole nine yards – moving everything out, scrubbing the walls, thoroughly cleaning the floor, cleaning all of the items in it, and so forth. And don’t forget to ask your oldest living family members what they remember about their own parents, cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents.
With three or more kids, a game of Calvinball can go on for a good hour with everyone having a great time. You may even pick up a new skill, and either way, it will leave you at the end of the day knowing you used your gifts to help out others.
Darting back and forth through the cold water on a hot day is a ton of fun for kids — and for parents, too.
You’ll often find there are many opportunities to enjoy museums, zoos, and science centers without any cost at all. Digitizing these memories is a good way to safeguard them, since photos left in an attic or basement can deteriorate or get stuck together after a while.
If you’re more adventurous, try initiating an electronic filing system, as it will save you significant space and make information retrieval easier (though it requires a bigger time investment up front). Think about what monthly bills you can completely eliminate, then do the footwork to get rid of them.
At the end of the weekend, you’ll have accomplished something useful that you can feel good about, plus your wallet will be fully intact.



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