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100 Free, Fun Things To Do This Weekend

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One key element of my family’s financial turnaround was the idea of a “money-free weekend.” Once every other weekend or so, my family would intentionally spend the time between getting off of work on Friday and returning to work on Monday not spending any money at all (outside of things like paying bills or buying essential groceries).

We’d spend no money on entertainment. We’d spend no money on going out. We’d spend only enough gas to get us to a nearby town and back. We’d eat only food that we already had on hand.

Our goal with these weekends was to discover and try new things that we might have overlooked if we simply allowed ourselves to spend money. Sometimes those things were forgettable, but sometimes we’d discover something new and amazing that clicked with us and became a part of our lives thereafter. Over time, our “money-free weekends” showed us so many new things to do that our spending on normal weekends and weekdays declined due to the new, fun things we’d added to our lives.

Challenge yourself to a money-free weekend this weekend. Here are 100 things to try. Just be mindful of social-distancing!

100 things to do during a money-free weekend

  1. Check out your community calendar and Meetup. Visit your community’s website and see what free events are happening this weekend. Similarly, check Meetup.com to find many more events run by independent groups and businesses.
  1. Visit your local library. Yes, a library is a place to borrow books, but that’s just the start. Modern libraries offer movies to borrow for free, tools you can borrow and use, community events and activities, and all kinds of surprises. 
  1. Bake a loaf of homemade bread. You probably have everything you need on hand to bake a loaf of delicious homemade bread. It’s a surprisingly simple project that produces a wonderful end product.
  1. Get involved in community sports. Check out the offerings from your local parks and rec department. They may have activities you can directly participate in, or there may be opportunities where you can coach, referee, or simply be part of the audience, cheering people on.
  1. Listen to some podcasts. Your smartphone is a perfect podcast player. Use the built-in podcast app to discover some new podcasts and give them a listen. If you have headphones, a podcast is a great thing to listen to on a solo walk. A few picks: Planet Money, Serial, and The Unexplainable Disappearance of Mars Patel.
  1. Play board games. Pull a board game out of your closet and play it with your family or friends. 
  1. Teach yourself to juggle. This is a great party trick, plus it’s pretty fun to learn on its own. You can do this with any three soft objects that you can easily grasp; bean bags, hacky sacks and DIY balloon bean bags all easily work. Here’s a nice tutorial for juggling three balls that starts with the absolute basics.
juggling
Once you know how to juggle, you can always win a smile. Photo: Elvert Barnes
  1. Meet your neighbors. If you don’t know your neighbors well, reach out to some of them. See if any of them are out and about, on their balcony or in their yard, and just say hello and introduce yourself. Getting to know your neighbors a little provides an opening for friendship and future opportunities for borrowing and sharing.
  1. Clear out your media collection of books, DVDs and CDs. Go through your media collections and find the ones that you’re not likely to watch again and get rid of them. Along the way, though, you’ll find a bunch of “hidden gems” and forgotten things. 
  1. Hold a “cupboard potluck.” Go through your cupboards and figure out what recipes you can make from what you have on hand. Invite your friends to do the same and then have a potluck dinner together, where everyone brings a “cupboard” dish that they made from what they had on hand.
  1. Dream big. Spend a few hours or even an entire day thinking about the long- term vision for your life. Where do you want to go from here? Turn those big dreams into real goals. How can you take a real step toward that goal in the next three months? Then how can you make a step toward THAT goal this week? Then, how can you make a step toward that weekly goal today?
  1. Start or join a fantasy sports league. If you’re into sports, fantasy sports are a great diversion. Check sites like ESPN and Yahoo! and see if there’s a league you can join, or set up a league for you and your friends to participate in.
  1. Organize a self-guided walking tour. Go to Google Maps and look for interesting places that are near you, then figure out a walk that takes you to those spots. Parks, businesses, memorials — make it a walking tour!

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  1. Teach yourself how to knit. A lot of homes have some yarn and a couple of knitting needles stowed away somewhere. And if you don’t have them, you can probably find a friend who will lend them to you. The basics of knitting are easy, and it’s a great pastime to keep your hands busy while watching Netflix. Here’s a great “getting started” tutorial.
knitting - how to give without giving money
  1. Take some cool photos. Several items on this list involve exploring and going on walks. Take a camera with you and capture anything and everything that’s interesting. Text them to friends.
  1. Visit a free museum or a zoo (or find out when you might be able to get in for free). Are there any museums or zoos or art galleries in your area? Look online and see if they have free passes available or if they offer free admittance on certain days.
Smithsonian rotunda
The Smithsonian Museum in Washington is free to the public. Photo: Don DeBold
  1. Learn how to draw. All you need is some scratch paper, a writing or drawing utensil, and something you would like to learn how to draw. No matter what you think of, there’s probably a YouTube tutorial for it.
  1. Make origami decorations. For example, you might make 3D paper snowflakes or 3D hearts. You can simply aim to learn the skill, or make decorations that you can use for future events.
  1. Make a “how-to” YouTube video explaining one of your skills. If you have a particular skill that others might enjoy, make a YouTube video explaining how to get started with that skill with a super-simple project. Find a spot with good lighting, think about how you might explain it to a newcomer, and use your phone in creative ways to shoot the footage.
  1. Play soccer. All you really need is a ball and some friends! Even if you’re not particularly adept, it can be fun to just go to a park and kick a ball around.
  1. Make a “time capsule” or open one up. Assemble a “time capsule” of memorable things that represent your life right now. What are some objects that are a “slice of life” for the world? Put them together in a shoebox and mark the lid with a future date.
  1. Digitize some old pictures and make a memorable screen saver. If you have some old physical snapshots sitting around, digitize them. You can do this surprisingly well with your smartphone camera, using the cropping tools to trim the edges. Transfer them to your computer and make a memorable screensaver.
  1. Have a film festival. Pick out a bunch of movies you’ve been meaning to watch and have a “film festival.” One great approach is to choose a theme, such as watching movies on the American Film Institute’s top 100 list that are available on streaming services you already have.
  1. Binge-watch a series that’s been in your Netflix queue for a while. Along those same lines, there are tons and tons of original series on streaming services that you’ve likely not seen, and if you’re anything like us, you have a bunch of them on your “waitlist.” Pick one and binge-watch it this weekend!
  1. Seduce your partner. Few things capture the spirit of “free fun” like this!
  1. Try yoga. There are many wonderful free beginner yoga videos on Youtube that make it easy to try out yoga at home. This 10 minute yoga for beginners video is a great place to start
  1. Go geocaching. Geocaching is a free worldwide real-world treasure hunt run by volunteers, and it’s likely that there are geocaches all over your neighborhood. Start at Geocaching.com, download the app, and see what you can find in your area!
Geocaching
Geocaching is part outdoor adventure, part treasure hunt. Photo: Rona Proudfoot
  1. Rearrange the furniture in a room. Thinking about how a room can be arranged differently and then putting those ideas into practice can be a lot of fun. Simply moving the furniture around to give a room a new look can make your home feel new and more roomy.
  1. Get some friends and neighbors together for a park cleanup. Got an area in your neighborhood that could use some TLC? Head over there with gloves and a trash bag and clean it up. Even better, get some neighbors and friends to join in. Not only does this get you out and moving, you end up beautifying a part of your neighborhood that everyone enjoys.
  1. Curl up with an unread book on your shelf. Got any books on your bookshelf that you’ve been intending to read but just haven’t taken the time? Pull a blanket over yourself and dive deep into the pages.
  1. Call or FaceTime friend or family member you haven’t spoken to in a while. If you have some relatives or friends that you haven’t seen in a long time, give them a call or FaceTime them. It’s a great chance to see how children have grown, what your friends are up to and reconnect.
  1. Try birdwatching. Birdwatching is a wonderful hobby that can be done almost anywhere. There are tons of great birdwatching apps for free that can help you with identification, too. Here’s a great guide for getting started with birdwatching.
  1. Start a natural collection or observation notebook. The basic idea of birdwatching can be expanded to a much wider range of the natural world. You might start a collection of items you find in nature, like leaves or dried flowers, or start taking notes on what you observe. Learn how to identify wild trees and plants and sketch the things you find.
  1. Meditate. Meditation is simple and amazingly calming. Just find a nice spot to sit, close your eyes and focus your attention on your breath for 10 or 15 minutes. It sounds simple, but it’s surprisingly hard, and it often has a great calming effect. Here’s a nice guided meditation to try.
  1. Start learning a foreign language. There are many online tools that make it easy to start learning a foreign language. The free app Duolingo turns learning a foreign language into an ongoing game that you can make progress on over time from the convenience of your phone.
  1. Plan a yard sale, and start by sorting through your extra stuff. The simple process of sorting through your stuff can help you find enjoyable things to do that you’d forgotten about while also decluttering your space and setting you up for making a little extra money at a future yard sale.
  1. Do random acts of kindness. This is a great use for social media. Scroll through your feed and see if anyone needs a helping hand or a kind word and give it to them. If you see someone who’s down in the dumps, send them a positive message. They’ll feel good, and you’ll feel good.
  1. Do a sudoku or crossword puzzle. There are many places to find crossword puzzles and sudoku puzzles online, like the wonderful Web Sudoku. Solve a puzzle or, even better, speed-solve the same puzzle in competition with a friend or a family member.
  1. Get involved in an open source programming project. If you’re a computer programmer looking to hone your skills or just enjoy putting them to good use, look for an open-source project to contribute to. You’ll learn how to read code and how to contribute to a deeply meaningful project.
  1. Take an online class. There are many tools online that enable you to take a free class on almost any subject imaginable. Check out Coursera, for starters, and if you’re looking for good courses on STEM subject, look at MIT OpenCourseWare.
  1. Teach yourself a card trick. There are many simple card tricks that can be easily pulled off at a party with a little practice and prep time. For example, this trick is a great one that can be learned from an ordinary deck of cards with some practice.
  1. Attend a religious service. Not only is this an opportunity to get back in touch with your own faith, it’s also an opportunity to learn more about the beliefs of others in your community. Understanding the varieties of religious experience is a great way to understand humanity and unite with others.
  1. Start a workout routine. There are many great simple bodyweight exercise routines you can do at home with no equipment. For example, this seven-minute workout just requires a wall and a chair, and repeating it three times will give you a very good workout!
  1. Go swimming. If your community has a public pool or you live in an area where a private pool is available to you, swimming is a great activity and exercise. There may be parks and other recreational facilities near you that offer swimming opportunities, too.
  1. Start a journal. A journal is a great place to write down your thoughts and dig through what’s bothering you. Take out that old notebook and just dump out whatever’s on your mind. You’ll feel better afterwards and likely have a good solution in hand.
  1. Make holiday gifts in advance. Many of us have the intent of making homemade gifts for people, but never actually follow through because we’re so busy. Just pull out the items you already have on hand for that gift-making project and dive into it. 
  1. Plan a scavenger hunt. A scavenger hunt is a great birthday party or sleepover activity for kids of all ages, but it takes planning time. Do it now! Think of things you should have the participants find and put aside those notes for later when it’s actually time for the event.
  1. Teach yourself to solve a Rubik’s Cube. Many of us have a Rubik’s Cube lying around, and the act of solving one in reasonable time makes for a great party trick. Solving one takes a lot of practice, but once you get it, it’s easy to get pretty quick at it. Here’s a great tutorial.
  1. Pull out a musical instrument and play — or learn. If you have a musical instrument stowed away, get it out, tune it and play a few songs. If you’ve had an instrument in the closet that you’ve always wanted to learn, there’s no better time than the present! There are tons of YouTube videos that can help you get started!
  1. Grab your city’s free newspaper and give it a read. Most cities have a free newspaper or two that’s available near the front door of many stores. You might find some new things to do or, at the very least, learn more about your community.
  1. Write a letter to your future self, or to a future child or grandchild. Even if you don’t have a child or a grandchild yet, you can still write that future person a letter, sharing all the life advice you wish you’d known when you were younger.
  1. Play with a pet — yours or someone else’s. Playing with a pet for a while is a joyful experience for both of you. Tossing a stick for a dog or simply chasing each other around playfully is a great thing to do.
  1. Make a picnic lunch. Find a beautiful secluded spot and enjoy your lunch. Take a friend or a family member, of course.
  1. Exchange massages with your partner. Spend time massaging each other’s bodies, gently pushing out the stress that has built up.
  1. Look for a volunteer activity and try it out. Your community likely has a lot of volunteer activities if you look for them. Start with your city’s website. Contact local food pantries or clothing pantries. See if there’s a Habitat for Humanity group in your area.
  1. Play a card game. If you have a deck of playing cards, there’s an almost infinite array of games you can play. Here’s a list of 20 of our family’s favorite games to play with a deck of cards or other items around the house.
  1. Take a child to a playground and actually play. Rather than just sitting on a bench and flipping through your phone, play with the child. Swing with them. Go down the slide with them. Play hide-and-go-seek amongst the playground equipment.
  1. Have an entertainment swap with a friend. Box up a bunch of your DVDs, Blu-rays, books and other entertainment items, and take them to a friend’s house. Then, swap them one for one, either for a while or permanently. This will refresh some of your less-loved entertainment items and replace them with new ones.
  1. Explore a website you like. Find a website that’s interesting to you and dig into the archives, clicking around to see what you find. For example, you might start with The Simple Dollar by checking out my story and the archive of my articles.
  1. Toss a Frisbee around. Got a Frisbee in the closet somewhere? Got a friend or two or three? Take the Frisbee and the friends to a park and toss it around for a while. This is a great complement to tip #53 or #65 — make a picnic lunch and go on a nature walk, too.
  1. Attend a dress rehearsal. Many community theaters have public open dress rehearsals that you can attend for free. While this likely won’t be a perfect performance, as you’ll see actors still mastering their lines in places and some set and wardrobe issues that they’re still figuring out, it’s still great entertainment at a price that can’t be beat.

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  1. Attend a free workshop. Many stores offer free workshops as a way of attracting customers. For example, The Home Depot offers a great workshop for kids, and the Apple Store is constantly offering workshops of all kinds.
  1. Discover new music by playing an online streaming station. Download Spotify or Pandora or the Apple Music app on your phone and listen to one of their free streaming stations (ad supported). You’ll discover new music in a genre you love mixed in with a lot of favorites.
  1. Dig an old video game console out of your closet and play some of your old favorites. If you have a video game console that’s a few generations old, like a Wii or a Playstation 3, gathering dust in your closet, pull it out and try some of your old favorite games again. It’s a great way to fill an afternoon.
  1. Go on a long nature walk or hike. Visit the websites of any municipal or state parks in your area and see what trails they have available, then choose one and go on a nature walk or hike. It’s a great way to see and enjoy the outdoors.
  1. Take a stab at writing poetry or fiction. Got a story or a poem inside of you? Sit down and see if you can tease it out on paper or onto a computer screen. It’ll probably be rough, but that first step is always the hardest, and you’ll get better and better from there.
  1. Write a letter. Who are the five people who had the biggest positive influence in your life? Write one of them a letter, explaining why they had that impact on you and how much it meant. In fact, why not write all five of them letters?
  1. Make a collage postcard for PostSecret. A collage postcard means that you use images and other found materials to make a collage on one side of a blank postcard. That postcard reveals a secret about yourself that you hide. If you want, you can then anonymously mail it to PostSecret, where it will be anonymously shared online.
  1. Go on a bike ride. If you have a bike in the garage or in a closet, pull it out, strap on your helmet, and go for a ride. Enjoy the fresh air and the gentle breeze in your face.
  1. Have a “meal prep Sunday.” A “meal prep Sunday” simply means that you set aside a day to prepare meals in advance for the freezer. If you clean out your pantry, you can likely find a lot of materials to use, and it’s OK to go to the grocery store to buy basic ingredients for meals on a “money-free weekend.” Invite some friends over and make it a social event, where you help each other prep meals.
  1. Fill your refrigerator door with great memories or affirmations. Many people cover their refrigerator door with mementos and affirmations. Spend some time refreshing those items so that it feels life-affirming for you.
  1. Go stargazing in the most wide open area near you. Are there any wide open spaces near you, preferably away from the bright lights of the city? Go out there after dark with a blanket, stretch out on the ground and look at the stars.
  1. Do a jigsaw puzzle. A jigsaw puzzle is a wonderful thing to set up on a card table and work on in fits and starts over a week or two. If you have one in your closet, get it started and give it your attention in little bits as the days go by.
  1. Do a “Wikipedia wander.” Think of a topic you’re interested in — an intellectual topic, a band, a film director, whatever — and go to their Wikipedia page. Read it in full, then visit the link that seems most interesting. Read that in full, then visit the link on that page that seems most interesting. You’ll likely find some unexpected and interesting topics.
  1. Play a free online game or a computer game you have and never played. Many computer gamers have games in their library that they’ve never played, picked up for a dollar or two at a sale. Dig into one of them. If you don’t have that, visit a site like Kongregate that has tons of free games available.
  1. Pour yourself a long, hot bath. If you have a bath bomb in the closet, now’s the time to finally use it. 
  1. Get deeply informed on an issue. Are there any issues out there you’ve thought about and seen both sides but never been able to make up your mind? Look online for some good arguments for each side, read them and give them some thought. Do this even for issues you’re confident in. You might find that the people you disagree with have a lot of good points, and that can help bring people together.
  1. Fix or take care of that thing that’s been nagging at you. Handle that thing that bugs you every time you see it.
  1. Make some cookies and share them. Many people have everything they need to bake cookies already in their pantry. Just bake a dozen or two! Save a few for yourself, then share the rest.
  1. Make a sourdough or friendship bread starter. These starters are easy to make, though it can take some time and they might be smelly during the process. Once you’ve got them going, however, you can make infinite loaves of bread and share the extra starter with friends.
  1. Visit an older relative. If you have any older friends or relatives in the area, it’s almost a guarantee that they have some odds and ends around their house that need some care, but it’s a bit beyond their physical abilities. Stop in and help. 
  1. Visit the free tourist-y and historic sites in your area. Most areas have historic sites of interest that you can visit for free. You might have been aware of them, but never actually visited them yourself. 
  1. Do a neighborhood walk. Stroll around your neighborhood and see what you notice. Are there any ongoing issues that you could quickly fix or let the city know about? Are there any neighbors that could use a helping hand? What’s new in your area that you haven’t noticed before?
  1. Go to a free program at a nearby college. Many colleges and universities have programs open to the general public, such as speeches and presentations from interesting people and demonstrations of the newest technologies. 
  1. Go to a business grand opening. Business grand openings are often very entertaining and sometimes offer freebies and giveaways. A great way to find out about business openings is to check out community Facebook groups and read free community newspapers (see tip #50).
  1. Go to the beach. The beach offers sunshine, beautiful water, a great place to walk, a place to swim, a place to relax and stretch out.
  1. Build a sandcastle. This isn’t just fun to do with kids. Grab a few modeling tools (cups, small buckets, a putty knife) and get to work on the beach. 
  1. Host a video game competition. This is a great add-on to tip #64. Find a classic video game or two that you’ve loved for many years and challenge your friends to a competition. Get some friends together and see who can get the farthest in Super Mario Bros. or Goldeneye 007.
  1. Have a karaoke night at home. There are many YouTube videos that provide karaoke versions of popular songs for you to sing along with. 
  1. Go to a youth sporting event and cheer loudly. This is particularly great if a child of a friend or a young relative is competing. Many youth sporting events are free to attend and children can always use someone cheering them on!
  1. Go to an interesting spot and have a “coin flip” walk. Start in an interesting place and wander around until you reach an intersection. Flip a coin and go straight if it’s heads. If it’s tails, flip again, and go right if it’s heads or left if it’s tails. Keep going until you find enough new interesting things to fill your mind and heart.
  1. Check out your city or state’s travel guide. Most states and many cities have a travel guide, informing people of interesting things in the area. 
  1. Host a movie night, virtual or otherwise. You can invite some friends over to watch a movie or, if they’re remote, use one of these services to host a free virtual movie night with your friends.
  1. Go to a poetry slam or book reading. Many bookstores and coffee shops offer free poetry slams and book readings on occasion, possibly outdoors. It’s a great opportunity to hear spoken word performances from the creators themselves.
  1. Visit an open air market. Farmers markets and other open-air markets are great places to wander around, smell the smells, and see the sights. Often, they’re great places for ideas for things to do yourself.
  1. Try Pokemon Go (or another free social mobile game). There are a bevy of smartphone games that are free and encourage you to get out and go. Pokemon Go, for example, is a simple free smartphone game that encourages you to walk around your neighborhood to advance in the game, and the game encourages face-to-face group meetups in public places as well.
  1. People-watch. Find a spot near where people like to go, then sit and watch the people walk by. 
  1. Start an in-person or virtual book club. Pick a book from your shelf that you’ve always wanted to read, then use that as the basis to start a book club. You can create a private group on Facebook or another social media platform to do it online, or you can plan an in-person event in your home in the future.
  1. Have a campfire. If you have some spare wood available, have a campfire. You may have a grill or fire pit easily available to you; if not, see if there are any in parks near you.
  1. Watch a sunrise or sunset, from beginning to end. Nature provides us with a beautiful show each and every day. Taking the time to watch it reminds us of how amazing the world around us is.

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