I'm sure you've all been feeling the economic crunch this year. We certainly have.
I have heard way too many times lately from friends and family though about how it's hard to do fun things when you don't have enough money. I even got that same schpeal the other day when I reminded my dear husband that he had not taken me out on a date in...wow I don't even know how long.
Let me remind you all, that once upon a time you were a starving college student and finding creative ways to spend your time (and what money you had) was like an art.
I decided to bring out the inner-college student in myself and think of some ways to have fun and not spend a lot of money. Feel free to steal ideas, or send me some of your own.
1. Put together a homemade picnic lunch of sandwiches, drinks, and brownies and head down to your favorite park. Want to make it a datenight? Do what we've done and bring a dozen tea candles and go at night. Lakes and oceans are the best to get the reflective sunset and city lights.
2. Explore your city. What would you do and where would you go if you were a tourist in your own city? We're in Seattle, and there are lots of fun free/cheap things to do. Pike Place Market to watch them throw the fish, a walk-on ferry ride across to Bainbridge Island and back, free taste testers at Costco :), Beach volleyball at Alki Beach (or rollerblading, jogging, walking, etc.). Take the monorail from the Seattle Center to Westlake Mall and back. Run through the huge fountain at the Seattle Center.
3. Go on a hike. No matter where you live there are always places to go hike and explore. We are fortunate enough to live only 10 minutes away from the Cascade Mountains where there are a million different places to hike. Pack your daypacks, a sack lunch, lots of water, and dress comfy. You'd be amazed at what fresh air and beautiful views will do for your mood.
4. Movies in the Park. There are tons of parks in our area that do summer outdoor movie nights, and usually they are free if you donate canned food. Bring your blanket, pillow and snacks and enjoy the warm air.
5. Go Camping. Sure it's not as great as sleeping in a nice comfy bed, BUT, it's fun and economical. And if you pick the right place, you can make some pretty fun memories. Next month we're planning to camp over on the Olympic Peninsula at our favorite state park that overlooks a bluff next to the ocean where you can watch the sun set over the ocean right from your campsite. Add a fire, roasted hotdogs and smores and sounds like heaven to me. :)
6. Visit relatives. Okay so maybe you can't afford to take that week in Maui, but if you're desperate to get away, lodging is always cheap if you stay with family. We sometimes take weekend trips up to my parents house, who only live an hour north of us. Doesn't really seem like a vaca right? BUT they do live on an island, lodging and food is free, and they even have an in house babysitting service. What could be better than that?
7. Movie Nights in your Living Room. I have to say that we can't even really afford to go to the movies lately. At $10 a ticket, plus paying a babysitter...it adds up and by that time we can't even afford dinner. So here's what you do. Rent a movie from Blockbuster, pile all the pillows and blankets you can find into your living room, pop a variety of popcorn, drinks, and have a movie night right there in your living room. Plus, hey, you get to wear your pajamas and I think that makes it all worth it right there.
8. Turn your dining room into a romantic restaurant. A couple of months ago, I surprised Will by making a fancy dinner and turning our dining room table into Cafe al la Thomas. Tea candles burning, cloth napkins, sparking cider, after dinner mints, and menu to complete it. Preston even had his own plate. I just need to figure out how to get a waiter next time. Hmmm. It's also fun if you have a favorite restaurant and try to duplicate their recipes. It really opens the mind up to creativity.
9. Taking in the View. Put the kids in their jammies and drive until they fall asleep, then go to a great lookout spot overlooking your city. Bring snacks. Sit there, soak in the night time view, and get some great one-on-one time with your spouse. Hint: If you're from Seattle, there is a GREAT view on Queen Anne Hill that puts your right smack dab in front of the Space Needle.
10. Free, free, free. If you really do your homework, you will find a ton of free events in your city. Free concerts (sometimes on Sunday evenings at various churches), free movies, free art exhibits, you name it. Do a city search. You'd be surprised.
Got more ideas? I want to hear them! Comment away. :)