Cheap Fun

Sep 10, 2012 by

view from mountain summit

View from the summit

My friend Tom—the one with the real estate dilemma—is nearing the end of his weeklong visit with us. We’ve had a blast, and without spending much money. Here are highlights of some of our activities:

  • Mountain climbing – A 3,000-foot mountain provides a beautiful backdrop to my community. One day we drove (about fifteen minutes from my house) to a trailhead that’s probably at about 800 feet elevation and hiked to the summit. Beautiful! The cost of the outing? Nothing, except for a bit of gasoline.
  • Festival – Yesterday we drove north about fifteen miles and checked out an arts, music, and food festival. Several resorts in the area sponsored the event, which was really a promotional gimmick for their properties. But what the heck—the music was good and free, we had tasty vegan tacos from a food truck and took a rest for a glass of wine in a beautiful resort bar, browsed some local art, and toured some fancy properties we’d never be interested in owning or renting. Total cost of the outing: Maybe $30, including gas.
  • Party – Saturday we went to a friend’s birthday party at his home. Good food on the backyard deck and fun conversation. I like chatting with my friend’s father—I learned he very nearly won, along with his teammates, the Canadian national high school (I think it was) curling championship in 1953. He said he never quite got over losing out, on what he described as a “fluke.” We took a couple of bottles of wine along to the party and a card—total cost around $20.
  • Deck and Cheap Wine – We’re fortunate that our home is in a scenic setting. The weather’s been mostly ideal, and we’ve spent quite a bit of time relaxing on our large deck, grilling, chatting, and sipping cheap wine from a cardboard box. Well, we put the wine in a glass first, but you get the idea.
  • Home cooking – We’ve been to restaurants only three times during the past week, and two of these were for just a snack and a drink but in a particularly nice venue. I like to cook, and I think everyone’s been pretty happy with the at-home meals. No one’s taken ill, which is my first goal in preparing meals. Last night we had wild sockeye salmon, rice & beans, and zucchini from the farmer’s market.
  • House Project – Tom’s much handier than me (almost everyone is), so I recruited him to help me with a house project. We used mostly materials scrounged around the house, but I did spend about $60 on tools, screws, jigsaw blades, etc. The benefits of the project—re-sealing the hole cut in our house’s exterior where the cable from the electric meter comes through the wall to the panel—will be to better keep out cold air and varmints. I couldn’t have done this on my own, so I saved the cost of hiring a handyman by taking advantage of Tom’s generosity.
  • Walking and Parks – Nearby opportunities are many for exploring parks and walking our community’s beautiful downtown waterfront harbor. No cost, except a little gasoline.
  • Cribbage – My wife and I have never learned to play cribbage, so we bought  one of those wood scoreboards with the pegs ($9) and Tom spent a few hours yesterday—the only day we’ve had some rain during his stay—teaching us the basics. I’m glad he’s a patient guy.

Like-Minded Friends Will Help You Meet Your Goals

Our week’s been full and fun, yet we’ve spent little. I think one of the biggest challenges in sticking to a budget is dealing with opportunities for expensive fun with friends. It really feels icky to decline, especially for financial reasons. Though this may sound like a rather cold way to choose friends, I think it really helps to find people you like who share your aims for low-cost fun and commitment to long-term financial goals. Hanging out mainly with people who can’t have fun unless they’re spending a lot of money will make it awfully tough to pay off debt and save.

What Do You Do for Fun?

How have you handled the challenge of good friends who consistently want to spend more than your comfortable spending? What are your favorite low-cost but really fun activities?

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