Frugal Entertainment: Letterboxing

compassLooking for a fun, but frugal, outdoor activity? Try letterboxing! It offers the thrill of a treasure hunt, at little to no cost.

Participants hide waterproof boxes in remote places, then publish clues to their location on the internet. The boxes contain such items as a logbook, rubber stamp, and other optional goodies.

Hunters decipher the clues, and search for the boxes. Depending on their location, a compass and map may be needed to find them.

When hunters uncover a box, they record their discovery by stamping a logbook, or posting an entry on a related letterboxing website.

Searches often involve scenic nature walks, and can be a great way to spend an afternoon with the family. (The treasure hunt aspect is particularly exciting for children!)

For more information, check out the following websites:

Letterboxing North America

Atlas Quest: A Letterboxing Community


Frugal Entertainment: Five Ideas for Free (and Swanky) Fun

winetastingA sophisticated outing doesn’t have to cost a fortune. Here are five ways to have some free and swanky fun:

1. Go wine tasting. Local vineyards usually offer free wine tasting to promote their products. The experience makes a great frugal date, or fun afternoon with friends.

2. Go to a poetry reading. It’s a wonderful way to enjoy a live performance (and an artsy vibe) for the price of a cup of coffee. Check your local newspaper for scheduled events.

3. Attend an art opening. They’re usually free to the public, and often serve complimentary wine and cheese.

4. Attend a CD release party. These promotional events provide a party atmosphere, and the chance to groove to some tunes, with no admission charge.

5. Go to an outdoor concert. Enjoy a symphony under the stars. The professional orchestras of several major cities stage free summer concerts on a grand scale.

Frugal Entertainment: View Art Al Fresco

blogimage-calderDid you know you can enjoy some fabulous art, without paying museum admission fees?

Simply take your love of art outdoors!

Most major cities (and some smaller ones) have wonderful collections of public sculpture. You’ll typically find them in parks, on boulevards, and in the courtyards of government buildings.

Works range from statues of historical figures (like that of George Washington in Union Square, New York City) to more abstract, contemporary forms (like those by Alexander Calder, in cities around the world).

While most pieces are permanent fixtures, other works are more ephemeral in nature. Watch your local cultural listings for notifications of these temporary exhibits and installations. You may be lucky enough to catch something special: like when the famous artist Christo adorned New York’s Central Park with 7500 saffron-colored gates.

You can obtain guides to a city’s open-air art by contacting its tourism office, or by searching the internet. Following are websites detailing the public art in several major U.S. cities:

New York City: Permanent Art and Monuments

City of Chicago – Public Art

Public Art in Philadelphia

Public Art in Los Angeles and Southern California

Seattle – Public Art

Regional Arts & Culture Council – Portland, OR

Public Art Indianapolis

Cleveland Public Art

Pittsburgh – Public Art Architecture, Sculptures, & Monuments


Frugal Challenge: Try a “Make Do” Month

blogimage-calendar2When we feel the need for a particular item, our first instinct is to run out and buy it. It’s all too easy to “solve” our problems (or satisfy our wants) with the swipe of a credit card.

What if we resisted that instinct for a day—a week—or even a whole month? I suspect we could significantly curb our spending, and add a nice chunk of change to our bottom lines.

I propose a “Make Do” Month, in which we try everything possible to avoid shopping. Let’s go into survivalist mode, and approach each situation with a “make do or do without” attitude. (If it helps, pretend some crisis has forced all retail stores to close their doors for the next four weeks.)

Here are some situations that may occur, and some money-free ways to address them:

1. You’re invited to a party or formal event. DON’T buy a new outfit! Chances are, you have something in your closet that will work. Nobody will know (or care) if your ensemble is brand new or ten years old…so don’t let an event that lasts only a few hours put a dent in your bank account.

2. Your friends are raving about a fabulous new book. Instead of heading to the bookstore, surf to your library’s website and reserve it. If you’re not first in the queue, they’ll notify you when it’s ready for pickup. If your library doesn’t have it (or you don’t want to wait), borrow it from a friend or family member.

3. A blockbuster movie hits the theaters. Wait until it comes out on DVD…this is a fabulous opportunity to practice delayed gratification. Read, take a walk, or go stargazing in the evening instead.

4. You’re accustomed to buying coffee, or going out to lunch. Consider yourself lucky, because you’re going to pocket a lot of extra money during your “Make Do” Month! Brew your java at home, and take your lunch to work—the extra savings alone will perk you up!

5. Something in your home breaks. Ahh, a great chance to show off your resourcefulness and creativity! If you can’t immediately buy a replacement, you may actually be inspired to fix it. Otherwise, try your best to do without the item in question. If your toaster breaks, use your oven; if it’s the hairdryer, go au naturel; if a button falls off your shirt, mend it.

6. A holiday or birthday occurs. Instead of a store-bought present, give the gift of your time or expertise. For example, present the recipient with a voucher for a massage, computer repair, or night of babysitting.

7. Your kids are clamoring for a new toy. Take the opportunity to explain to them what you’re doing—it’s a great way to introduce the concept of wants versus needs. If you intend to indulge them at the end of the month, turn the waiting period into a game: have a countdown, or give them a small “allowance” so they can save up for the coveted item.

8. You hear about a great new restaurant. Resist the urge to eat out by making a special meal at home (ideally, with what you already have in the pantry!). Prepare it as a couple (or family), serve on your best plates, and enjoy it slowly. Light a few candles, or put on some music, for extra ambience.

By turning such situations into saving opportunities, we can use our “Make Do” Month to pad our finances (or pay down some debt). And who knows…we may develop some frugal habits that’ll serve us well the rest of the year!

Ten Tips for a Frugal Weekend

blogimage-parkAahh…the weekend’s finally here! Time to kick back, relax, and enjoy the fall weather. Why not give your wallet a break, too? It’s probably been working pretty hard all week!

Here are ten tips for having a blast this weekend without breaking the bank:

1. Make breakfast at home. Skip the fast food or donuts, and make a fun family breakfast (like pancakes or waffles) at home.

2. Head to the park. Spend an afternoon in the park, and enjoy the glorious fall weather. It’s infinitely more pleasurable than a day at the mall.

3. Attend a fall festival. There’s likely a great harvest, apple, or pumpkin festival happening nearby—join in the free entertainment!

4. Run errands by bike (or foot). You’ll get some great exercise, and save money on gas. (And you won’t be able to buy as much!)

5. Tackle a DIY project. Make a needed repair (or home improvement) yourself, and avoid having to pay a contractor.

6. Trade babysitting services with a friend. Instead of hiring a sitter for your night out, swap services with a friend—they watch your kids this weekend, you’ll watch theirs the next.

7. Host a potluck dinner. Rather than splurge on a restaurant meal, have friends, family, or neighbors bring their favorite dishes over for a potluck dinner.

8. Have a movie night. Avoid high theater prices by renting (or borrowing) a DVD, making some popcorn, and creating your own cinematic experience at home.

9. Stargaze. Gazing at the night sky can make for a romantic date, or fun family outing. (Bring along a constellation guide to help identify what you see.)

10. Relax. Give yourself permission to be lazy: sleep in, lounge on the porch, or curl up with a good book. Some good old-fashioned loafing feels great—and doesn’t cost a dime!

Frugal Entertainment: Enjoy a Fall Festival!

blogimage-pumpkinsAutumn is a fabulous time of year for the best frugal entertainment around: festivals!

Instead of going to the mall or movies this weekend, take advantage of these seasonal celebrations: they offer a wide range of activities for little to no cost. Embrace the opportunity to enjoy the crisp autumn air, and provide your family with a cheap (and possibly free!) day of fun.

This time of year, you’ll find plenty of apple festivals, pumpkin festivals, harvest festivals, corn mazes, and hay rides.

Check out your local newspaper, community bulletin board, or hometown website for events in your area. Or search online—here’s a few resources to help you find a festival near you: – Find a Festival: Local Events, World Festivals…

Apple Festivals in the U.S., Canada and Britain

Where to find pumpkin festivals, pumpkin weigh-offs and more…