“The two foes of human happiness are pain and boredom” - German Philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer
I remember in my early teen years when my mother and my then-stepfather used to take me and my five other siblings (two from our family and three from his family) out to dinner and a movie. About once a month we would all pile into the minivan and head to Hoss’s buffet-style restaurant. This was a big night out on the town for us, and meant that we didn’t have to watch yet another rented movie. We would each take turns loading up first a salad plate, and then a main course plate, followed by multiple trips to the ice-cream machine. Once all of our stomachs were full, we headed to the movie theater to see the latest action movie, such as the Pierce Brosnan-James Bonds movies. Life was good.
Now as a budget-conscious adult I have to wonder: just how much did it cost to take six children and two adults to dinner and a movie? A quick estimate suggests that one night of fun and kitchen-freedom used to cost them a staggering $200. If this number rings a bell with you for your own monthly entertainment spending, why not institute a month of free entertainment and challenge yourself to bank the savings? For those of us who currently spend no money on entertainment, then obviously this will not boost your savings; however, keep reading for some ideas on how to keep your trend going.
My economics professor once shattered my world by showing me that “there is no such thing as a free lunch”. Even though many activities are free, there are associated costs with most of them, so you need to nail down a definition for the word “free” for you and your family. If an activity is free but you have to get into your car and drive to it (using gas), will you consider it free? What if it is free, but uses up electricity? What if it is something you had to pay for upfront but are no longer paying for, such as a school sport? For our household, so long as the activity itself is free and takes nothing out of our current month’s budget, I consider it ‘free entertainment’ (save for something that is hours away and will guzzle up a quarter tank of gas, or anything else of the like).
Free Entertainment in Your Home
Free entertainment starts at home—books, Mad Libs (you can make your own), bike riding, badminton nets (I used to love playing this with my father), crossword puzzles in the newspaper, toys, video games, coloring books, board games, swimming; the list depends on what you all ready have in your possession or what you can borrow. Supplement your out-of-home entertainment each week by incorporating one free activity at home, such as family board game night, home manicures and pedicures, or camping out in your backyard (my sister, brother and I used to love to do this!). Teach your children how to cook a favorite meal of yours, or cook something that takes hours and is only meant for special occasions. Make a campfire and roast dinner or just make some s’mores one night and whittle away the hours with ghost stories.
Free Entertainment Out on the Town
It’s normal to get a little restless and want to venture out of your home. There is plenty of free entertainment to be had in this world. Check out your local museums, theaters, libraries, bookstores, nature centers and community centers for free events. Here in Houston we have several free museums, such as the Menil Collection and the Holocaust Museum, as well as free nights for other museums (Thursday nights are free at the Houston Museum of Fine Arts, Thursday night is free family night at the Children’s Museum, and the first Tuesday of the month is free at the Houston Zoo). There is also the Miller Outdoor Theater which hosts free theater productions and free concerts (you might see us there this summer!). Also check out your local high school and colleges for sports events, free movie viewings (my college had these and allowed the community to come as well), etc.
Volunteering can serve the dual purpose of helping others in need and providing entertainment. You can volunteer for things such as Habitat for Humanity or at local nature centers for a great time outdoors. There are any number of events that need your help in planning, organizing, and executing that will get you out of the house and feeling great. Find something you are passionate about, and champion for it!
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