avoid fees

When you resolve to stick to a budget, life can sometimes be determined to test you. During these types of months you can always keep spending according to your budget as if the upsets had never occurred, but then you will likely have to take money out of savings in order to cover the overspill.

To us, it’s all about protecting our savings. Instead of immediately turning to savings to account for the extra money spent, we try to spend less in our budgeted categories.

For example, in the month that our electrical system broke in our truck and we needed $300 in repairs, we spent half as much from our entertainment budget, and three quarters as much from our food budget, and were able to make up for $175 of it. Because of this extra sacrifice, we only had to divert $125 from our savings instead of the full $300.

Holiday Hangover Meaning

Do you have extra holiday bills lurking over your head? If you are dealing with a spending holiday hangover, then you might have to spend your entire entertainment budget in the month of January on paying off holiday bills. 

But nobody likes to be bored (like in the back row of church when I was ten — my grandfather used to tell me to twiddle my thumbs. Sure doesn't cost anything, but it's also not thrilling).

There are thousands of other things you can do than twiddling your thumbs to keep yourself content and engaged without spending much money at all.

Check out the list below for both my own suggestions as well as those of fellow personal finance bloggers for things to do to fill your time and keep you entertained without swiping a credit card or otherwise opening your wallet this month.

  1. Scrapbook/Organize your Photos: I love to scrapbook and find that I buy the materials I will need, but take years to get around to actually creating the book. With all of the extra time you have get your creative juices flowing, or even just organize your photos into boxes.
  2. Read a Book from your Bookshelf: My husband laughs at me because he knows that if he buys me a book or when I purchase a book it automatically goes on my two-year waiting list. I literally have about a hundred books waiting to be read at this very moment! Don’t have any books? Try catching up on blogs you love to read, the news online, or magazines you get in the mail.
  3. Make a Family Video and Upload it to YouTube: Do you have a video camera, or can you borrow one from a friend? Barb Friedberg suggests making a family video and taking it live on YouTube. What a fun project! You could also do a video to send to family and friends.
  4. Organize and De-clutter: Put your energy towards bettering areas of your home or apartment, such as tackling a closet or your garage. After all, you don’t ever want to end up on the show Hoarders: Buried Alive.
  5. Geocaching: Check out the Geocaching website, look up locations in your area, then go and find a hidden container to see what other people have put inside.
  6. Window Shop: I used to do this while living abroad in both London and Japan. I didn’t have a lot of extra money to spend, and I found out that you didn’t have to spend any to have a good time and to learn something. What kind of new products are out there? What are the latest trends? Any ideas you find that you can make yourself?
  7. Movie Marathon: Do you like scary movies (my list of best scary movies to watch), romances, Jane Austen, Albert Hitchcock, or a particular director? Take the time to enjoy some of your favorite movies during a mini movie marathon.
  8. Update your Recipe Box or Create One: I get such pleasure from trying out new recipes, and then copying the memorable ones onto index cards and putting them into my recipe box. I only take the time to update my recipe box about twice a year, but it gives me such pleasure to do so.
  9. Game of Midnight Hide and Seek: Playing midnight hide and seek, even with your dogs!
  10. Update your Address Book: It was great to have a reason to update our entire address book for our wedding in 2010. Why not undertake this when you have nothing but time on your hands? The organization will save you time in the future.
  11. Write a Handwritten Letter: Now that you’ve updated your address book, why not take out some of your stationary and a pen and write a lovely letter to a friend or relative? People rarely write letters anymore, and it is such a pleasure to receive one. Perhaps there are people that you have been meaning to thank. Now’s the time to do it.
  12. Do a Pantry Challenge: Melissa from Mom’s Plan recently concluded her pantry challenge, where she challenged herself to eat through her food in the pantry and cupboards instead of purchasing more food (she did allow herself $100 per month, then banked the $200 she saved from her typical food budget). Use your creativity and eat that food before it expires!
  13. Volunteer: By volunteering you are not only helping others, but you are getting out of your home and doing something at no cost to you.
  14. Scout out Your Next Road Trip: What could be more fun than sitting down with your map or the internet and mapping out a future road trip? Make mix CDs of your favorite tunes to listen to, a list of places to visit at each point along the way, and figure out how much you need to save to make it a reality. Perhaps you want to plan the road trip around an event, like a concert you really want to attend, or during a festival.
  15. Find Free Events in Your Neighborhood: Penny from The Saved Quarter suggests finding free events in your community. 
  16. Clean all of Your Windows: Might as well…it could change your outlook.
  17. Go for a New Year’s Jog with Friends: Frugal Zeitgeist suggests meeting up with friends for a jog to kick start your New Year in the right direction.
  18. Pack a Picnic: Even if it’s only in your back yard, eating in the outdoors is a wonderful experience. I love taking a blanket, a snack, a book, and my cat to our backyard in the early summer when it’s not too hot yet in Houston.
  19. Learn Something New: Paul and I are constantly saying during conversations “I don’t know; we’ll have to look that up.” You can take some time now to surf the internet or peruse the library to find some tidbits of information you’ve been dying to know.
  20. Finally Sign-up for a Social Network Site: I resisted Facebook and Twitter for many years. But now I am happily active on both of these free sites. Set up a page for you and/or your family, and personalize it. Invite friends and family to join, and then upload treasured photos. My cousin Becky even scanned in old family photos and made it a mini-family genealogy project. Find old roommates, friends from high school, or that foreign exchange family you stayed with all those years ago. Make connections.
  21. Update Your Resume: You never know when this will come in handy, and it’s probably been more than the suggested six months since it’s been last updated, especially if you have been at your current job for several years.

I’d love to hear your own ideas!

20 replies
  1. Jaymus (RealizedReturns)
    Jaymus (RealizedReturns) says:

    Hey, Great article! Lots of great ideas here.

    For anyone who is a little uncertain about Geocaching, in “waypoint mode”, most handheld GPS will just display a big arrows and approximate distance. And going with kids is a blast. it’s a great way to see areas right under your nose that you didn’t even know existed. A really fun (and free!) way to get outside and get a little activity in to your day.

  2. Lauren
    Lauren says:

    Not to nitpick, but you didn’t add the library as a resource for reading! I also have to put a plug in for paperbackswap.com (again). Awesome resource if you have books hanging around and your local bookstore doesn’t have the best buyback offers.

  3. Jackie
    Jackie says:

    Those are awesome ideas. (Although a couple of them remind me of why people rarely tell me they are bored — I always have a suggestion along the lines of “stir up the compost pile” to cure their boredom…)

  4. Jeff @ Sustainable Life Blog
    Jeff @ Sustainable Life Blog says:

    These are some great tips. In fact, I spent a while 2 days ago scouting out my next road trip! It’s going to be a blast! Haven’t decided where yet, but either utah or california! Really looking forward to it.
    I always try to take out a bit from my other budgeted areas when something goes wrong so I dont have to dip into savings, and if not, It comes out of my snowball 🙁

  5. krantcents
    krantcents says:

    I like your ideas since they all are in your control. The unintended consequence of doing these things is it will motivate you to do more as you accomplish these. This is a good thing!

  6. johng arlington auto
    johng arlington auto says:

    Oh I LOVE the make a family movie idea! I’ve had this flip mino HD sitting aorund in a box and I haven’t had a chance to use it, thanks for the memory jogging!

  7. LifeAndMyFinances
    LifeAndMyFinances says:

    I love that you put geocaching on the list! My brother-in-law is big into this and even goes to the conventions! I thought it was dumb at first, but treasure hunting is just plain fun. Plus, you get some good exercise!

  8. twentysomethingmoney
    twentysomethingmoney says:

    I like just spending time surfing the net — so much to read/watch, that you can spend hours upon hours… all that time, not spending a dime.


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