5 Great Ways to Make Memories on a Budget

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Ever spend so much time and money planning the perfect day that you barely enjoy it?  If I think about my best memories with my friends and family they tend to be the random days where we didn’t expect too much.  If you are feeling down because your budget is tight here are a few ways to have fun without a lot of money.

Memories #1: Be a tourist for a day

I grew up in a small town in Connecticut that I found pretty boring as a teenager.  I now live in a town that I’m sure teenagers find boring too.  Maybe you live in a city where everything feels too expensive to enjoy.  My point is that sometimes we take for granted the places we live because we get used to them.  We don’t see them the same way someone planning a trip would or put in the effort to find something to do in our price range.

Spend some time researching budget friendly things to do in your town or city.  Look at Yelp or TripAdvisor and see what people who visit your area do and enjoy.  You may gain a new appreciation for your town if you see it through a new lens.

I worked in Boston for about 6 years before I did a single “touristy” thing.  One day my friend and I decided to take a day off from work to walk the Freedom Trail.  We picked a nice sunny day in the middle of the week since we didn’t have to plan ahead.  This was one of the best days I remember spending in Boston.  We got a workout and it cost less than $20 total for our subway rides to the city and a beer at the end.

Memories #2: Head to the Library

The library is a great place to go when you are low on funds.  Unfortunately, I’m one of those people that reads with a highlighter or a pen in my hand.  This isn’t something the next reader would appreciate so I spend a lot of money on books.  To spend less in this area I’m going to start borrowing fiction and buying my non-fiction/business books. I tend to go back to them often for ideas and inspiration more often.

When I had my first child I found free play groups at the library.  I didn’t know too many people in town so this helped get me out of the house.  If he had a tantrum I didn’t mind leaving since it didn’t cost anything to go. The library is great for all ages but a must for new parents!

You don’t have to be a reader to get a lot out of the library.  You can borrow recent DVD (or hard to find ones like the Disney Vault) and even take out audio books.  There are events and groups that meet at libraries as well like the one I found for new parents and infants.  It is also a great place to go to find deals on local places and activities.  Libraries often provide deep discounted tickets to their patrons for things like museums, zoos and amusement parks nearby if you are looking for something to do.

Memories #3: Christmas in July

It seems like everything has gotten more expensive these days.  Even going to the movies with your family can cost a small fortune.  This can make it difficult to get out of the house some days.  Even worse it puts the pressure on for things to go “perfect” since you don’t want to spend $100 just to turn around and head home if someone is having a bad day.

When people ask what to get us for Christmas we now ask for memberships instead of gifts.  A membership for a family to the zoo or museum pays for itself in a visit or two and often provides huge discounts to other places.  Some of our best memories are thanks to these gifts.

We are members of the Zoo and Children’s Museum nearby. Yesterday we had no plans so we went to the zoo for the 3rd or 4th time this year.  It never gets old – there is always something different or the animal that was sleeping the last time is awake and playful.  They do great events for adults too that I hope to check out sometime.

The Children’s Museum has tons of events and even a free ballet class on Fridays.  Some of my friends have spent hundreds on dance classes their kids don’t even want to go to.  She loves it but if she didn’t I wouldn’t care since I didn’t pay to find out!  Toys are great but if you want memories that last try to ask for a membership to your favorite place next holiday season.  If you aren’t sure what is nearby sites like Find a Museum can help.

Memories #4: Nature Lovers

Even the least outdoorsy person can benefit from getting outside once in awhile. If you are near water you may be able to find a local beach that you pay for with your tax dollars and the most you need to spend is whatever it costs to park.  You may even be able to save on that if you are willing to walk further.  Landlocked?  Check out the top places to walk or hike in your area.

Have a favorite trail near you?  It might be fun to organize a group to go each week.  My friends do this and it’s nice to see all the kids exploring nature while the adults get chance to catch up.

We spend enough time at our desks and computers.  A little dose of nature is good for all of us.  Nature is always changing.  A different day on the same beach or trail can be completely different than the last depending on the tide or the weather.  If you can’t afford to “do” anything try to unplug and take a hike or get yourself to the water.  See how your mood changes with a little free therapy form Mother Nature!

Memories #5: When in Rome (or wherever you live)

Once you start seeing free activities they will be everywhere like in the Sixth Sense.  If you don’t look at the local paper very often give it a try.  If you have nothing to do or no money there is probably some free event going on in your town soon.  Even the little town I grew up in had free concerts in the Summer and flocks of tourists in the Fall that came to see the leaves change color.  Start checking things out that are going on near you.  If you have some free time you can volunteer for local events.

There are never enough volunteers. No matter how bad your current situation is there is someone worse off that could use your help.  Volunteering is good for your soul!  

See how you can help at the next local event.  Most towns have a road race and even just showing up to cheer for strangers can be a lot of fun.  Go to the parades, concerts and events that are happening.  It costs nothing to be an active member in your community and you might find a cause or group that really speaks to you.  If you are approaching retirement it is really important to figure out what you want to do with your time.

These are just a few ideas that anyone can afford on a budget.  What are some of your favorite activities when money is tight and you have got to get out of the house?  Leave your ideas in the comments and be sure to follow Not Another Thing on Facebook for more deals and ideas! 

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10 comments

    1. It is getting so expensive to do anything! I love having places to go where the expectations and the spend are super low. It keeps it more laid back and we usually end up having a lot of fun!

    2. I never realized how many things are going near me until I started looking. We could be busy every night if we wanted and it makes a staycation a lot more appealing! If you plan ahead you can pack the right week with fun things to do!

  1. Great ideas! I love exploring our city on “staycations” when money is tight. There’s always tons of local and many times free events that make for a fun time!

  2. Great tips for making memories! The one that resonates the most with me is #1 Be a tourist for a day. I live in a small tourist town and we often say there’s nothing to do. I think taking a stroll sounds great, I’m sure there are tons of hidden gems (like antique shops).

    1. Yes! I lived in a tourist town in CT and would roll my eyes every fall when the people from the city poured in. I get it now – there is beauty everywhere!

  3. Great advice, Misty. I’m fortunate to live in an area with a lot of nature walks and hiking trails. It is one of our favorite family activities.

    When my kids were younger (my youngest is now 11) we had a zoo membership. We would do one year on, one year off. Sometimes we would go every other week because, as you said, you never get tired of it. Now I take my grandkids to the zoo.

    We also have free museums on Tuesday afternoons. There are so many great ways to entertain the family when you start looking for opportunities.

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