The No Money Weekend Part 1 "Family Edition"

It's the time of year when families are anticipating the summer break with no school and long, hot hours of free time.

We all know that a vacation can be very expensive, but perhaps you've saved and have a plan to pay for that special trip.  However, weekend activities are often not so carefully planned, even though it's possible to spend several hundred dollars in a couple of days.  Families eat out more on the weekend than during the week.  Add a visit to the movie theater, amusement park, or the mall, and weekend spending goes even higher.

So the No Money Weekend suggested by Trent Hamm at caught my eye.  The challenge is to spend no money at all... so there are no snack or coffee runs, and no driving beyond the gas in your tank.  You use food from your pantry, items you already own, free events and services, the company of other people, and your own ingenuity.

Today I'm posting 15 ideas that families might use to meet this challenge.  In the next couple of posts I'll suggest dozens more ideas that can also be used by singles and couples.  You won't find all of the suggestions appealing or available, but I hope that some of them will pique your interest or inspire your own creativity in coming up with no-cost activities.

The No Money Weekend #1-15

1.  Visit your library.

Of course the library has print books, but many also have audio books, e-books, DVDs and CDs.  Many libraries have story times for young children; ours also has a play area with giant foam blocks, a play house and kitchen, and a wooden railway.  Your library may host book clubs, author appearances, and other events.

2.  Play board and card games.

Play with your family or invite some friends over.  We love Scattergories, Bananagrams, and Ticket to Ride,* but any board or card games you own can provide hours of fun.  Do you have Uno, Monopoly, or even some dominoes hanging around?

* This blog is reader-supported.  If you buy through my links, I may earn a small commission.

3.  Research free days at local museums and zoos.

Our county historical museum is always free, and the public-supported classical radio station recently sponsored a free Saturday at a children's science museum.  Did you know the Smithsonian in Washington DC is always free to the public?  There's probably an opportunity near you.

4.  Make a time capsule.

Find a small box, then locate items that represent your life today such as the front page of a newspaper, a magazine cover, a grocery store receipt, a letter or greeting card.  Your kids could add a drawing or school assignment.  Print out photos of your family, your house, pets, the kids' school, a gas station price sign, etc.  Fill the box, tape it securely, and write the date five or ten years in the future.  Put it in the closet next to your important papers file so you won't lose it.

5.  Open a time capsule.

You probably didn't make an official time capsule years ago, but you may have old photos, a wedding album, or a yearbook.  Pull them out and enjoy your memories, and share them with your kids.

6.  Build a blanket fort.

Your kids will love using chairs, tables, blankets, and bedspreads to build a giant fort.  Use flashlights (or string some Christmas lights) to read books, play games, or have a picnic in the fort.

7.  Start a nature notebook.

Grab notebooks and pens or pencils, go to the park or a wild place, and look for interesting rocks, sketch a squirrel, or spot some birds.  Gather wildflowers in a basket and press them for homemade greeting cards or botanical art.  Make leaf or bark rubbings and identify the trees they come from.  Clouds, spiders' webs, an earthworm – pay attention to whatever interests you and record it.  Borrow field guides from the library for more information.

8.  Have a yard sale.

Remove clutter and turn your No Money Weekend into a money-maker.  Get the kids involved by letting them sell their own unwanted or outgrown toys.  Donate items that don't sell by the end of the day.

9.  Make greeting cards.

If you have cheap blank cards from the dollar store, or any kind of cardstock, you and your kids can add your own beautiful photos, pressed flowers and leaves, or a mini collage made with colored paper, stickers, and letters and pictures cut from magazines.  Bundle groups of cards together for gift-giving, or save them to use individually for birthdays, thank you notes, or holidays.

10.  Blow bubbles.

  • The bubble solution:  Gently mix 1 cup dish soap with 6 cups water (try not to let it foam), then stir in 1/2 cup light corn syrup.  Cover and let sit overnight.  

  • The wands:  Twist a pipe cleaner into a loop (leave a bit for a handle), reshape a wire hanger, use a plastic funnel (dip the big end into the solution and blow through the small end), or cut off the bottom of a plastic drink bottle (works just like the funnel).

11.  Run through a sprinkler.

Just attach a sprinkler to the end of your garden hose and turn it on, letting the water shoot into the air.  My siblings, cousins, and I loved playing tag under the sprinkler.  Sometimes my dad joined us, which was even better!

12.  Hop on a bike.

If you have bikes and helmets, you're ready for exercise and fun.  Research local bike trails, grab some water and a lunch, and start pedaling.

13.  Play in the park.

Your child will love it when you go down the slide, swing on the swings, and traverse the monkey bars with her, and you'll get quite a good workout too.

14.  Build a cardboard castle.

Visit an appliance store and ask for their boxes.  Use them to create a giant castle in your back yard.  Cut doors and windows, duct tape boxes together, use paint or markers to decorate.  This may provide more than one afternoon of fun and imagination.

15.  Stargaze.

Go outside on a clear evening, preferably away from city lights, and look up.  Use an app such as SkyView Free if you don't know what you're looking at.  Spread some blankets, lay on your back, and be amazed by the universe.

Find The No Money Weekend Part 2 here and Part 3 here.

Updated January 2023


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