Thursday, 17 December 2009

Fun, Free, Frugal and Social

By Notes From The Frugal Trenches

I'm currently in a season of unemployment which means apart from job hunting I have a lot more time on my hands. The only problem with having more time, is that human desire to fill it, which I'm certainly trying to remain on top of. Practically, this is a very good season in my life to spend time with friends who live farther afield and friends it can be difficult to catch up with normally, as it is the holidays it is also a time when family and friends really do want to meet up. For the vast majority of my family and friends catching up means dinner and a movie or dinner and drinks, which is costly and not within my meager budget. Slowly but surely I've found there are many ways to enjoy frugal fun and while it may take some encouragement with friends who are not accustomed to more frugal endeavors, it is amazing the fun you can have on very little money. Here are some activities that have worked for me over the last month and provide a fun way to spend time with family and friends over the holiday season!

1. Games Night - host a games night at your home! A friend of mine is very good at this and everyone brings a game plus nibbles or a bottle of wine. We end up having a fabulous evening for little or no money!

2. Get hiking and walking - even though it is certainly colder right now (unless you are reading this in Australia), I've found with a hat and mitts you can convince most people to take a nice walk. If I invite friends who prefer expensive coffee shop catch ups, I might suggest we pick up a hot chocolate or coffee on route or I offer to make us one from home to bring. I recently convinced two friends to go for a long walk in a beautiful park, both admitted they hadn't enjoyed a walk in 5+ years and while they admitted they were unsure at first we've already made a date for another walk!

3. Movie Night - invite friends around and ask them to bring their DVD collection or you can rent a movie from the library or even during the Holidays choose a movie that's on the TV. This can be such a fun, frugal activity and a great way to spend time with a group of friends.

4. Accept dinner invitations or invite others for dinner - hosting people in your home doesn't need to be expensive, you can accept the offer of each guest bringing one dish and I've found with a little forward thinking I can feed a group of six quite easily while staying in my weekly food budget!

5. Join a book club, knitting group, running club etc - I am a member of a knitting club and a book club, both of which I adore. A friend of mine recently bought a house and was struggling to maintain social relationships and keep her exercise costs low while paying her mortgage, I suggested she join a local running club which was free, she has now not only found a free social form of exercise twice a week, but she's also made loads of local friends!

6. Find out about local events - over the Holiday season there are many workshops, fairs, movie events and activities around my local area that are very reasonable. Have a look for signs and advertisements at your local library, Church or recreation centre.

7. Be honest with people about your budget - I've had many offers from friends to come and stay for the weekend which is lovely, but it could create a lot of stress if friends make plans for you that are costly. I've found being honest and upfront about your budget can help you choose activities that won't get you in debt!

8. Get in the garden, learn a new skill, write a letter, listen to the radio, watch the snow/rain, host a baking day or cooking day - there are so many wholesome, relaxed, simple and frugal things we can do each and every day!

9. Volunteer - you can volunteer on your own or invite friends to volunteer with you! It is such a wonderful way to give back, learn a new skill, help others and spend your time! It can be as simple as making meals for people you know or giving a day to help at a food bank!

10. Use gift cards, vouchers etc - sometimes we have to spend money, I always try to have a few gift cards on hand with enough money for a couple of meals and drinks out. I used these when all my other simple plans fail :)

I think it is also important to remember you can't do everything and it is OK to say no. As I fine tune simple living I find there is a peaceful acceptance and joy which comes from choosing how to spend my time and having the confidence not to accept every offer. There is a freedom found by saying no that money simply can't buy.

Do you have any ideas for frugal ways to spend time with friends and family during this holiday season?

Finally, if I don't get the chance to do so before the Holidays, I wanted to wish every single reader a wonderful Holiday Season! Thank you for enriching my life this year.


This Thrifted Life said...

I love having game nights. In fact, my birthday is this weekend, and my friends are getting together for a fun evening of board games and chicken wings to celebrate. Should cost very little and be very fun!

I love having people over, and I find that summer and winter are are the most economical times for me to do so. During the summer, a big salad of local greens can hit the spot perfectly. During the winter, inexpensive soup and basic bread is usually all it takes to make my guests happy.

Powell Cottage said...

I too am looking for permanent employment, and you are so right, you have to let people know about your budget. You even have to remind them. It is nothing to be ashamed of and those who need reminding don't look down upon you they just can't keep all of the intricacies of all their friends lives straight any more than we can. It actually makes me happy when I can move everyone towards a more frugal way of life to accomodate me because I think that secretly many of my friends are relieved to not be spending so much with me as the excuse. :-)

The Nurturing Pirate said...

We are fortunate to both be employed, but we strive to live the frugal life regardless. These are all excellent ideas. I've found that I'm terrible about maintaining friendships via phone, and even email. So I started a book club, mostly so that I can see my friends once a month. Also, every week, usually on a work night, we have Family Night with a group of friends. They come over, we cook together (which is a lot of fun, and less stressful than one person being responsible for all the cooking), and after the kids are all asleep, we play card games.

Lindsey said...

These are great ideas. I am coming out of an unemployment slump and while I didn't have a job, a lot of these things really helped me enjoy the time I had to dive into new things and find out more about myself and also utilize some down time in a positive way :)

Fleecenik Farm said...

One thing I used to do during lean times was just find a beautiful spot to sit. I was fortunate to live near the ocean. Having the quiet time to watch seagulls and boats in the harbor always brought a sense of peace.

When my older son was little we used to park at the airport to watch the airplanes take off; just for the wonder of it.

Around here local adult ed courses will offer one or two day workshops from the local organic growers assoc. for only a couple of dollars. last year they offered seed saving class for 5.00.

GooseBreeder said...

Great ideas and what about potluck dinners where everyone brings a dish;clothes swap parties where your friends bring all the clothes they no longer love and you have fun swapping;making your own Christmas cards and gifts;joining a barter group like LETS or strting one;volunteer work;writing that book you always said you would; growing plants from cuttings for sale;knitting tiny size garments for the prem-babies in prem units and so on and on.....
have fun!!!

livinginalocalzone said...

You've hit on so many great ones. The best times I have with my family are the spontaneous and free ones - just last weekend we had a grand time after I had a sudden urge to crayon (believe it or not!). We've also had game nights and spent time listening to radio programs or music.

Another one that I like as well is to read aloud to one another. In grad school, my apartment mate and I would choose a series of books and take turns reading aloud to one another. The listener might be making dinner or doing some house chores at the time, knitting/crocheting, or just sitting around the kitchen table and listening. It was very soothing and could get very intense, depending on the book. We each got exposed to the other's favorites, and it was a chance to spend time together.