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.