Free Fun

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saving moneyIt’s that time of year again! The time of year when we have made our New Year’s resolutions, and because it’s still January, are still working hard to keep them.

On my list every year along with losing ten pounds and becoming fluent in French is the goal of saving more money. Sometimes I want to save for a vacation or special something for all of us, other times I just want to tighten the family belt after over-spending on Christmas.

There are plenty of ways to save money that we all know and love—turn the heat down two degrees and put on a sweater for gods-sake, stop dining out or do it less, use coupons or one of the many awesome rebate apps out there (I’ve saved several hundred dollars in two years with one!), and skip that $6 latte.

But one of my favorite ways to save money is by engaging in what a friend of mine used to call “free fun.” In Westchester, where we have to pay for parking just to go to Target, saving money can take some doing, but if you’re committed, it can be done.

Here is a list of some free or low-cost ways for you to spend that copious free-time that you, as a mother, undoubtedly have. In no particular order of preference:

1. Play a game

The kids can join the fun for Uno, Charades, Pictionary, Go Fish and Bingo with a family game night. My husband and I also recently enjoyed crushing my parents at Gin Rummy and I am looking forward to defending my Trivial Pursuit title this weekend. If weather permits, get outside and kick that soccer ball around.

2. Puzzles

Clear off the dining room table and get to work. Sudoku—numbers puzzles feel too much like math to me, so I steer clear of this one, but people seem to like them. I do like words though, and so love a good crossword puzzle. I can usually get through the NY Times’s until about Thursday or Friday, Sunday is an all-day affair and I just don’t have that kind of time. Huge crossword books can also be found inexpensively at craft stores and book stores.

3. Naps

Probably my most favorite pastime, but, let’s face it, you’re a mom and this one is just a joke.

4. Watch a classic movie

Don’t go to your grave without having seen Citizen Kane, Casablanca or Annie Hall. I don’t like to encourage a ton of TV/movie watching since it’s the go-to for many of us already. But if you are going to watch something, make it something worthwhile. If you don’t have cable or Netflix, your local library has tons of DVDs available.

5. Go for a walk/run/hike

As I type this, it’s eight degrees out, so I don’t mean today, but when the weather becomes reasonable again, get outside. Explore your neighborhood, local park or one of the many walking trails in the area.

6. Spa Day

Grab all those mask samples you get from Sephora, and those bottles of nail polish. Steam up the bathroom and get beautiful. My daughter loves to paint each nail a different color, and even hubs enjoys a good exfoliating scrub now and again.

7. Sex

Hey, it’s free, and when properly executed, can be fun. After the kids are asleep, of course. Or at Grandma’s.

8. Cooking and Baking

I don’t like to cook, but my husband is great at it, so this one’s a win-win for me. We play a game called “Make Dinner Using Only The Ingredients We Already Have,” otherwise this can be very un-free fun. It’s sort of like a domestic Iron Chef, and if you or someone in your house is culinarily-inclined this can reap delicious rewards!

I do like to bake, and it seems like most kids do, too. Break out those cookie cutters, and the powdered-sugar you don’t use for anything else, and get to work. You’ll have dessert for days and you’ll feel good knowing that while your kids are eating sugar, at least they’re not eating all the other junk that comes in store-bought treats.

9. Color

Those adult coloring books are all the rage for a reason. You and your kids can sit at the kitchen table for ages filling in the lines — them in theirs and you in yours. If you haven’t been gifted any, (and you probably have), I’ve found them in the bargain bins at Target for $3.

10. Read a book

This is actually my second-favorite activity after napping. Dust something off of that shelf you’ve been meaning to read forever. Or, Amazon has tons of books in their lending library, good deals from publishers (I’ve scored many $1.00 and $2.00 books from them), and there is, of course, the actual library. Borrowing a book won’t cost you a thing.

11. Learn a language

Or brush up on that high-school/college Spanish/French/German. I hope to kill two resolution birds with this one! There are some great apps that use games with plenty of repetition to get you up to speed for that vacation you’re going to take with all the money you’ve saved staying home, not eating out, and not wasting money on overpriced coffee.

This is, of course, just a smattering of the fun things you can do for free or close to free.

What are some of your favorite low or no cost ways to pass the time?