A Story About Paying Off Debt and the Obstacles Along the Way


Embracing the Free-kend

Scene: It's Thursday night, and you're watching your favorite show on Netflix while quietly basking in the knowledge that tomorrow is the end of the week. Two precious, cubicle-free days of liberation are less than 24 hours away! But how to make the most if them? Several possibilities immediately come to mind: Brunch with friends. A visit to the local festival, sure to be replete with craft beer and food trucks. A date night. A trip to the coffee shop. Maybe the zoo or a concert, or an excursion to the art gallery to check out the latest exhibit. 

Date night of weekends past. This beer alone was $6. NOT THIS WEEKEND.
And then you remember: You're on a budget. More than that, you're participating in the Uber Frugal Month Challenge, which means that if it costs even a penny, you're not gonna do it. No way, no how, because you're committed to this challenge, dagnamit. So. Every single idea that's just come to mind is out of the question. 

This was the scenario that kicked off our weekend, and I have to be honest: I had a wee panic attack when considering our options. My knee-jerk reaction was one of, If we can't pay for it, what the heck are we going to do? And then the next thought: Everyone else is going to be PARTICIPATING IN LIFE while we're sitting inside, playing video games, eating leftover rice and beans and indulging the cat in repeat games of fetch because now we're Those People. Hashtag Pennypinchers. 

The Very Expensive Feline says there's nothing wrong with spending the
weekend playing with her. And yes, she enjoys a good game of fetch.
Maybe it's just me, but I'm so used to the pay-to-play mentality of modern-day entertainment that I acquire an acute case of FOMO when I can't participate in activities that cost money.

The rational part of my brain acknowledges that there are plenty of free things to do in our town and in our own home: We have access to dozens of parks, forests, recreation areas, urban trails, and two ponds where the Kiddo enjoys fishing. We have memberships at our well-stocked city library. We have weekly Sunday morning concerts that coincide with the farmer's market; the food isn't free, but the music is. We have the Kiddo's Saturday soccer games. We have friends who like to throw potlucks and barbecues and sit around on the porch just shooting the breeze, an activity which last I checked costs a grand total of nothing. And within our own home, we have games, craft materials, the ingredients for popsicles and cookies, and plenty of movies.

I just needed to talk myself down, that's all.

So here's what we ended up doing:
  • We visited the local lake at sunset and watched the Kiddo fish. Last week, he used his own money to purchase the rod, the reel, the license, and the fat little nightcrawlers (they live in a styrofoam cup in our refrigerator; I'm still coming to terms with that), and Fortysomething taught him the fishing fundamentals. It's turning into a hobby we all enjoy: the Kiddo lures the panfish, Fortysomething and I get a chance to talk, and we all have the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors. 
We live in a higher-cost area, but scenes like this make it worthwhile for us.
  • We went for a wildflower hike, took pictures, and then used a borrowed wildflower guide to try to identify them. Wildflowers are in full bloom here, and new varieties literally pop out of the ground overnight. Observing their vibrant colors and textures is a treat, though none of us is particularly adept at identification.

  • We visited the library. Fortysomething stocked up on books about biology, the Kiddo selected books about penguins and seeds, and I ended up with my usual stack-o-randomness.
Pretty sure Ed would approve of our weekend outdoor extravaganza.
  • We watched it rain. May and June were insanely dry months here. Pollen levels were through the roof, new forest fires seemed to crop up on a daily basis, and our A/C-less apartment was too hot for any form of cooking that involved the stove or oven. Now that the monsoons have arrived, we're fascinated by the rain. We literally sit in front of our open door and marvel at the daily afternoon downpours.
In short, it was a lovely weekend with plenty of relaxation and time together. 

So tell us: What are some free activities you'd recommend to other folks pinching their pennies and still trying to have a good time? What are the best free things to do where you live? And... Does freekending get easier?

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