Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Stay Home, Save Money. Here's How

One of our biggest challenges when we were first getting serious about saving money and paying off debt was what to do with ourselves. At that time, our habits were pretty bad and almost everything we did included spending money. Instead of staying home, where we couldn't spend money, it was our habit, if we were bored, to go out. Go out to eat. Go out to the mall. Go out and wander around Costco. Go further afield and run to Vancouver, BC or Portland, OR for the weekend. It seemed like every time we left our house, it included parting with our hard earned cash whether for gas to get us around, food because we weren't home to eat, or to buy more and more material items at the mall because they looked new and much nicer than the stuff we had at home. What we really had was a problem with keeping ourselves occupied when we were bored.
Now that we have been at my sister-in-law's house for a couple of months where there is pretty much nothing to do that doesn't involve spending money if we leave the house (and since we are trying to save every penny for our trip to Asia this fall) we have become experts at keeping ourselves entertained for free. Here's some ways to keep yourself and the family entertained at home instead of spending money to beat boredom:

  • Cook. We have been cooking up a storm, using whatever we can find in the pantry. Actually hubby usually cooks and I usually bake. This tends to take up a lot of time and it is fun too.

  • Read. There is a library down the street so occasionally I will go there and read books but mostly I have found quite a few books to read online for free. All you have to do is Google for free books to read online and/or download the free Kindle e-reader at Amazon then check out the huge list of e-books offered for free at Amazon.

  • Study. I have been brushing up on both Spanish and Japanese during the past couple of months. This involved an initial outlay of cash for the books that I am using (the Practice Makes Perfect series is awesome!) but now I use the books to study every day for free. If there are other subjects you have been wanting to brush up on, MIT offers an excellent (free!) list of online courses here.

  • Communicate. I still keep in touch with many of my friends back home and around the world. Thanks to the internet, I can do this for free! I use FaceBook, email, Chikka, and instant messages to communicate with my friends.

  • Exercise. Some of the best exercise in the world can be had just by walking out your door and around your neighborhood. All you need is a pair of shoes and you can walk as far (or near) as you like, as fast (or slow) as you like. You can also do calisthenics at home, follow along with free exercise programs online or on TV, and life weights (even if you only have canned food to use as "weights") all at no charge.

  • Enjoy a hobby. I am sorely challenged when it comes to being crafty but I admire my friends who can sew, quilt, knit, crochet, or do any of the other craft hobbies that can take up hours of time and effort with just a small initial outlay of cash for supplies. Other hobbies I occasionally enjoy include fishing, taking photos with my digital camera, doing origami, and playing chess with the hubby.

  • Volunteer. Unfortunately there is no where nearby for me to volunteer right now, but at home I often volunteer ten to twenty hours per week with various organizations. Fortunately, the internet allows me to still provide some services for organizations that I love so I have been able to update websites for a couple of non profits that I work with and write grants for a few others. I know another lady who is mostly home-bound but was recently recognized as a volunteer of the year for all of the hours she gives to various homeless organizations just via her computer and telephone from home.

  • Watch TV shows, videos, and movies either online or on cable. We haven't been watching much cable TV lately but we have both been enjoying a wide range of shows online in the evenings. Hubby enjoys his free online TV shows broadcast from the Philippines and I have been watching a Korean soap opera every evening (also free, also online).

  • Playing with the kids. We like to play with the kids after dinner each evening, mostly to keep them out of grandma's hair but also because they are so darn fun to watch. I've never seen kids more enamoured with simple things (boxes, plastic bowls, the neighbor's cat, chasing the ducks) in my life. We toss the ball back and forth, make "forts" out of blankets when it is too cold to go outside, color, etc. All of this is free and it is great for the kids (and us too!).

It really is a major lifestyle change when you go from paying for your entertainment each day to entertaining yourself for free but it is also a wonderful way to explore new things and save a boatload of money in the process!


  1. Some great ideas! When I move to sunny Florida, I hope to spend lots of time on the beach! I'm going to check out the free Kindle e-reader now. Thanks for the tip!

  2. You're right. In Georgia, we can go outside and enjoy sunny weather everyday, not so much in Seattle. The Florida beaches will be a great place to spend time!

  3. Those are some great ideas! I know what you mean, you actually have to plan it out so you stay out of trouble. You'd think it would be easier! I agree that it's worth it in the end though, for sure! The savings really add up.

  4. Oh, wow! Thanks for those links to the free e-books. I got a Kindle as a gift so this will help me with my book obsession. Or enable it, lol.

  5. These are all great ways to not spend money, something for everyone! I like that you have reading near the top.

  6. These are all wonderful ideas. I love to read and we make weekly visits to our local library. We try to have a group of friends come over every couple of weeks and we sit and play board games. It is a lot of fun. Our favorite is a game called Apples to Apples.

  7. It really is a big lifestyle change to go from paid-for entertainment (shopping, etc) to make-your-own entertainment. I was fortunate that I grew up with my Depression-era grandparents who came up with all kinds of free ways to pass the I have reverted to these methods to save money (and yes, reading is one of my favorite ways to do this!).