Fun on a Budget: 10 Ideas for a Low-Cost Weekend

Have you ever sat down and figured out how much you actually spend during a typical weekend? The results could surprise you. From necessary errands to entertainment, the money you shell out every Saturday and Sunday can really add up over time. And if you have financial goals like getting out of debt, saving for a large purchase, or building your retirement nest egg, your weekend spending could be hindering those goals.

A good way to revamp your weekend spending habits is to try to avoid spending any money at all, or very little. Think that’s impossible? With a little advance planning, you can do a lot without big spending. Here are some ideas to try for a low-cost weekend.

Channel Your Inner Gourmet

a couple cooks together
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Do you like to cook? You’re not alone. Interest in cooking has been steadily growing, thanks in part to the proliferation of reality cooking shows and celebrity chefs like the Barefoot Contessa, Jamie Oliver, and Gordon Ramsey. If you already have food on hand (e.g., the chicken and broccoli you bought a few days ago that are still in your fridge), make some meals that you can freeze in portions to bring to work or have for dinner during the week.

Not only is this way cheaper than eating out, it can also be much healthier and a lot of fun and fulfill your creative needs. Share with a friend and make it even more special!

Have Friends Over for The Game

friends watching the game together
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Buying a ticket and schlepping out to the stadium will cost you a small fortune. Yes, we know it’s “the experience,” but who says you can’t get some great quality time at home with family and friends? Better yet, head over to their house if they’re hosting!

You can spend a lot of money pretty quickly by going out to watch your favorite team—but if everyone stays in and brings a dish to share, you could save a ton. Plus, you can cheer as loud as you like without worrying about disturbing people around you.

Get a Dose of Culture

a couple looks at art on the wall of a gallery
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When was the last time you went to a museum? Many have free admission on weekends. Whether you’re into Rembrandt or Renoir, Cassatt or Cézanne, you’re sure to be inspired.

You can also browse your local art galleries for free, or check out some books about art at the library.  

Find The Floor in Your Bedroom

a woman tidying a messy bedroom
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Take a few hours to tackle that messy bedroom… or garage, or closet, or basement, or attic! Ok, we get it—you don’t want to spend a precious weekend doing laundry and other household drudgery. But tidying up really does feel pretty darn good so put a couple of extra loads in the washer.

Box up old books, clothes, and household goods for donating. There are countless ways to get organized. Pick one or two and get moving. It’s just one weekend, but you know it needs to be done and it will make the upcoming week much more enjoyable.

Host a Viewing of Your Favorite TV Shows and Movies

people watching a movie together at home
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Call it a “movie marathon” or “film festival,” but get friends and family together for a big night in front of the TV watching one of your favorite shows or some movies.

You already pay, whether it's for Netflix and Hulu or for cable and premium channels, so take advantage of them. Break out the popcorn maker and enjoy.

Clean Out Your Inbox

a woman smiles as she checks her email
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If you’re staring at thousands of old emails when you check your email accounts, it’s time to take action! Whether it’s your personal or work account, there’s nothing more satisfying than hitting the delete key multiple times.

It might not be the most exciting weekend activity you'll ever do, but getting rid of all those unwanted emails that have been piling up can feel liberating.

Take a Nap (Seriously!)

a man wearing headphones naps on the couch
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Americans get less and less sleep every year. Today, we average just 6.8 hours per night, less than the doctor-recommended seven to nine hours.

Catching up on your ZZZs for a few hours is the ultimate (and free) energy refresher!

Enjoy The Great Outdoors

a woman bikes across the Golden Gate Bridge
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Whether it’s a bike ride along a local trail, a hike through the state park, or just a walk around your neighborhood, get outside and enjoy the weather. You’ll be doing your body and mental well-being a favor, too.

A study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that a whopping 80% of Americans don’t get the recommended amounts of exercise each week, setting themselves up for years of health problems. 

Organize a Neighborhood Cleanup

a group of neighbors holding hands
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Giving back to your community can be richly rewarding. See if your neighbors would be interested in spending a few hours picking up trash along your local streets. Just grab some plastic garbage bags and go.

You’ll help establish a sense of neighborhood pride. Chip in for some inexpensive refreshments like sodas and pretzels afterward and relax with your new friends.

Celebrate The Season

pumpkins decorated with hats and eyes
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Whether it’s decorating for an upcoming holiday or just enjoying what the outdoors has to offer at this time of year, be sure to use the calendar for inspiration.

When your low-cost weekend comes to a close, resume your normal spending habits. You might not feel the urge to go hog wild after just two days. In fact, you may even think a little longer about your monetary choices the next time you reach for your wallet. Not doling out a dime for an entire weekend might be too weird of a concept for some, but it could help you break unhealthy habits, which may, in turn, have a positive impact on your immediate and future financial situations.

Do you feel you spend too much on the weekends? Do you make an effort to plan your activities or are you just reacting to whatever comes your way on Saturday and Sunday? Do the kids prompt you to spend needlessly? What would your life be like with a little less spending and a lot more low-cost weekends?