Skip to content


Tag: save

One of the things that has always amazed me is the fact that people believe they need to spend a lot of money to have a good time.  Maybe it is because I grew up without a lot of money or because I spent so long as a starving graduate student, but I appreciate being able to not spend cash while still having fun.  And I am not suggesting that you go play kick the can, roll in a tire down a hill into the highway, or any other things our grandparents always talked about doing, nor use illegal file sharing to access stuff that you are supposed to pay to have access to.  But there are less expensive ways to get some kicks.

Since it is summer it is time for concerts in the park.  Even though many towns have budget constraints and are eliminating events like this, there are still enough concerts around that you could literally attend a different genre concert weekly as a fun and cheap date while pretending to be cultured too.   As they are in the park you can do a low cost picnic and seem to be a hopeless romantic while paying not a dime for a great evening.  Highly Bohemian.  My wife and I used to do this all the time before we had kids, now we only get to see the Zucchini Brothers and other children’s shows.

Another idea that is cultured is to visit the museums.  And not only are they often free (being donor supported), but they are also air conditioned so make a great way to escape the stifling heat.  A quick web search will probably find a dozen places within a half hour of you, even if some aren’t exactly A list receptacles of antiquity (Pez Dispenser Museum?  The Museum of Left Handed Bowlers?) Still beats going out in the 95 degree sauna or shelling out fifteen bucks each for a lousy movie.

How about doing a movie night?  You can stay in, watch that 54” plasma TV that you so desperately needed and rarely use, and not have to worry about dressing up or anything.  There are enough new movies coming out that you can catch something that meets your fancy of the day without having to shell out ten bucks for a two liter watered down soda or thing of Milk Duds.  And don’t forget about looking at an oldie but goodie, either that you own or borrow from a buddy.  How about doing a whole event, making pizzas with your buddies and turning it into night?  You can do this for a few bucks per person total cost while having a blast.  If you host it make your buddies bring the beer and wine and you can actually make it into a zero cost night for yourself, just have to clean up the mess before and afterwards.  Not a bad deal.  Plus it might re-stock your fridge with the left overs.  I always loved doing this because buddies will often trade beer for convenience, and you get to invite over exactly who will contribute to your happiness at that point.

Another one of my favorite low cost summer activities is to go hiking.  Grab some provisions, your pack, and your boots.  Go someplace, walk for a bit, see some cool stuff.  Maybe eat some peanut butter sandwiches while sitting on a rock and looking at a stream or fuzzy animals.  Fresh air, exercise, time with the people you love (or go on your own to get away from them).  Not too many downsides, other than bugs and maybe getting eaten by a bear.  This is the sort of thing that you can do whether 22 or 72 also, so hiking can give you joy and cost savings for decades.  Just not when its 92 degrees out.  Do the Museum of GI Joe Villains that day instead.

 So be creative and look around to see how you can spend some time and have some fun while keeping your wallet put away.  Even when you do have the resources to spend, not shelling out cash all the time for regular entertainment will let you save up to be able to spend money on the things you really want later, like that trip to the Museum of the Mouse at Disney.

Here is a small savings idea I have used for over a decade.  There is absolutely nothing technical about it and requires zero advanced financial knowledge.  Here it is: use cash.

What?!  Yup.  Use cash.  Cash actually gives you haptic feedback that swiping a card doesn’t because you have to count out the bills (try to never have anything bigger than a $20 as it disrupts your feedback), and then they physically give you back change.  Pyschological studies have shon that people spend a bit less when they use cash versus writing checks or using cards.

But don’t stop there.  Take your metal change and at the end of every day throw it into a container.  I have an old gallon jug (used to hold wine) that I  throw mine into.  DO NOT RAID IT!  Not for quarters (buy a roll and keep in a separate cup), or to buy beer, or anything short of a real emergency.  When the jug is almost full take it you your bank if they have a coin sorter (like Coinstar) and deposit it.  This can help you build your emergency fund or to save for that next TV.  Or to pay off the credit card you rang up because you didn’t realize it was real money like the coins in your pocket.