You don’t have to spend money to have fun, you know.

"You don't have to spend money to have fun, you know." Great perspective from

Being back in my tiny, rural home-town with no memberships to bail me out of a long day with bored kids, I've been reminded that you don't have to spend money to have fun! (And the fun you have that is FREE is probably more meaningful, anyway.)

As I mentioned yesterday, there were two things that came to mind as I've been on on my spontaneous trip to Oregon. The first is that NOW is the time to use as much of your weekly budget as you can spare to start buying ahead for Christmas, back-to-school for next year, and even next Summer if you can.


Since being back in my teeny tiny hometown in Oregon for the last week, I'm reminded that…

You don't HAVE to spend money to have fun.

No brainer, right? I've always known this, preached it, and even lived by it…or so I thought. But since being here and not even having a swimming pool in this town, let alone my aquarium membership, gym membership, children's museum membership, pool pass, fun centers, play groups, bouncy houses, trampoline gyms, zoo, summer camps, amusement parks, and discounted movie theaters to take the kids to, I found myself getting worried. I have actually thought to myself, “What am I going to do with the kids in this town of nothing to do?”

Shame on you, Jordan! This is exactly the kind of mentality that got us into our rough financial situation in the first place;

the false notion that MONEY is what allows you to have FUN.

Now, don't get me wrong…we've learned how to work these memberships and activities into our budget, and I always try to find a deal (of course). BUT…

When Bubba and I decided to stop getting by and start getting ahead, we buckled down. We call it “going to ‘the Ranch'” (comparing it to the show The Biggest Loser and the fact that they go to “The Biggest Loser Ranch” to give up life, work out 6-8 hours per day, and eat basically water and lettuce for months at a time in order to lose as much weight as they can, as fast as they can and kickstart the rest of their lives).

We sold our car. We stopped eating out. We stopped spending money on entertainment. We stopped shopping. We focused every dime we could on getting out of debt (which, we had $10K on just ONE credit card. ONE! And yes, we had several.) Oh and just for the record, we got out of debt in just 14 months, while making a $30K salary that year and having $0 in savings.

Did we give up lots of things? Um, you bet your bacon we did. (No, literally. We gave up bacon because it was too expensive.) Was it hard? Yes, it was DANG hard…

…At first.

Then an interesting thing happened.

We grew closer. We talked more. We spent more time at home. We got creative. We didn't have cable TV and lightening fast internet to distract us any more. We planned cute, creative dates for each other instead of just going to dinner and a movie every weekend. We started making gifts for each other instead of buying them…making for some INCREDIBLY thoughtful gifts. And the most surprising…

We started having an insane amount of FUN.

That's right. Without spending a single dime most of the time, we started having SO. MUCH. FUN. It's amazing how much of our world was suddenly opened to us when we were forced to start taking notice!

Flash forward 4 years later, we are still debt-free except for our mortgage, and Bubba is now taking a steady, solid paycheck (glory Alleluia!).

…and we've started getting lazy.

Being here in Oregon, the kids and I have been forced to get creative. To look for things to do that don't involve having a membership somewhere. It has been such a refreshing reminder that you really don't need to spend money to have fun!

Here are some of the fun FREE things we have been up to:

Playing with buckets, hoses, and toys in the front yard instead of paying to go to a pool:

Great reminder that you don't have to spend money to have FUN! From

Great reminder that you don't have to spend money to have FUN! From

We drove through the a local wild animal farm to see the animals being raised there (free!):

Great reminder that you don't have to spend money to have FUN! From

We played and played and played at all the local parks:

Great reminder that you don't have to spend money to have FUN! From

We took advantage of a local free arts & crafts day:

Great reminder that you don't have to spend money to have FUN! From

We played at the river (and even borrowed the free life jackets provided there) and collected dozens of shells, which we plan to hot-glue to the bird houses the kids painted:

Great reminder that you don't have to spend money to have FUN! From

We went on walks…wearing coordinating outfits, of course (ok so the coordinating wasn't actually on purpose, but it's still pretty funny…)

Great reminder that you don't have to spend money to have FUN! From

We had a pizza and movie party at home instead of giving in to the temptation of paying $10 per ticket to go to a movie theater,

And have enjoyed countless good conversations, back scratching episodes, and stories together – especially with Mimi and Grandpa.

Great reminder that you don't have to spend money to have FUN! From

I'm grateful for my sleepy, tiny, “boring”, rural home town and for the reminder it gives me to stop, slow down, put the wallet away, and enjoy some FUN together.

Enjoy that food for thought!



    • AvatarFunCheapOrFree says

      Great question! I would recommend taking advantage of all the things your city/area has to offer – festivals, free concerts, free arts & museum days, there are loads of things! Find your city’s website (or local blogs) and you will be amazed!

  1. AvatarRho says

    Thanks for the reminder! It is easy to fall back into “we can only have fun when we spend $”. And we usually do end up having more fun when we get creative!

  2. AvatarStacy Lane says

    Thank you for this post. We are right where you guys were years ago. We had to buckle down and pay our debt. We have paid quite a bit down already and are starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. It gets discouraging sometimes but I then remind myself of all the things we’ve learned along the way and the mistakes that we won’t make again. I think the best thing is that our children will be properly taught about money and we’ve ended the debt cycle.

    I first saw you on Extreme Cheapskates and I saved the show indefinitely to watch again. I then searched you online (because I just KNEW that you had to have a blog! ) and then started reading your posts. I love reading about you and your family! I really feel like I can relate to you and that I’m not weird or crazy (even though I feel like it sometimes). You have even inspired me to start my own blog!

    So thanks for listening and for sharing. Your posts always bring me back down to earth when I’ve gone astray!

  3. AvatarGinny Clark says

    I needed this so much.. We have our 2nd Anniversary coming up in Oct. We’ve recently spent a small fortune on a new bed (must have). We are taking a vacation that starts tomorrow-next week. so we’re spending a lot of money in just these last two weeks.
    I was just looking online for ideas to do for our Anniversary (cheap) and took a break to come to your blog 🙂
    so I’m thinking after a nice breakfast at home, we’ll take a nice quiet drive by ourselves and see all the fall colors. then will go out to our restaurant for dinner. Its the same restaurant his parents went every year for their anniversary, and we’ve continued the tradition. then a nice at home date.

    so THANK YOU for the reminder that fun doesnt have to cost much if any money.

  4. AvatarLaura says

    Mike Myers, growing up, had the same thing with his family. It’s called No Money Fun. And people don’t understand that it doesn’t need to be expensive or complicated to be family fun!

  5. AvatarKaren says

    GREAT post! Definitely helps us those of us who are still in financial training connect with you better! You find GREAT deals, but some of us are still in the “at the ranch” phase and need these types of tips! Keep em coming!

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