You Don’t Have to Spend Money to Have Fun, You Know.

Aug 28, 2014 | Family Time, How To Save Money

I'm often 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.) Here's my experience of the time I went back in my tiny, rural home-town a few years ago with no memberships to bail me out of a long day with bored kids.

two young children painting birdhouses at the park, from fun cheap or free

There were two things that came to mind as I was on my spontaneous trip to Oregon just a few years back. The first was that this was the time to use as much of my weekly budget as I can spare to start buying ahead for Christmas, for back-to-school, and even next summer.


Since I visited my teeny tiny hometown in Oregon, I was 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 going back 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, playgroups, 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.


Dad and daughter fishing in a pond, from fun cheap or free

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
  • Talked more
  • Spent more time at home
  • Got creative.
  • Didn't have cable TV and lightning-fast internet to distract us anymore
  • Planned cute, creative dates for each other instead of just going to dinner and a movie every weekend
  • Started making gifts for each other instead of buying them…making for some INCREDIBLY thoughtful gifts

And the most surprising…


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 a few years later, we are still debt-free except for our mortgage, and we are taking a steady, solid paycheck (glory Alleluia!).

…but we started getting lazy.

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


llamas at a llama farm, from fun cheap or free
  • We drove through the local wild animal farm to see the animals being raised there (for free!).
  • Played with buckets, hoses, and toys in the front yard instead of paying to go to a pool.
  • We played and played and played at all the local parks.
  • We took advantage of a local free arts & crafts day.
  • 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 birdhouses the kids painted.
  • We went on walks.
  • 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 we enjoyed countless good conversations, back-scratching episodes, and stories together – especially with Mimi and Grandpa.
grandma reading to children on a sofa, from fun cheap or free

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.

What are some free ways you have fun and create memories as a family? Let us know in the comments below!

Text that reads "simple ways to have fun" from Fun Cheap or Free

Keep reading for even more ideas to enjoy with your favorite people!


Jordan Page Signature from Fun Cheap or Free


  1. Lilbit

    What are some cheap or free things a single female can do alone?

    • FunCheapOrFree

      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!

      • Lilbit

        Awesome! Thanks for the help.

  2. Rho

    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!

  3. Stacy Lane

    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!

    • FunCheapOrFree

      Stacy thanks for being such a loyal reader!! So glad you stumbled upon the blog 🙂 XOXO

  4. Ginny Clark

    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.

    • FunCheapOrFree

      I’m so glad you enjoyed it, Ginny, and I hope your anniversary is magical!! XOXO

  5. Laura

    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!

    • FunCheapOrFree

      “No money fun”, I love that!!!!

  6. Karen

    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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