Entertainment: cheap or free stuff to do

Now that the weather is improving a little and my daffodils are coming out, I am feeling inspired to get out and about and come out of my winter hibernation. However, as usual, lack of funds mean I can’t just have big days out, go shopping, visit pubs and restaurants or go to the theatre. This has made me think about the things I can do, and many I already do, that are cheap forms of entertainment – or better still cost nothing at all!

  1. A trip to the cinema is a rare treat for me. I generally wait until the films I like are available on DVD, then rent them. However, Orange customers can get two for one with the famous Orange Wednesdays. I’m not an Orange customer, but DD1 is – I wonder if she fancies taking her old mum out?
  2. Even cheaper: we enjoy a ‘cinema night’. Borrow a DVD from the library or watch a film you have recorded. Pop some corn. Easy.
  3. Pack up a picnic and head for the hills. If we have a day out anywhere, Mr Shoestring and I always take a flask and sandwiches – whatever the weather. It saves so much money and also means no queuing in crowded cafes for over-priced food of variable quality.
  4. Check the country parks in your area. In Essex we are blessed with some great open spaces, great for a family walk: www.visitparks.co.uk. It’s easy to find where yours are at your local Tourist Information Centre.
  5. Or just go for a walk where you are. We tend to whizz by the streets in our local area in the car. You get a whole new viewpoint on foot.
  6. Go for a cycle. Fresh air, exercise and entertainment in one!image
  7. Use the Tourist Centre to find out if there are any free museums or other attractions in your town. We have a free to enter toy museum and an old church converted to a natural history museum. They frequently host school holiday activities as well.
  8. It is a real treat to dine out and if I had the money I would do it more. But it is expensive! I enjoy having friends and family over for food. A pot luck supper is best for penny pinchers. Everybody brings a dish and something to drink. In my experience you end up with fabulous food and relaxed company. No one has been slaving over a hot stove all day nor is anybody worrying about the bill.
  9. There are hundreds of channels on satellite TV and most of us watch about 10 of them. Get a Freeview box instead.
  10. I love musicals and stage shows and if money was no object I would regularly see a West End show. However, this is expensive! Instead, for an occasional treat, check out what’s on at your local theatre. At ours there is a local youth theatre group that puts on fantastic musicals once a year. We also have an arts centre based in an old church that seems to be the place for big names to try out their acts before they go on tour. Recent appearances included Phil Jupitus and Jo Brand for £15 a ticket.
  11. Have ‘date nights’ with your partner rather than expensive restaurant visits. Make it special with candle light, and proper three course dinner, a bottle of wine and some soft music. If possible pack the kids off to a friend or relative so that you have quality time together without spending lots of money. We did this for Valentine’s but I plan to do this more often for no reason at all 🙂
  12. Dig out your old board games and packs of cards, and play! It is good to go low tech and get away from electronic games once in a while.
  13. Visit your relatives. Family are an under-rated form of entertainment.
  14. Do some gardening! OK, for many this may feel more like work, but I love it so it is entertainment as well.

So, what do you do for fun that doesn’t cost the earth (clean suggestions only please!)?