We’ve all been there. The week (or even month) gets ahead of us. It seems like your oozing money from all directions.
That’s me this week. I can’t seem to catch a break. I’ve noticed these things all happen at once too.
We just came back from a weekend away to a medical emergency. Don’t worry, we’re all fine, but health issues cost money. You know to pay for the unexpected co-pays, prescriptions and the such. Oh, and did I mention that our cars just started acting up too. We had to take them to the mechanic to get a lot of work done.
Life is like that. There are calm times and chaotic times. That’s okay. I’ve learned to roll through all of it for the most part. Sometimes, though, I need our finances to catch up.
When life seems too overwhelming (both mentally and financially), I like to announce a family no spend weekend. And that means no spend. We might use a little gas to go somewhere, but generally speaking the activities that we choose to do have to be free. Or already pre-paid for with a membership.
At first I was a little leery. What were my kids going to say with my notion of a no-spend weekend. Would we end up just sitting at home twiddling our thumbs all weekend long?
Actually the opposite happened. My no spend weekend idea made me get more creative in the activities we chose to do. I love having to think outside of the box a little more.
We also found more joy in the time we spent together. The family knew we weren’t spending any money, so we focused on activities that were free. We went on a picnic, flew kites, played baseball in the backyard. You know simpler activities that didn’t involve somebody entertaining us. We loved it.
Just because you declare a no spend weekend, doesn’t mean you have to make it joyless. Here are some ideas for finding the joys in a no-spend weekend with your family.
Don’t Tell Yourself You Need to Do This
I love doing things I want to do or think are fun. But if I tell myself I have to do something, it’s all over.
If you decide to have a no-spend weekend because your finances are in a tizzy and you really can’t afford to spend more money right now – don’t dwell on it. Think about your no-spend weekend as a fun way to spend time with family. Not as something that you have to do.
Remind yourself that “back in the day” people didn’t have as many options on the weekend. Time was spent with one another and neighbors. Not running all over town, shopping, eating out and going to local events. That’s a new concept. Life was simpler back then.
Although a no-spend weekend might be good for your wallet, it’s equally good for your soul. It gives you a chance to relax, spend time together as a family and enjoy the free things in the area around you. With this mindset, you’ll probably approach the weekend with a lot more enthusiasm.
The Library is Your Friend
If you haven’t already discovered the joys of the library, this weekend might be the perfect time. Your local library is the perfect place to check out resources for your no-spend weekend. You can find a new read aloud book for your family (it might be the chance to introduce Harry Potter) or find a movie to watch.
You can also check the library’s calendar for free weekend programs. Most libraries offer a variety of children’s programming all weekend long. It’s a great way to spend time as a family without any expense. Especially if you choose a weekend in the winter.
Another way to use your library system is to take a field trip to a new library and check out the children’s section. Each library is unique and we love to explore what they have to offer.
Pack a Lunch
Although we spend many weekends enjoying free events in our area, the thing that always costs money is the food. Someone is always hungry when we are out.
I’m also not the mom that stops for snacks along the way. Minus the occasional bag of gummy bears, my kids have not grown up with the constant road side snack stand. Unless we are traveling.
So, one key to finding joy to your no spend weekend is packing food. And lots of it. Full tummies are much happier and can play for a lot longer.
By having snacks ready, you also won’t have to unexpectedly spend money when you’re out. A frugal mom friend keeps a cooler full of goodies in the back of her car. This way if someone says they’re hungry, they can grab a nutritious snack and keep playing.
The Traveling Mom shares other fun road trip snack ideas for kids. Some of my favorites that I don’t always think of are frozen waffles, homemade trail mix and tortilla roll ups.
And don’t forget the coffee. One stop for a caffeine refuel can ruin a no spend weekend (coffees were never supposed to cost $5 each).
If the weather is good, you could even turn lunch into a picnic. Stop by a nice sunny playground and set up a picnic to enjoy. I keep a picnic blanket in the back of the car for these moments. Picnic tables aren’t always dry and our family prefers eating on the grass any way.
Every weekend I see at least one post on my local parenting Facebook group asking for no spend ideas for the weekend. It always makes me smile that there are parents out there that want to go do things with their kids, but not spend money in the process.
Most areas, from the smallest towns to the largest cities, have free events on the weekends. It’s just a matter of finding them. You’ll be surprised all of the amazing places you can explore for free. From local hiking trails that let you get outdoors to free art and cultural events, there’s usually something for everyone if you look.
I find following local organizations and cultural establishments best for finding out about free events. You can also keep tabs on your a local frugal blog. Ours – Frugal Lancaster – is fantastic for sharing all of the wonderful free or almost free things going on in our area. There’s so much to explore and do that I’d never hear about otherwise.
Explore your Own Backyard
Although some might find joys in a no-spend weekend filled with activity, others may find that the purpose of a no-spend weekend is to slow down. When we have a no-spend weekend, I reserve one day of it for calm and relaxation. I want the kids to rediscover all of those toys they got for Christmas or finally have time for a doll tea party in the back yard.
There’s tons of activities that you can do with your kids at home that don’t cost a dime. You just have to get creative. I’ll admit thinking of these ideas on the fly, though, doesn’t always happen. I try to keep a list of things that the kids want to do when they ask me. Then, I’ll pull out those activities during no spend weekends.
Sometimes just exploring your backyard can be an adventure in itself. We bring toys outside, run through the sprinkler and dig in the dirt. We also have spent the weekend identifying unknown plants and trees as well as building a place for the birds. There’s lots of fun things to do at home that we forget about when we are always so busy.
Find the Fun
If you are used to a jam packed money filled weekend, then you might look at a no spend weekend as boring and uneventful. Although now I truly enjoy these weekends, I didn’t always feel that way.
I used to dread no spend weekends. I’d sit there Friday night and think about how pathetic I was to not have any money to spend on myself or my family for the weekend.
Over the years I’ve come to embrace no spend weekends. I find joy in figuring out how to enjoy the weekend without spending money. It’s a wonderful puzzle to find the events going on and activities that we have on hand to do without spending more money.
Truth is that spending money is easy. You pull out your wallet, take out a credit card or cash and buy a ticket or pay for a meal. A no spend weekend is a fun challenge. This challenge awakens my mind to the possibilities around us.
You need to find things to do for free and possibly even make meals with just what’s left over in your pantry. There is a fun element to this challenge. Find the right mindset and you’ll be set for a weekend of fun ahead.
Put the Money Somewhere Important
Most people don’t have no spend weekends just for fun. Well, we do because I think they bring us closer as a family. But, a lot of people don’t start out like that. They have a no spend weekend because things are not quite right in their monthly budget. The money is needed in other places – car repairs, holiday overspend, travel funds, etc.
Life is about choices and so is our finances. We need to prioritize where we spend our money so we can do the things that are important to us. For example, in our family we try to eat in as often as we can. This way the extra funds saved go to traveling over the summer instead.
If your family is saving for something special, it’s important after the no spend weekend to put the saved money where it belongs. I have a horrible habit of saying I’m going to save money for something and then not actually doing it. If the money you have earmarked for savings from your no spend weekend stays in a general account, I guarantee you will spend it on something else.
Put it where it belongs the moment you don’t spend it. If you are saving for your travel fund, then put it in there. If you want to put it towards your business seed money, then move it to your business savings account. Just remember to do something with it.
Be Ready for Hiccups
As with anything you might do as a family, there will be a few hiccups along the way. If you have older kids, they may not understand why you can’t go “do” something for the weekend or what kind of fun you could have lazing around the house. Younger kids might be moody or need a naptime in the middle of the fun.
That’s okay. It’s just life. Just be ready for it. I find the more I can prepare for bad attitudes and unhappy kids the less surprised I am when they act that way. There will always be hiccups. You just need to ride them out.
Before starting the weekend, know your kids schedules. Think about the times when they need naps and rests. When do they need to eat lunch and enjoy a snack. Make sure you have breaks built into your weekend for these things. It will make for a more enjoyable time together.
Stick to a Plan
Deep down, I love the idea of free forming my no spend weekend. We can choose the next activity completely based on the desires and interests exhibited by my family. We’ve even tried having those weekends before. Sadly, I have to admit less joy was found.
During weekends where we just ride the wave of desire, I find that we do little and a lot of arguing ensues. These days everyone has an opinion – a strong opinion. And they want to voice it loudly.
To counter all of these different ideas, I like to create a basic fluid schedule or plan for no spend weekends. I don’t stick to it perfectly, but I like to have an idea in my head of the activities that I want to do as a family.
I don’t always tell everyone about the schedule either. It’s just important to know what you plan to do next so everyone doesn’t just sit around.
Also by knowing the activities that you want to do in advance, you don’t have to waste time preparing for them. This wait time is usually where I lose my family’s interest.
Instead, have a plan in advance. You can gather materials (or even check things out of the library), make a space to do a project or do an activity based on weather (such as jump in puddles). Your no spend weekend will flow a lot smoother.
Don’t Spend your Time Decluttering
I recently read these ideas from Frugal South for things to do on a no spend weekend. She has some wonderful ideas, but the one I wasn’t so keen on was spending the weekend decluttering. Even if you try to find the joy by dropping off your extra goods to charity.
My husband and I were discussing the other day how when we have free time on the weekends, it is usually spent cleaning things up. Not enjoying time with the kids. This isn’t done on purpose. It’s just is our natural inclination when the kids are playing nicely together. We go start sorting things instead of engaging ourselves in our children’s play.
The reality is that we live with way too much clutter. And it gets everywhere. Having a no spend weekend does not mean that you should spend your time cleaning it up. If you want to have a clean out weekend, then schedule one. But don’t make it the same weekend.
The point of a no spend weekend is to spend time together as a family not doing chores. I know, the chores have to be done and they bother you when they aren’t completed. The truth is that the chores will still be there tomorrow (and the next day). Your kids will never be this little again and they won’t ever want to spend this much time with you again. Soak it up. It won’t be like this forever.
No matter your financial budget or family size, a no spend weekend is sometimes a necessity. And sometimes a desire. I love no spend weekends because they bring us joy and family time. When I am not focused on why I have to have one (and sometimes I just choose to do it), there is such a pleasure in cutting out the busy and money draining activities. It’s nice to just focus on each other.
If you haven’t tried a no spend weekend before or have done them with drudgery, I recommend scheduling one soon. It’s important to learn to find joy without needing to spend money.
This is a crucial lesson to teach our kids too. It will help them make more frugal choices in the future. By learning how to find entertainment in the people and resources around them will make them more financially savvy down the road. Here’s to a joyful no spend weekend ahead!