7 Ways to Have Fun Without Spending Money

UPDATED: January 5, 2024
PUBLISHED: August 6, 2017

Money is always the elephant in the room. Whether we’re broke, trying to save more or just trying to spend less, we all have our own money problems. It’s the one thing you can never get enough of; we’re always going to want more. But how can you have fun on a budget if it seems like everything has a price tag?

Related: 50 Ways to Relax Without Spending Money

In an effort to save money, Michelle McGagh decided not to spend money for an entire year, which she later wrote about in The No Spend Year: How You Can Spend Less and Live More. Obviously, she needed to spend on necessities, such as home, food, utilities and essential toiletries. But for one year, McGagh enacted a self-imposed rule that she couldn’t spend on things that were unnecessary, such as vacations, drinks with friends, eating out, and tickets to movies, concerts, shows and plays. In the end, McGagh was able to successfully execute her no-spend year, and she saved more than 22,000 euros (more than $24,000 USD) in the process.

Perhaps participating in a no-spend year is too intimidating of an undertaking for you, but here are seven (easier) ways you can have fun without spending money to help you save a little more.

Related: 10 Money Habits That Are Leaving You Broke

1. Read.

Not a book, though that’s a great and productive way to stay entertained. Read your local paper and other local publications, online and off. Many have community calendars with a list of events happening in your area, everything from concerts to food festivals to lectures and more. Scan articles like this for one keyword: free. They might not be what you’d pick first, and they might require you to step outside your comfort zone, but when is that ever a bad thing, to try something new?

2. Host a movie night.

If you don’t feel like going out, have your friends come to you. Host a movie night and make it a potluck where every guest brings a dish or snack to share. If you want to make a day of it instead, pick a series and settle in for a marathon. And if movies aren’t your thing, make it a game night. In addition to your guests contributing a food or drink item, ask them to bring their favorite board game.

3. Go outside.

Grab your bike and go for a ride around your neighborhood. If you don’t have a bike, lace up your tennis shoes and go for a walk, hike or run. Activities like these aren’t just good exercise for your body, there’s other health benefits, too, like the fact that you’re soaking up vitamin D, reducing stress and improving your mood, and it’s all for free.

4. Volunteer.

Volunteering for a local charity or organization is good for your soul (and your wallet). According to a 2009 study by social psychologist Jorge A. Barraza, Ph.D., and neuroscientist Paul J. Zak, Ph.D., when people are empathetic, 47 percent more oxytocin (aka the feel-good hormone) is released into the brain.

5. Search for treasure.

Check out yard sales in your area—even if you’re not interested in buying something for yourself. Search for anything that looks curious, take it home and research it online. You never know when an antique could be worth more than what you bought it for. If nothing else, you’re enriching your mind.

6. Learn.

Many cities have museums with free general admission, or museums with free days. Find out if any museums near you offer complimentary entry and spend an afternoon learning something new. Your friends will think you’re so cultured for going to a museum, and it’ll cost you nothing.

7. Explore.

When in doubt, explore. Head out to your city’s downtown or city center and just walk around. Maybe you’ll run into a free event or some captivating wall art—a perfect photo op for your Instagram.

If you’re looking for something fun to do this summer, keep this list of ideas in mind before you pull out your wallet to have a good time.

Related: 7 Ways to Save Money by Simplifying Your Life

Jesus Jimenez is a staff writer for Dallas Morning News. He eats, breathes and sleeps Texas Rangers baseball. He also enjoys running, traveling and buying cool socks.