As the economy continues to disappear into a bottomless pit, many of us are looking for ways to cut expenses. A weekend getaway to a resort, or even a night out for dinner and a movie, now seem like hedonistic extravagances.
Here are 10 ideas for entertaining yourself and others at little or no cost:
1) Improve your mind. Take advantage of your local library to begin reading about that subject you’ve always wanted to explore: astronomy or art history or existential philosophy. Start a book club with your friends, but choose titles you can buy as cheap, mass-market paperbacks for less than $10.
2) Get in shape. You don’t need a health-club membership or a $1,000 treadmill at home. You can take a two-mile walk outdoors in shoes you already own. You can do push-ups and sit-ups without any equipment at all.
3) Join–or organize–a home Bible study group. Expensive reference books or DVD series aren’t necessary. All you really need is a Bible, a pen and a spiral notebook.
4) Spend one evening a week just talking with your spouse, kids or neighbors. Before shopping malls, satellite dishes, the Internet, cineplexes and chain restaurants, people did this a lot. They told family stories. They actually got to know each other.
5) If you’re a sports fan, go to local high school games. Admission is a few bucks. Or become a booster for a church basketball league. That’s free. You’ll know some of the players, which makes cheering for them-or good-naturedly booing them–fun.
6) Volunteer to teach a skill you possess at a community center: sewing, cooking, drawing, woodworking. Offer to tutor a kid who has a learning disability in math or English. (Sometimes you can actually earn a few extra dollars doing these things. In any case, you’ll make new friends.)
7) Start a prayer chain. Keep in touch with the other members daily by telephone or e-mail. Set aside an hour a week to meet for homemade sandwiches and prayer.
8) Volunteer at a hospital or nursing home.
9) Watch all the films of a significant director such as John Huston or actor such as Jimmy Stewart. You can rent a DVD a week at any video store for less than $5. Better yet, join Netflix, which has virtually every movie ever made. Its packages vary in price, but you can see all the films you’d ever hope to see for less than $15 a month.
10) As a date, take your spouse or significant other to a hilltop to watch a sunrise or sunset. Carry along a Thermos of coffee. Hold hands.