"There is nothing to do."
"I'm bored!"
"Can't we go to the mall?"

If you have kids at home, you have probably heard these questions, or some variation of them. Your kids want to go out and do something...and that something usually costs money. Well, there is no need to plunk down cash at Chuck E. Cheese or spend money you otherwise don't have. Try these free low or no-cost ideas. We do this at my house, and the kids have had just as much fun, if not more, than if we had gone out and bought them something they really didn't need in the first place.

1. Go outside and play. Do kids actually do this anymore? When I was a kids, my mom would send us outside at 9 am and tell us to come home when it was time for lunch. Of course, it was a different time back then. My sisters and I spent hours at the local park, and that's where most of the kids in the neighborhood hung out. The parks now are much cooler, in my opinion. Many of them have a water park area, or a skate board park.

2. Go bicycle riding. It's a lot of fun, great exercise, and free (if you already have bicycles). If the kids are old enough, try taking a day trip by bicycle.

3. Go for a drive. With the rising price of gas, this certainly isn't free, but is still cheaper than the mall. Last summer, my family and I drove a section of Route 66 near our home. We printed some information we found on the Internet and looked for some of the old roadside attractions that still dot the Mother Road. We went to the Route 66 museum, which was inexpensive, and we even saw a motel where Elvis once stayed.

4. The library. My kids love the library. They always find a book or a movie that interests them, and they could spend hours there.

5. Play a board game. We have a big selection of board games, including many we picked up for next to nothing at thrift stores and garage sales. One of our favorites is Monopoly. It teaches kids to count money and the games can go on for hours.

6. Local museums. The museums in our area always have a new exhibit. Some charge an entry fee, others ask for donations, but compared to the price of a day or night on the town it's still a bargain and the kids will learn something new.

7. Movie day. Find a good movie at the library, or one that is already playing on TV, or one that is on clearance at the video store (I get a lot of cheap movies this way). Pop up some popcorn and have a "movie day". This is great for rainy days.

Do you have low or no-cost activities you do with your family? Leave a comment and let us know about them!


  1. Granpa Joe // September 10, 2007 at 12:07 PM  

    Good solid advice! I've been reading hints and thrift columns since 1973 (when my husband and I married) and so much of it is unusable; therefore I am all the more pleased to find your blog.

    I grew up about 10 miles west of the The Blue Whale (Rt. 66 in Catoosa, Ok.) and enjoyed reading about your family's excursion.

    Saw you first on stretcher.com and thought your suggestions about movies were good. I, too, am a movie fan; an extra suggestion is working part-time for a movie theater. I'm past the age of doing that now, but when my husband was in school at OSU I worked at the local theater chain (which had 7 screens in town, including 2 drive-ins) and about the only perk that came with the job was that my family could go to the movies as much as we wanted for free.

    Carla Hoag (Granpa Joe is my husband)

  2. SavvyFrugality // September 10, 2007 at 6:39 PM  

    Thanks for the kind words, Carla!

    I appreciate the advice about working at the theater. When I was a kid, I always thought that was probably the best job to have, because you can see the movies for free.

    I used to work in radio, and we also got a lot of free movie passes. The only thing we had to pay for was the popcorn, but that's where the theater really makes its money anyway.

    One other activity I should add is going fishing. My two kids are video game addicts, but the youngest (12 years old) absolutely LOVES to go fishing. Plus, there is always the chance you'll actually catch dinner!

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