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man hiking near an ocean

As we work at paying off our massive amount of consumer debt, having fun things to do is a priority. Making sure that those fun things are affordable is also a priority. Our family of six has set a strict entertainment budget of $60 a month until our debt is paid off. It’s worth it for us to make those sacrifices in order to become debt free.

It’s also forced us to get creative as far as finding fun things to do that fit within our small budget.

Here are 24 of our favorite affordable recreational activities:

1. Have a Movie Night

Usually our movie nights have a theme: Super Hero Night, Classic Movie Night (where we show oldies but goodies such as The Quiet Man with John Wayne), Funny Movie Night or Sci-Fi Movie Night.

We ramp up the fun by making old-fashioned air popped popcorn with real butter, curling up with blankets, turning on the stereo surround sound and dimming the lights.

2. Go Hiking

Most states have a generous number of parks complete with hiking trails. Check out your state’s tourist website and get a list of hiking areas. Then carve out of few hours and the weekend, get some fresh air and exercise and enjoy the new scenery as you take in the beauty of nature.

3. Have a Potluck Dinner

Call a few close family members or friends and invite them over for a potluck dinner. You can even assign a theme if you want, such as Italian Night, Irish Night or Take Me Out to the Ballpark Night.

4. Pick Your Own Fruit

Many small and large farms have “pick your own fruit” fields where you can pick apples, strawberries and a host of other fresh fruits. The farms generally charge less or the same as you would pay for grocery store fruit, so there’s no extra monetary cost to you. And the bonus is that everyone gets to experience picking fruit from its God-given source instead of simply grabbing a bag at the grocery store.

5. Host a Game Night

Board games such as Monopoly or Pictionary, card games such as spoons; whatever your favorites are it makes no difference: there’s something about getting together with loved ones for a game night that invokes lots of laughter and fun.

And if you’re a foodie family like we are, make sure to have everyone bring something fun to eat too.

6. Go Biking

Biking trails are everywhere in this day and age when fitness is becoming popular again. Google “bike trails in (your state)” and take the bikes out for a day of cycling fun.

Feeling really adventurous? Create a duathlon or triathlon of any length for your group.

7. Host a BBQ

There’s nothing like a BBQ party with loved ones to get summer (or spring, fall or winter) rolling. Cook up some burgers, hot dogs or chicken breasts, have friends bring side dishes or chips and enjoy a nice meal outdoors with loved ones.

8. Play at a Park

You’re never too old to go swinging or take a ride down a slide. Grab the family or some friends and head to a local park for some good old-fashioned play time.

9. Have a Nostalgia Night

Get out the old photo albums, or put on some old videos and enjoy the memories of yesteryear with your loved ones. The laughter will abound as you remember the fun of days gone by.

10. Go on a Picnic

Make some sub sandwiches or turkey roll-ups, grab some fresh fruit and find a sunny, outdoor place to enjoy the company of loved ones and a great meal. The good, old-fashioned picnic never wears out its welcome.

11. Go to the Library

Set aside a couple of hours to browse through your local library bookshelves and sit back and read. Most libraries these days have an abundance of chairs and loveseats so that you can read at the library without even checking out a book. Bonus: the quiet environment is perfect for losing yourself in a book.

12. Visit a Farmers Market

Even if you don’t end up buying anything, Farmers Markets are fun to explore. Most markets have a variety of items available for sale including fresh fruits and veggies, homemade canned goods, homemade baked goods and specialized treats.

Check out the local farmers markets in your area and spend a few hours seeing what fun you can find.

13. Explore a New Town

Most states have dozens of small towns ready for visiting. For the price of a tank of gas, you can spend a day checking out one or more new towns that are a couple hours from your home. Most small towns have fun stores, cafes and other tourist attractions to see.

14. Create a Scavenger Hunt

Gather some loved ones together, divide them into groups and hand each group a list of things to find on a scavenger hunt. The hunt can be as big or as little as you want it to be: it can consist of things found in the yard or the local park, or things found in a neighborhood or small town.

Some ideas for scavenger hunt items:

  • A takeout menu from a local restaurant
  • A particular type of tree leaf
  • Things of a specific color or shape
  • Pictures of houses with specified features
  • Specified items from nature

The list goes on and on. Scavenger hunts in their many different themes can be fun for all ages.

15. Host a Bonfire

Gathering around a warm bonfire at night is a sure way to enjoy a cheap evening. Guests can tell stories, share s’mores or cook hot dogs while talking and laughing the evening away.

16. Make a Romantic Dinner at Home

A romantic dinner with your spouse doesn’t have to mean a trip into downtown or a huge chunk out of your budget. Look online for great recipes and create a romantic dinner at home, complete with your best china, candles, soft music and dimmed lights.

17. Go to the Zoo

Most local zoos provide a day of fun for free or for relatively cheap. Enjoy viewing the animals and enjoying the day with the people around you by spending an afternoon at the zoo.

18. Do Charitable Work

Pack food for those living in far-away countries, serve a meal to a group of homeless men and women at a local homeless shelter, hand out groceries at a nearby food shelf or visit people at a nursing home. There are many ideas for spending the day making a difference in the lives of others that cost little or nothing.

19. Clean up the Local Park

Gather family and/or friends together to clean up a local park. Stay together as a large group or divide up into smaller groups, don some rubber gloves and see how much garbage you can gather in order to make your neighborhood park a more beautiful place to be.

20. Have a Meal Making Day

This activity has the double bonus of creating family time together and making the days more streamlined as well. Make a list of three or four meals that your family loves, and work together to make a large batch of the meals to divide up into dinner-sized portions and freeze for later.

Soups, casseroles and dishes such as lasagna or homemade chili are great for this activity. You can also make desserts such as cookies and freeze them for later as well.

21. Rearrange the Furniture

There’s something fun about changing the look of the rooms in your house. Rearranging furniture together is a great way to have fun and bring some “new” into your life without spending a dime.

22. Go to the Beach

Find a warm sunny day to go and hang out at the beach together. Don’t forget snacks, sunscreen and lots of water to keep you hydrated as you play in the warm sun.

23. Go Sledding or Ice Skating

Just because it’s cold outside doesn’t mean you have to be stuck indoors. If you live in a northern state adorned with snow, take a day and go sledding or ice skating. Even southern states often have indoor ice skating rinks and skates available for rent.

24. Put together a Puzzle

Many people underestimate the fun to be had by putting together a large jigsaw puzzle. Working together with loved ones to complete a project puzzle is fun and educational all at the same time.

Having fun doesn’t have to cost a bundle of money. Free or inexpensive activities are everywhere.

What is your favorite inexpensive recreational activity?