Don’t Just Watch! Play Sports for Frugal Fun


Equipment Need Not be Expensive

Yesterday we talked about playing music; today I will discuss playing sports. The principle is the same. Being an actual participant and not just an observer is more fun and less expensive. Gone are the days of sand lot softball and “going out to play”. For many years now the schools have filled the gap for kids, though many of these programs are now threatened by hard times.

But it is not just kids who can benefit from playing sports. The state of children’s and teenager’s after school sports program is large enough for its own post, so I will concentrate here on the grown-ups.

Do you have a sport you already play and love? Then you are lucky. If not, why not at least consider it? Is there something you have always been attracted to but never tried? Think about your physical condition and natural inclinations. There are many types of sport—some involve teams, some are done in the company of others but not as a team effort, and some are real solo activities. For example, softball always involves a team, cycling is often done with companions, and skiing is pretty much solo.

Sports also vary in costs, both to get involved and to stay involved. Skiing can be pretty expensive if you don’t live near snow, but tennis is very reasonable once you have the equipment if you stick to public courts.  You will want to rent or borrow the equipment at first to make sure you really like it, and then check out used equipment stores and craigslist.

If you have never played a team sport, you may have to ask around a bit, especially if you are self-employed or work for a very small business. Bigger companies sometimes have a team you can join. If not, look in the yellow pages first or search online for local teams. Then check out the parks and recreation department in your town, or ask at a gym of sporting goods store. There are some great side benefits to playing on a local team, besides the entertainment value. It gets you off the couch, which will improve your health naturally. And it builds wonderful connections with your fellow citizens. Have you ever been out at a tavern and seen a whole team come in for drinks after the game? That could be you. So, get fit, make friends, get outside and PLAY!


For Some Frugal Fun Try Playing Some Homegrown Music with Friends

Music is Good Frugal Fun

It seems that in many cases things we do ourselves for entertainment are more frugal than things we pay to watch others do. Do it yourself pastimes are almost always more fun than being a mere spectator too. Take music for example.

I love concerts and clubs, but some of my fondest musical memories involve garage jam sessions, singing by the campfire, and impromptu dueling guitars popping out at a dinner party. I know that you all have experienced something similar. Playing music with friends is free, it’s fun, and it builds community. At community meetings it breaks tension and brings people together. It would not be a big stretch to call it therapeutic. It may be true that professional musicians sound better technically. Maybe your skill level isn’t as high as you would like and you feel embarrassed. Don’t let that stand in your way. In a casual home environment no one cares about that. They will be having too much fun singing along even if they are out of key.

So next time you are sitting around bored, pull out that old guitar or keyboard and noodle a little. Learn a few songs that most people know the words to. If you don’t play an instrument but have always wanted to, figure out what instrument you would like to learn and look for a used one. This is one of the items with a small up-front cost leading to years of pleasure. Then, next time your crowd gets together for a potluck meal, bring your instrument, and encourage others to join you. You may find yourself getting more popular overnight, and everyone will have a great time. There is no down side to homegrown musical fun!

The Frugal Reader: How to Feed your Habit without Breaking the Bank

For those of us who love books the need to acquire them amounts to almost a form of lust. The most humble book-lover can develop a form of greed when entering a bookstore. But books are expensive to buy outright, and libraries must be housed and maintained. And full price books rarely retain their value. In fact the ratio is a little like buying a new car in terms of immediate loss.

Books and More Books

A number of years ago it became necessary for me to sell around five thousand of my six thousand volumes. Though traumatic at the time, to say nothing of labor intensive, I now realize that this has freed me in certain ways. Just the bookshelf issue alone is liberating. I have come to believe that most private libraries would be better if shared.
Luckily for us there are several ways to satisfy the book lust without going broke. The first and most obvious is the public library. They might not have everything you want, but they are free. Libraries and librarians have done wonderful things for the countries that have them. They continue to be an absolutely frugal bastion of culture, and, in the United States at least, they are to be found in every little hamlet across the land.
If the book you want is not at the library, or if is out and you are very impatient there are still things you can do. First check the used bookstores near you. There is no one place to find out where the used bookstores are to be found. Try the Yellow Pages first. But these days this is an unreliable source. Checking online may work better. I searched on used books and added the name of my town. Google gave me a pretty good selection of what I know is out there. Probably asking around and then going exploring is the best way to find a good used bookstore.
But, used bookstores only have what stock people nearby have sold them, so the selection may still be limited. But, at and other large online dealers there are literally millions of used titles, some for as little as a penny plus shipping charges. And if they don’t have a used copy of a title, at least the cost of the new one should be deeply discounted. I would have listed this option first, but if we don’t support the little guys they will perish and that would be a real loss to whatever community they are in.
If you can’t get a book you want any other way, and you are absolutely determined to have it, it may be time to go to a regular brick and mortar retail store. If money is not your only consideration please consider supporting a local independent bookstore. These stores are important to the intellectual health of the public in a democratic society. But, if every dime counts and buying any book is a big splurge, try Borders. Get the free discount card, not the enhanced one that costs twenty dollars. You will get email offers every week with savings on one item of 25% to 40%. Since you are like only going to buy one book this will help a lot.
The final temptation to a big reader is the magazine or periodical. These are wonderful to read, great for staying informed, and if you have a niche interest or hobby you are probably already aware of the great money sink hole they represent. Surprisingly you can probably sate your appetite by actually subscribing to your favorites at 40% to 80% off the cover price. If you end up buying a particular magazine every month anyhow, do yourself a big favor and subscribe today. This lists all of them. A great piece of work. This site is a little messy and hard to use, but may turn up some gems. You know what to do with this one Go straight to the Borders Rewards site.


What is Fun, Free, and Very Healthy?-A Nature Walk

Everybody needs to walk to stay healthy, but it can be hard to get motivated. Walking in a mall or other commercial area can be very boring. But it doesn’t have to be that way. If you live in the city, check out the parks. Every big city and most small ones have some parks filled with city wildlife and walkable trails. There may not be large mammals, but there are a never-ending array of birds, small reptile, insects, and other creatures. As well as plants, flowering or otherwise, and many species of tree. Things you might not expect to see living among humans so closely.

Spider Web Pearls

If you live in a suburb or rural area nature is even closer at hand. Strangely, though you make not have to go to an official park, if you live in the country you may have to drive to walk. That is the case where I live. The country road I live on is a back way to get to the nearest town, and is very heavily traveled at times. It is impossible to walk my road, which is two lanes with ditches on both sides. So I drive to the nearest trail where I could walk for miles if I wanted, far from cars, if not people and bikes.

A walk in nature is free entertainment, but you can make it better with a little planning. Find out a little about the plants and animals you are like to encounter, so you’ll know what you are seeing when you get there. Bring water, preferably in a glass container to save the land-fill, a pair of binoculars, and a camera, even if it is just in your phone. The phone itself should be turned off for full benefits to take place. I have seen people power walking and taking a meeting by phone at the same time. I have to ask, what is the point? If you don’t pay attention to where you are you will miss eighty percent of it.

A walk in nature can be wonderful even in winter. Maybe not in the middle of a storm, but right afterwards there are sights that are only seen as the world settles itself after a big disruption. Bundle up and go see what is out there. Whatever the season you will feel so much better afterwards, and so much richer for having opened your senses to the beauty of the natural world.

The Matter of Entertainment—the Frugal Way

At first glance it may appear that entertainment has no place in the frugal life. The common view of frugality involves using only what you need, and the common wisdom is that we don’t exactly need entertainment like we need food and shelter. But that is simply not true. While it is true that water, food, warmth, and shelter may be more pressing needs, all human beings need entertainment. Just to bring home what an essential need it truly is, we can look at animals. If you have ever seen a bored dog or cat you know what I mean. And if they need amusement that badly, surely we must as well. The need for play is inborn.

Hummingbirds Provide Hours of Nearly Free Entertainment

So what is a frugalista to do in a world of expensive canned entertainment? The first step, as always, is to know what you truly value, and more particularly, what is fun for you. The answer may be surprising, and surprisingly inexpensive. And it may combine well with something that you already are doing as part of your spending plan. For example, I love to cook and I have to eat. So every so often I plan a fancier home-cooked meal than usual. I get to play a little, show my skills, and the results don’t get wasted. Of course that is just an example. It could just as well be building things or gardening. The idea is to have fun doing something useful.

On a slightly different plane, how about making art? Pottery, painting, or playing music. All are more or less inexpensive depending on the field. Writing costs absolutely nothing after the pen and paper. With music it depends on the instrument, but once you have it its good for years of fun. Art supplies are can be had for a few dollars. Once you get good you might want to strut your stuff, play an open mic or be part of a show. Going social just ups the ante.

There may be opportunities for fun all around you. In my town they just had a big FREE street party, the Hand-car Regatta. Tinkerers brought their old fashioned hand-cars for a race along the rail-road tracks, and the whole town (or so it seemed) turned out, many in Victorian costumes. The only expense was for wine, beer, or food if you had to. There are literally thousands of events all over the country every weekend. Just check the local paper (or the free weekly) to find out where. Or go online and check the websites for local radio stations. Most have local event listings.

If you just want a little company and there is no fair or festival handy, try a neighborhood pub. Have a pint (make it soda if you must, I prefer beer) and join the party. Chat up a friend, or even a stranger. Try your hand at darts. The price tag is usually about four to six dollars. Even if you feel broke it will lift your spirits, and that is well worth the cost.

Closer to home there may be free or nearly free fun right at your doorstep. Even if you live in the city you can watch the wild-life, especially the birds. Our ten dollar hummingbird feeder is a lively place, and very captivating, especially at sunset. For more information check out

Finally, there are Netflix and television. If you don’t watch TV on principle just skip this part. Though the Netflix are still a valuable resource. But, if you do pay for satellite or cable, consider this- it’s already in the spending plan, and usage is unlimited. I am a big fan of the comedy channel, and after a long day sometimes it’s the best I can do.

So, don’t deprive yourself, no matter how thin your wallet is these days. Go forth and have some good old frugal fun! Good times…

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