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Saving up for any big financial investment is a challenge. And it does us no favors that we tend to think doing so compromises our ability to enjoy the lifestyle we’re used to.
We use phrases like “give up” and “sacrifice” and “can’t” when cutting expenses, as though the things we spend our money on are what give our lives joy and meaning–or even more inaccurately, that we’re doing so against our will!
“I had to give up my gym membership to afford this trip.”
“We’re making a lot of sacrifices for this, it better be worth it.”
“I can’t go out tonight, I’m trying to save up for Greece!”
But as long as we remember that going on a big trip in the first place is not only a privilege but a choice we are actively making, we can think of these things as mere trade-offs rather than sacrifices.
You’re “giving up” one thing in order to gain something potentially even more valuable! Memories that will last a lifetime and an experience that will shape who you are as an individual.
The good news is, if you consider yourself a weekend warrior and you love to spend those free days getting out, being active, and exploring, there’s no need to “give up” anything at all–you just need to use your imagination!
The Spend-Free Weekend
Weekends do not have to be expensive. I repeat: Weekends do NOT have to be expensive!
You can continue to have a full and active social life on the weekends while making huge strides toward your savings goal, whether it be for travel or anything else.
Of course, depending on your travel style, your trip doesn’t have to be expensive either, but cutting costs on your travels is a topic for another post. If you want to read some of my basic money-saving travel tips to get you started, check out this post.
If you want even more comprehensive tips, Nomadic Matt’s Ultimate Guide to Cheap Travel can help you travel well on a bare-bones budget.
But back to our weekend adventures. The spend-free weekend is a concept I only learned about recently, but I happen to think it’s genius!
Let’s say you regularly go out for drinks Friday night with friends, take a day trip on Saturday, and go out again on Saturday night. Maybe you buy lunch while you’re out exploring, and appetizers at the bar along with your drinks. Maybe you buy your friends a round, because you’re generous and want everyone to have a good time. You pay for the gas that gets you out of dodge, and whatever activity you do during the day.
You can see how this kind of weekend could quickly and easily rack up a cost of a couple hundred dollars–money that could have been put aside for your trip (and could potentially stretch a lot further in another country).
If you’re the kind of person who wakes up on Monday morning with a financial hangover from all the reckless spending you accomplished in just two short days, this list is for you.
These 50 spend-free weekend ideas will have you saving faster for your next trip, whether you’re going abroad for a week, three months, or a few years.
Want to travel forever? Read about how I’m able to earn money online while traveling indefinitely as a digital nomad.
5o Ideas for an Epic Spend-Free Weekend
1. Go for a hike
Remember outside? That magical place where fairies and leprechauns and unicorns live? You should go there. To the top of a mountain, preferably. It won’t cost you a thing, except maybe your flabby bum. Don’t have a mountain nearby? City walks are just as good.
2. Start a blog
You didn’t think I’d leave out blogging, did you? A blog can be 100% free at the outset, and even if you never take it beyond hobby status, that’s totally cool. Having a blog is my creative outlet, a way for me to connect with like-minded people, and yes, now it’s also a source of income! Win-win-win. Here’s my full guide to starting your own blog.
3. Bake something delicious
When’s the last time your apartment smelled like yummy baked goods? Maybe you should make that happen again. You could even spend the rest of your day delivering them to friends you haven’t seen in awhile.
4. Learn a new skill on YouTube
I’ve learned so many fun tricks by watching YouTube videos, including how to play “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” on the ukulele, and how to properly edit underwater photography. The world of YouTube is your oyster!
5. Go for a picnic in a local park
Throw together a picnic basket, pack a blanket, a deck of cards, and a frisbee, and take some of your friends to hang out in a green space for the day. People watch and find patterns in the clouds like we used to when we were kids.
6. Get some friends together for an afternoon of sports
Don’t worry if you don’t consider yourself “athletic,” per se–this is all in good fun. Try something everyone can participate in, like kickball, touch football, or croquet, or games that require no equipment, like blob tag!
7. Host a game night
8. Work on your fitness
No gym? No problem! Body weight exercises can be done just about anywhere (you know what I’m talking about–burpees, pushups, squats, lunges, etc), but I also love the free yoga classes you can find on YouTube. Or you could always go for a good old-fashioned jog!
9. Visit a free museum
If you’re lucky enough to have free museums in your city, you better be taking advantage of all that free knowledge!
10. Visit the local library
Reading is good for you–it will expand your vocabulary, give you interesting things to talk about, and expose you to new perspectives. All of this, and for FREE from your local library. Why buy books when you can borrow?
11. Learn a new language
You can start learning a new language right this instant with free online programs like Duolingo. I personally also use the Duolingo app, so I can practice on the go. If you want to take it a step further, do it with a friend! Create your own flashcards and quiz each other as you go.
12. Plan out your meals for the coming week
Cooking is a great way to spend your weekend, and it will save you money throughout the week, too. You’ll go to the grocery store knowing exactly what you need, and having leftovers means you won’t need to buy lunches on work days.
13. Try Geocaching
Never heard of Geocaching? In short, it’s the world’s largest treasure hunt. Use the Geocaching app to locate the cache nearest you, and navigate your way to it, discovering new and beautiful places along the way.
14. Watch your favorite movie trilogy
The debate rages on over the best movie trilogy of all time–The Godfather? Star Wars? Back to the Future? The Mighty Ducks? But no matter, just choose your favorite, whip up some popcorn, and hunker down under some blankets for a cheap and fun day of classic movies.
15. Host a yard sale
This is another great way to not just avoid spending money but to make some, too. And yard sales take a bit of planning and preparation, so it’s definitely a weekend-long activity. As an added bonus, downsizing will be like lifting a weight off your shoulders. Less stuff = less stress.
16. Volunteer with a local organization
Your local non-profits are always looking for helpers, and giving back some of your time to the community will leave you feeling good, too.
17. DIY something from scratch
Pinterest to the rescue! Find a fun craft project that won’t require you to buy anything you don’t already have and get busy! Building something with your bare hands is sure to give you a glowing feeling!
18. Repurpose something old into a new masterpiece
Clothes that don’t fit anymore, a chair that needs a new paint job, or whatever else you can think of. Find something old and use your imagination to breathe new life into it!
19. Do that repair project you’ve been meaning to get to
You know the one I’m talking about. The one you’re always saying “I’ll do it tomorrow” about. No more putting it off!
20. Host a potluck dinner for friends
Dining out can be a huge money suck. Instead, invite some close friends over and have everyone contribute one dish to keep costs down for everyone involved (but you should only be using what you already have in your cupboards). You’ll actually be able to enjoy conversation without the distractions and noise of a public place.
21. Read one of the great classic novels
If you haven’t read Hemingway, Tolstoy, Fitzgerald or Austen, it might be time to change that. These books are classics for a reason, and many of the themes just as timely today as they were at time of publishing. The Old Man and the Sea is a quick read you can finish in an afternoon.
22. Write letters to the people you haven’t spoken to in awhile
The art of letter writing does not have to die with this generation!
23. Sell some things on Craigslist
Another way to make money–score!
24. Take a scenic drive
You might think you know the area where you live like the back of your hand, but there is always more to discover. Don’t forget to bring your camera and a journal to take note of what you find!
25. Practice gratitude
This could take the form of writing a list, emailing people you appreciate to tell them as much, calling family that lives on the other side of the country, or spending time with the people you care about. You won’t even think about the things you don’t have; instead, you’ll realize you already have enough.
Create a quiet and secluded space in your home that will be dedicated to you alone. When you need a moment to yourself, go there, light a candle, focus on the sound of your own breath, and let the world fade away around you.
27. Write something
Anything, really. Writing is one of the best ways to navigate your own thoughts and emotions and can be a truly cathartic pursuit.
28. Treat yourself to an at-home spa day
Give yourself the loving tenderness you know you deserve–fo FREE! Put on your favorite music, light some candles, draw a bubble bath (we used dish soap when I was a kid) and pour yourself a cup of tea with honey. It’s all about you.
29. Build a bird feeder
Pinecone + string + peanut butter + birdseed = birds are your new best friend. Check the Audobon Society’s Bird Guide to learn about the different birds you see.
30. Practice photography
Smartphone cameras as so sophisticated now that you don’t need a “real camera” to get great shots. Practice your composition, learn how to edit with some fun apps, and post your best shots for your friends on Instagram.
31. Learn a new cooking technique
Always wanted to learn how to make the perfect poached eggs? How to grill the perfect steak? How to sear, blanch, or roast? Now’s your chance!
32. Try new outfit combinations
Mix it up with new pairings you’d never thought of before. Lay out the best contents of your closet and get creative.
33. Babysit for a friend
Your friends with kids will be thankful for a day or night off!
34. Watch your friend’s dog for the afternoon
Likewise, your friend with a pooch will love you for taking Fido out for a day in the park (or if they can’t bear to part, you can just ask to join them).
Friends out of town? Play house in someone else’s abode while making sure their plants get watered and their animals fed. You can even sign up to become a housesitter and get free accommodation in your own city or neighboring ones. Think of it as a staycation! Then, do the same thing in cities around the world.
36. Organize your travel photos
I know you’ve got a lot of them, and they are probably a mess.
37. Clean your house or apartment from top to bottom
Messes are always silently accumulating all around us–a good deep clean every now and then will make you feel less stressed, I promise! So go scrub that grout and dig out that rain gutter.
38. Host an at-home wine tasting
Invite as many friends as you want, and have everyone bring a bottle that’s $5 or less. Make things even more interesting by doing blind tastings and guessing at what flavors are in each.
39. Spend time with someone who needs it
Head down to your local retirement home with some flowers and ask if there’s anyone who needs a visitor. You might just make someone’s day.
40. Call up your long-distance friend
Skype does wonders for long-distance relationships; there’s nothing like hearing someone’s voice that you haven’t seen in a while and watching their eyes crinkle when they smile.
41. Get your finances in order
This may be the perfect opportunity to find other ways to reduce your spending. Scrutinize your bank statements and cut everything that’s non-essential. Set up automatic monthly transfers into a savings account, even if it’s a small number at the beginning. Start learning about investing and how you can make your money work harder for you.
42. Earn cash by watching videos and taking surveys
There are tons of websites these days that will pay you just for your input in surveys, or for watching or reading promotional content on the web. So, stuff you’d probably be doing anyway! Swagbucks is my favorite site for earning cash online.
43. Host a brunch
Brunch is my favorite meal, because it lends itself to long, lazy conversations over the course of hours as you let your food digest. Just remember–you’re only allowed to cook what you already have at home!
44. Write online reviews
You’ve got opinions, might as well share ’em, right? Leave reviews for stuff you’ve bought on Amazon to help future potential buyers. Give honest feedback on TripAdvisor activities you’ve done, or even just email a company with direct feedback or praise. Just, you know, keep it civil and don’t be a troll.
45. Spend some extra time in bed
Sleeping in, napping, gettin’ down with your partner, building a fort, the possibilities are endless!
46. Learn some new jokes for your next dinner party
This website is full of silly one-liners every dad is sure to love.
47. Make art
Whatever calls to you, do that. Paint with watercolors, write short stories or poetry, make music, or color with crayons.
48. Write a letter to your future self
Write down the goals you have, the lessons you’ve learned, and any funny stories you’ll want to be reminded of down the road. Most importantly, don’t forget to tell yourself how proud you are of all you’ve accomplished. Put it in a sealed envelope and don’t open it until the age you specify.
49. Find things you can re-gift for birthdays or Christmas
There are likely a bunch of things lying around that you don’t use anymore but someone else might love. An old sweater, some nice candles, or maybe books you’ve already read and enjoyed.
50. Plan your trip
I love the daydreaming and planning phases of travel. I’ll scroll through Pinterest for hours, read travel blogs for inspiration, and come up with my ideal itinerary with the help of Lonely Planet. Even if most of the things you research don’t happen, it can also just help you to be prepared for any logistical challenges you might encounter.
What are your best ideas for spend-free weekends? Any other genius ideas for saving money for travel?