Friday, January 11, 2013

Being Frugal Part III: Entertainment, Gifts & Gardening

Hi! This is Part III of my posts on being frugal. If you missed them, here are parts I & II:
Part I: Groceries & Restaurants here
Part II: Retail & Recycling here.
Today we'll talk about entertainment, gifts, and gardening.

Free Entertainment

We have a very low entertainment budget, but that doesn't mean we do nothing, it just means we do a lot of cheap and free things. We go to hot air balloon festivals, and Scottish parades, and free concerts in the park all summer long. Last year we went to the Denver Zoo and the Museum of Natural History for free. Did you know that there's a list of free dates for all Scientific and Cultural Facilites (SCFD) in Colorado? There are lots of museums, the zoo, and botanic gardens all free (check out the dates below).  It amazing how much there is to do for free. Just look online to see what's going on in your area. Most of my links are for CO, so sorry if you are from another state, but after some checking, most states have similar lists for free days, so hopefully this will at least give you ideas of what to look for. Here's a few to get you started:

- Colorado Festivals & Fairs. Many of these are free or have some free elements.
National Parks: free entrance dates. Also, 265 of the 398 national parks NEVER charge an entrance fee. So plan a day trip and pack a picnic for a free day of fun!
- While we're talking nature, did you know in Colorado you can go fishing for free (without a license) the first full weekend in June every year? Other states do this one weekend a year as well. Some cities also have ponds where kids 12 and under can fish for free and without a license any time. 
- Ben & Jerry's free cone day: in April (check the website for the 2013 date)
- Free 7.11 oz slurpee at 7-eleven every July 11th. 
- Kids Eat Free at lots of restaurants on certain days. Check out these sites here and here to find a restaurant near you with Kids eat free specials. 



Gifts

This one is pretty short and sweet. I am on the look-out for gifts for my friends and family all year long. When toys go on clearance after Christmas I stock up for birthdays. They're the same toys, stores just want to get them out of there. I know where the clearance area is in just about every store. I don't know why all the Color Wonder sets were 70% off at Target in November, but they were, so I will gladly pay $4.75 for a set that was $14.95 last week. There's always another birthday party just around the corner, and being prepared ahead of time saves much stress and lots of money. I can't tell you how many times life gets busy and I realize, that party's today! Not to worry, I go "shopping" in the bin of cool new toys that I have bought at super prices. I try to have a variety of things so I can find something just right for the recipient, or I buy things ahead of time with them in mind in the first place. When you wait you pay, because you don't have time to price compare; to shop around, you need the item now. When you are prepared you save because you are in control, buying when it's a good deal, passing it up when it's not. 

I should have mentioned yesterday, that just because something has an orange sticker, doesn't mean it's necessarily a good price. I am always telling my husband that I think there should be a law that the word "clearance" should denote at least 30% off. But sometimes places *cough target* put clearance stickers on things that are only 10-15% off. That barely qualifies as "sale" in my book and definitely doesn't qualify as clearance. Don't be fooled, always compare the sale price to the regular price and then ask yourself if it's a good value. Just because it's cheap doesn't mean you need it. : )

Be Your Own Farmer's Market

I know it couldn't be more winter right now, but in the summer we like to go to local Farmer's Markets and we are lucky to have several close to us. We usually get a few things, but rather than pay twice the grocery store price at a farmers market, we come home and pick the produce right out of our own garden. They say money doesn't grow on trees, but it does grow in planter boxes and garden beds. Lettuce and tomatoes are especially easy to grow and are probably the best return on your investment. If you have more space, you can do a lot with zucchinis. I can't encourage you enough to grow at least some of your own veggies. If you have so much as a mini patio that gets some sun you can grow your own salads and herbs. Gardening is also a great activity for kids and it gives you something fun to do outside, so you could even count this as cheap entertainment for your kiddos. : )
If you know others who are interested in gardening you could plan to split seed packets with them to save even more. Unless you have a lot of space to plant, you will probably only plant a few seeds from each packet. Plan a seed swap or have each friend start and care for one or two types of plants, and then arrange a plant swap once it's time to transplant into the garden.
In the fall we have a local farm that lets you come out and pick a certain amount (a lot!) of produce for a flat $15 per person. This is a crazy good deal for produce so we go out and play farmers for an afternoon, coming home with a full trunk of onions, squash, carrots, corn, pumpkins, peppers, cabbage and lots more. These make great fall meals and winter soups. We made a lot of healthy meals for $30. Even if you can't (or don't want to) grow your own food, you can check to see if there's a farm near you that does a harvest special.


Thanks for putting up with all the wordiness this week. I hope that there was a little tip in there somewhere that will be helpful to you. It's thrilling to know that you saved a good deal of money on something. It gives a whole new meaning to "bread winner." If you have a money-saving tip please share in the comments! : ) Thanks for reading, my frugal friends!
- Haley

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