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By the author of The Ultimate Guide to Frugal Living and The Flat Broke Cookbook
When something good happens, whether it’s to you or a family member or friend, you want to celebrate the occasion. We also enjoy celebrating special occasions like birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays. And I think that’s really important. Good things should always be noted and commemorated – in fact, that’s kind of a premise of living a joyful life.
There’s just one problem. Most of us have gotten into the habit of celebrating in a way that costs money. We go out to a nice dinner at a favorite restaurant, we go on a trip, we throw a party, or we buy something more extravagant than usual.
The money-spending is fine if it is carefully worked into your budget, but often these kinds of events sneak up on us and we haven’t planned for them. That’s why it’s important to have an arsenal of treats that don’t require you to spend any money.
It’s kind of like dieting.
In the health and fitness world, a big premise is that you need to stop celebrating victories with often-unhealthy foods as a reward. Instead of going out for pizza after a sporting event, instead of getting a cake to mark the end of the week, instead of ordering Doordash after meeting a weight loss goal, you should do something that doesn’t revolve around food.
After all, the most successful dieters that lose weight and keep it off are the ones who change their daily habits for healthier ones.
This is also true in the Frugalite world.
Why would you celebrate a big raise that will help you to meet your financial goals by spending part of that raise frivolously? Why would you go splurge on a mani-pedi this week when next week you’ll be wondering how to afford groceries? Why would you reward your children with an expensive trip to get something new after they accomplish something when they’d also be thrilled to simply spend time with you?
Just like with dieting, becoming a Frugalite means changing your daily habits for thriftier ones.
Let’s look at some wonderful treats you can indulge in without spending money.
These treats don’t cost any money.
This list of treats is by no means comprehensive but can help you get your creative juices flowing. All of these treats will not be appropriate for everyone. Before someone pipes up and says “Yeah, but you have to put gas in the car to go hiking, so it’s not actually free” – clearly there could be some small costs related to these if you do not have all the supplies or if you have to transport yourself somewhere. But let’s try not to nitpick here and focus on the goal.
- Home spa day: If you need some R&R, try a home spa day using DIY beauty treatments from the kitchen. Lock the bathroom door, soak in the tub, listen to some peaceful music that isn’t on your usual playlist, and relax for a couple of hours. Grab the tweezers and touch up your brows, shave your legs, and paint your toenails. Even if you’re just staying home, treat yourself like you’re headed out for an elegant evening on the town and pamper yourself with all the little details.
- Easy homemade pizza night: My kids love pizza made on tortillas. It’s an inexpensive and easy way to have pizza night at home without kneading the dough, waiting for it to rise, bla bla bla. Let everyone top their own tortillas with their favorite pizza fixings. Then bake the tortillas in the oven for about 5-7 minutes at 450. If you have a big family, you’ll have to bake the pizzas in shifts. Let them cool for 5 minutes before slicing them so the cheese stays in place.
- Have a picnic. For some reason, everything tastes better when you eat it in a picnic setting. Head to the great outdoors with your family (even if that great outdoors is your own backyard), spread out a blanket, and enjoy your lunch or dinner picnic-style.
- Go hiking. Find a place nearby, lace up your shoes, put some snacks and water in a backpack, and go for a hike. Go by yourself or take the whole family and make a day of it.
- Set up a scavenger hunt. This is a fun one for the kids. Depending on their level of sophistication, you can make the clues as difficult or as simple as is appropriate. Make winning and fun the reward.
- Popcorn and movie night. What with streaming apps and Youtube, it’s pretty easy to set up a movie night. If you have kids, grab sleeping bags, make some popcorn, and lay down on the floor to watch a movie. For grown-ups, popcorn, movie, and sofa will probably be sufficient.
- Date night. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to have a special evening with your significant other. Make a special dinner at home and break out the candles and good china. Leave the dishes for tomorrow.
- Campfire. What’s more fun than a campfire? If you have a firepit in the backyard, you’re good to go. (Here are some ways to make one CHEAP.) Then you can gather around, roast marshmallows, or even make your entire meal over the fire. Finish up with some age-appropriate spooky stories and songs.
- Tea party. I’m the mom of girls and my daughters always loved a good tea party. For lunch one day, make tea, cut the crusts off your sandwiches, and serve some sweets. Get all dressed up in your fanciest dresses and practice your best manners.
- Backyard sporting event. Get some family and friends together for a backyard sporting event. You can have races, play whiffle ball, or flag football. Make sure everyone brings something for the potluck afterward.
- Go to the library then spend the day reading. If you’re a bookworm like me, this will probably sound like the perfect day. After I got divorced, when my kids would go visit their dad’s house, I used to hit the library and grab books by my favorite authors and spend an entire day reading, uninterrupted.
- Baking day. If you enjoy baking, spend an afternoon in the kitchen with your kiddos as chef’s apprentices. Bake some bread, some pizza dough, and some desserts for the week ahead. And then, top things off with cookies for dinner. (It’s perfectly fine as an occasional indulgence if you don’t do this every day.)
- Explore a local sight. What is near you that tourists come to see that you’ve never visited yourself? When I was living in Greece, a friend there confessed he had only been to the Acropolis once when he was on a school field trip in second grade. I immediately enlisted him to visit with me and he had a great time. He commented that he saw it every single day on his way to work and it had just become part of the background. I think that we all do this to some extent – so consider being a tourist in your own town. Do a little research beforehand. There are often days or hours with free or reduced-priced entry, and some places simply don’t charge admission to locals.
- Stargazing. Is there anything better than laying outside on a blanket during a clear night and watching the sky? My kids and I had an inflatable kiddie pool we used to blow up specifically for stargazing. We’d pile in with our blankets and watch for meteor showers, shooting stars, or just try to identify the constellations. There are some great phone apps to help with constellation ID. Check out Google Sky and SkySafari.
- Do arts and crafts. Get your creative juices flowing and do some arts and crafts. And don’t think you have to have children to thoroughly enjoy this. My family likes to upcycle things creatively for our arts and crafts endeavors. If you’re a creative person, you most likely have the detritus of a hundred unfinished projects to use for materials, too.
- Take a day off. Do you have a day off coming up? TAKE IT. Spend the entire day doing nothing. No housework, no chores, no errands. Spend the day actually relaxing, whatever that means to you. It could mean reading a book, binge-watching a season of your favorite show, or sitting out on your patio watching the birds. Have some quick and easy snacks on hand to reduce time in the kitchen.
- Do a digital detox. I did this over Labor Day weekend. I went a couple of days with minimal contact online. I turned off my phone notifications for all but 2 people who knew to only contact me if the world was about to end, I had no idea what was going on in the news, I didn’t spend half the day idly chatting with people, and I came back from this feeling refreshed and ready to meet the week. If we’re being perfectly honest, very few of us actually need to be reachable and on-call at all times.
- Spend time in nature. Spending time outside is important and it’s an unfortunate fact of modern life that most of us no longer do this as often as we should. Not only is it great for your mental health, but spending time outdoors is also proven to reduce the risk of all sorts of health problems, such as type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease, premature death, preterm birth, stress, and high blood pressure.
- Find out what’s free in your town. Just about every town has free activities for its residents. Libraries often hold storytime or movie night and parks frequently sponsor free concerts and festivals. Do a little bit of research by typing the name of your town and “free activities” in a search engine.
- Spend time with friends. We all get so busy with work, school and activities for the kids, and keeping up our households that friendship can sometimes be put on the back burner. Don’t let that happen. Make time for your friends, even if it’s just inviting them over for coffee. A day spent laughing with the people you care about will leave you feeling happy for days afterward.
How do you reward yourself or your family without spending money?
It’s important to live a good life while staying within your means. So I strongly encourage celebrating every single chance you get. BUT – don’t blow the budget doing it.
How do you reward yourself or your loved ones without spending a lot of money doing it? Share your favorite treats in the comments.
Daisy Luther is a coffee-swigging, adventure-seeking, globe-trotting blogger. She is the founder and publisher of three websites. 1) The Organic Prepper, which is about current events, preparedness, self-reliance, and the pursuit of liberty; 2) The Frugalite, a website with thrifty tips and solutions to help people get a handle on their personal finances without feeling deprived; and 3) PreppersDailyNews.com, an aggregate site where you can find links to all the most important news for those who wish to be prepared. Her work is widely republished across alternative media and she has appeared in many interviews.
Daisy is the best-selling author of 5 traditionally published books, 12 self-published books, and runs a small digital publishing company with PDF guides, printables, and courses at SelfRelianceand Survival.com You can find her on Facebook, Pinterest, Gab, MeWe, Parler, Instagram, and Twitter.