It’s all well and good to pull up your financial bootstraps to save some cash, but all work and no play makes for a doubly dull lifestyle. Here are a handful of ways to tighten your budget and still be able to have a bit of fun.

Annual Passes

Great for budget dating as well as family fun, annual passes provide a tremendous value. Available for everything from zoos and museums to national parks and theme attractions such as Busch Gardens, annual passes allow the holder and typically at least one guest access to a favored venue at any time throughout the year. Some park passes, at least in the United States allow an entire vehicle full of people to enter through the gate for hassle-free, frugal fun.

Trail Trips

Whether you are hiking, snowshoeing, kayaking or even mountain biking, trail trips are one of the top ways to have fun on a budget. Whether you are enjoying a simple day trip, a weekend getaway or a full-blown vacation, hitting the trails is something you can usually do for a nominal fee or in many cases free. It depends on whether you are using trails that are part of a specific city’s parks and recreation department, within a national or state park, or part of the lands you are allowed to access when staying at a more remote private hotel that’s situated on a large expanse of land.

Happy Hour

frugal funIt’s no secret that I love to hail happy hour as one of the most cost-efficient ways to eat out with friends and significant others. With bargain-priced drinks and discounted appetizers, it allows you to explore more of the menu for less money. Many places even offer free snacks to entice the after work crowd. Of course, you could always host a happy hour at home if you want, but it’s fun to get out of the house with friends and the daily specials offered by many grills, bars and hotel lounges make it extremely economical.

Matinee Tickets

If you want to have the experience of going to the theater without the full cost of evening tickets, make matinees a part of your entertainment strategy. It might only be three dollars less or so per ticket, but when the morning price rings it at six bucks each as opposed to the $9.50 each pass costs in the evening, you’re able to squeeze in a third person for free. This makes a great value for young couples with one small child, and doesn’t throw the bedtime into chaos.

House Parties

To be honest, I often prefer getting together with friends for house parties. As nice as it can be to get dressed up for a restaurant meal, casual gatherings allow you to pour your own extra glass of wine without waiting for the server to notice you. Add in the fact that it’s far less appropriate to get rowdy in a restaurant setting and you can start to see how choosing to host a house party is about more than just the money. It’s about having the opportunity to catch up with friends without worrying about your noise level, time at the table or even when and how you want to enjoy your food.

Board Games

Getting together with other families can still bring extra costs if everyone feels they need to hire sitters for the evening. Choosing board games appropriate to the ages of the children you each have can mean a fuss-free evening for all. Throw in a little popcorn and a few low-sugar drinks and you’ve got a thrifty way to enjoy a night out. To keep things fair, if you do this quite often you might want to make sure everyone takes their turn hosting. That way, no one household has to deal with the extra cleaning stress more than necessary.

Wine Tasting

I’m always surprised to run into people who don’t realize how affordable an afternoon of wine tasting can be. Even those venues that charge for a flight of pours usually keep it at ten bucks or less, and five to six dollars is actually more typical. Those fees are also usually waived with the purchase of a bottle, so if you want to pick out something that will taste great with the romantic picnic outing you have planned on the way home you can actually combine your entertainment and beverage costs into one purchase. Pretty financially efficient, wouldn’t you say?

What are your favorite ways to have fun and still keep things affordable? Do you have a favorite sport or hobby that’s particularly well-suited to penny pinchers? Share your tips in our comment section below.

Myscha Theriault

Myscha Theriault

A lifelong money cruncher who can squeeze a nickel ‘til it cries, Myscha is a syndicated columnist, best-selling author, and founder of Trek Hound and We Be Sharin’.