Declare a Frugal Friday Fun Night

Ah, Friday nights.  A time when we can relax and unwind without worry of going to work the next day (or the next).  You walk in the door from work ready to kick off your shoes and enjoy a quiet dinner at home when the kids meet you ready to go out and have some fun!  Besides being tired from the long week at work there is this other little problem with you entertainment budget envelope--it's empty.  Here are a few ways our family has fun on the cheap spending a Friday night at home.

A night with no electricity.  My daughter recently received the entire collection of Little House on the Prairie books by Laura Ingalls Wilder.  They are a great read for a budding frugalist as they tell of a time when people had to work hard and entertain themselves without the help of televisions and computers.  The books have even led to dinner-time discussions on how people lived without electricity, something my kids can barely fathom.  To give them some real-world practice we have a "power's out" night ever so often on Friday nights.  We turn out all the lights, and cut power to the television, the air conditioner (wait for it to cool down a bit), and computers.  We then look for ways to entertain ourselves.  We play board games by candle light, read stories out loud and "camp out" in the living room.  As an added benefit, the kids will be much better prepared the next time a storm rolls through and knocks out the power.

Host a game night, and invite friends.  We recently rediscovered Twister as a family.  The box reads something like "Ages 3 and up," but it ought to read, "Ages 3 to 29," because once you hit 30 Twister can actually become a hazardous activity.  For the most part I am the official spinner, and enjoy the role of spectator.  We also recently invested in a Nintendo Wii, something that was against my frugal nature, until convinced by my family that we could actually save money by staying in and playing video games rather than going out to movies.  We created a targeted savings account and waited a few months until we could buy it with cash.  It was still a little hard for me to fork over that much money for a game, but it was hard to resist an eight year-old armed with a break-even analysis detailing how quickly our new Wii would pay for itself!

Have a backyard luau, minus the pig.  We actually prefer grilled chicken, but if a roasted pig is your thing, have at it!  We light tiki torches, put up a few Dollar Store decorations and even play a little Hawaiian music for ambience.   I'm no good on the ukulele so we stick to a cheap CD with luau-themed music.  The kids play while Mom and Dad grill the chicken and prepare our backporch table for dinner, and then we enjoy a mini feast at home.  The only cost is the decorations (which if taken care of can be reused) and food, and the return of added quality time with family is priceless.

So you see, it doesn't cost a lot to have a good time.  The common ingredients in all our "Frugal Friday Fun Night" activities is imagination and togetherness.  I hope we are creating traditions that will carry our kids into adulthood, and that they will share these activities with their children.  I also hope we are reinforcing the idea that you don't have to be rich to have a rich life.

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Guest's picture

There are many stories of families just having fun but coming up with million-dollar inventions together. So, brainstorming and creating prototype inventions is not only frugal, it's a potential million dollar business in the making! I wrote about this at

Guest's picture

...I'm a big fan of theater night, myself. It usually consists of a couple DVDs, along with some wine, cheese, and other nibbles... It's very relaxing and not nearly as expensive as a night out on the town.


Guest's picture

My older son grew up with all the conveniences, but my younger son lived with me in the country for 6 years growing up, and got used to doing for himself, and having major power outages when there was no water from the pump and no heat. We had a huge fireplace, kerosene heaters, and stored water for such emergencies. We've snuggled together on the sofa bed sometimes for days with blankets up to block off the LR from the rest of the house so we could stay warm. Still, they both seem pretty self-sufficient, and both love to camp and do trails. Strange.

Guest's picture

other great games even having folks over is the game UNO, poker games (play with chips); I love playing poker & have taught my grandkids to play; we used to use pennies but have upgraded to chips; it's a kick! BTW, they KNOW that gambling is basically a dealers game & that is why all the huge casino's etc; THEY keep your money! so, we enjoy playing a lot but they are well aware of the results of gambling; you can get a great combo pizza at Winco's for only $4 (take it home & bake it) made there; also you can get great sub sandwiches (very large) for $4.00; we add extra's to it & enjoy! (these are our big "expenditures" for eating "out"; tho at this time of year making double decker bacon & tomato sandwiches (with toasted bread) goes over well; we also play clue, which I love; & yahtzee; make your own popcorn in air popper & use anything from garlic salt, sea salt of course, or cheeze toppings (like parmesian, etc) makes great snacks; another easy to make is tacos; I wondered why no one seemed to get together anymore to play cards etc; shame really; lots more fun than being on a computer!

Guest's picture

We purchased various editions of Guitar Hero and Rock Band for our PlayStation2. Expensive games, yes. However, they have proven to be worth it when our extended family gets together. Then the kids have to sit back and watch the grown-ups rock out--even the grandparents! This is such a hit at family holidays and gatherings that we often stay up until 2am playing. It's been a great bonding experience and also works as entertainment for kids' birthday parties, sleepovers, and neighborhood gatherings.

Guest's picture

Incredible idea to shut down the power in your house! We all too often become addicted to electricity-related products, such as TV, computers, and even unnecessary air conditioning. The first two degrade the quality of family time and more-often involve passive attention.

To get some diversify in life and maintain frugal habits, I recommend adding physical exercise (running, walking, biking, etc.) and reading. Reading seems to be a lost skill for money, but the benefits of being able to concentrate for prolonged periods of time exercise a different part of your brain you don't get from staring at the tellie or a computer screen all day. Combine the two and talk your family for a walk to the local library. Make an adventure out of it!

Guest's picture

My wife and I enjoy a nice steak on the grill, bonfire, and a bottle of red wine.

Nice nights.

Guest's picture

Once a month we get a few DVDs at the library (each kid picks one, and we get one for after the kids are in bed) and I make homemade pizzas. It is a huge deal for the kids because I usually don't allow much tv in our house, and since the DVDs are free and the pizzas are super cheap (I use my breadmaker to make the crust, and then just add sauce and cheese) the whole night ends up being a lot of fun, but not that expensive.

We also like to go tent camping a lot, and once you spend the money on the initial equipment it is pretty cheap to go camping for the weekend.

Guest's picture

I felt myself de-stressing just reading it. I applaud your frugal family values!

Guest's picture

Our group of friends alternates who cooks so that we can all save some money each week, while still getting out of the house. It's a great way to make hanging out mroe affordable.


Fred Lee's picture
Fred Lee

Great post, Jason. I agree, the idea of a simpler, less frenzied and more economical way to spend time with the family is a win-win situation. I like the ideas of tiki torches if it would just stop raining in Vermont. And again, I think the key is spending quality time with the family rather than running out the door on yet another excursion.

Guest's picture

Our family has a few traditions that you all might be interested in. we are both in our mid 30s and have 3 little kids under the age of 9 and we love to do all sorts of things together.

FIRST- since everyone is home and we don't play with any friends on Sunday, we spend the whole day (except church) playing games together like twister, uno, or puzzles. (we always say we'd love a board game when people ask us what one us wants for xmas or b-days. we've stocked up on tons of games and i think we bought only one or two of them ourselves!) we also make cookies or some treat that we can make together and we go on a walk. We often wil decide on a family in the nieghborhood we want to give some to and take it by. This has helped us to make some great friends.

SECOND - Every night we listen to a book on cd when the kids go to bed. It is incentive for them to hurry and get ready for bed. we started last year with Harry Potter and they listened to all 7 books! it was such a success that we started
listening to whatever good books we could find. sometimes they have a book they really want to hear but it isn't available, so we read them out loud instead. we are now listening to the series of unfortunate events and my kids love it! (Tim Curry is the reader and he is awesome!) They say listening to books improves literacy and i think they are right! my 9 year old had a blast this summer with swimming, friends and family field trips, but she still managed to read about 50 books ranging from Fablehaven to Little House on the Prairie. My six year old is enjoying the Junie B. Jones series right now. (They are awesome if you haven't read them!) my kids live full active lives but they have a love of books i never knew as a child. i grew up on the brady bunch, scooby doo, and magnum P.I. they rarely watch tv, but it's becasue they are having too much fun. I've never had a rule of no TV, because i haven't needed it!

THIRD - My husband and I try to have a "date night" every Friday night. (if i can get a babysitter.) We've gone walking, sledding, or even just hung out at the park with a blanket and some treats. Of course, we've gone to dinner or watched the big movies when they come out but we usually wait until most movies are at the dollar theatre. Also, we try to keep them cheap because we have to pay a babysitter and we really just want some free time together during daylight!

FOURTH AND LAST - during the winter we designate every Saturday as "Family Movie Night" unless we have other things going on. the kids take turns each week picking a movie at the library or the redbox and we pop popcorn and enjoy a family flick. during good weather, if we are all pooped we will do it too. We just recently watched mary poppins and this week we watched nim's island. the library has all the classics and it's so fun to see my kids light up when they see films i loved as a kid.

I know i've been blabbing, but i hope you find something useful!

Guest's picture

Generations of the past often grouped into "clubs" to have inexpensive fun. My grandparents belonged to numerous fraternal orders, civic organizations and social clubs, including their church, the Masons, bridge club, etc. They had very busy social lives and participated in frequent gatherings (usually pot luck and live entertainment) that cost very little money.

Moderners scoff at fraternal orders and church bean suppers, but I think something important has been lost. Bridge clubs and similar gatherings (cards, book clubs) usually host a weekly gathering which rotate at peoples houses. Civic and social groups used shared facilities (church, public building, function hall) which were rented cheaply to members for individual functions (such as a birthday party). Younger members would bring their children [or in my case, grandchild] and we would go into our own room or area for our own little party, often bringing a sleeping bag to crash if it got late. My grandparents attended a dance, party or dinner nearly every weekend and had no need for a McMansion because they could use the club or lodge to entertain if a party was going to be too large for their modest home. Pot luck was the norm. Sadly, many of these organizations died out as their members did and the rest (such as Rotary, many churches and the Masons) are dwindling as brainwashed consumers go to a heavily-advertised expensive restaurant or commercial activity center instead of their local social club.

Perhaps it's time people regained their interest in "fuddy duddy" organizations and tapped into the wisdom of our forbears. The next time a little white-haired lady approaches you at church and asks if you want to buy a ticket to the bean supper, say yes!!! Better yet, volunteer to help and make some good friends! Things will only be "fuddy duddy" as long as you don't add your energy to the mix. The next time the Masons (if you are a man) or another civic organization (Rotary, Lions, Elks, etc.) advertise an open house, go!!! Since I changed my definition of "fun" to include "fuddy duddy" activities and a broad range of ages, my family has been having the best time of our lives!!!

Guest's picture

It only happens every couple years, but we camp out in front of the tv and watch the olypics instead of going out. Turned down an invite to go roller skating (would be 40 dollars total) to stay in make dinner and watch some real athletes