Frugal Ideas for a Cheap, Low Cost Weekend

Have you ever sat down and figured out how much you actually spend during a weekend? The results could shock you. From errands to entertainment, the money you shell out every Saturday and Sunday can really add up over time. And if you have financial goals like getting out of debt, saving for a large purchase like a house or car, or building your retirement nest egg, your weekend spending could be hindering those goals.

It's easy to let weekend spending spiral out of control. Here are 10 frugal ideas of how to spend a low cost weekend that's productive or enjoyable.


A good way to revamp your weekend spending habits is to try to avoid spending any money at all—at least for one weekend. Think that’s impossible? With a little advance planning, you can do a lot without big spending.

Low Cost Weekend Ideas

Channel your inner gourmet

Do you like to cook? You’re not alone. Interest in cooking has been steadily growing, thanks in part to the proliferation of reality cooking shows and celebrity chefs like the Barefoot Contessa, Wolfgang Puck, and Gordon Ramsey. If you have food on hand (e.g., the chicken breasts and broccoli you bought a few days ago that are still in your fridge), make some meals that you can freeze in portions to bring to work or have for dinner. Not only is this way cheaper than eating out, it can also be much healthier and a lot of fun and fulfill your creative needs. Share with a partner and make it even more special!

Have friends over for the game

Buying a ticket and schlepping out to the stadium will cost you a small fortune. Yes, I know it’s “the experience” these days, but who says you can’t get some great experiences at home with family and friends?

Better yet, head over to their house if they’re hosting! You can spend $100 pretty quickly by going out to watch your favorite team—but if everyone stays in and brings a dish to share, you could save a lot of money. Plus you can cheer as loud as you like without worrying about disturbing people around you!

Get a dose of culture

When was the last time you went to a museum? Many have free admission on weekends. Whether you’re into Rembrandt or Renoir, Picasso or Pollock, you’re sure to get inspired. Think you’re not into art? Try going just once—you might get hooked! Or check out a science museum if that’s more your speed.

Find the floor in your bedroom

Take a few hours to tackle that messy bedroom… or garage, or closet, or basement, or attic! Ok, I get it—you don’t want to spend a precious weekend doing laundry and other household drudgery. But tidying up really does feel pretty dammed good so put a couple of extra loads in the washer. Box up old books, clothes, and household goods for donating. There are countless ways to get organized. Pick one or two and get moving. It’s just one weekend, but you know it needs to be done!

Binge watch your favorite TV shows and movies

Call it a “movie marathon” or “film festival”, but get friends and family together for a big night in front of the TV. If you’re feeling even more up for it, try a binge weekend of one of your favorite shows (even one of the classics like Friends or Seinfeld).

You already pay, whether it’s for Netflix and Hulu or for cable and premium channels like Showtime and HBO, so take advantage of them. Check programming schedules online and break out the popcorn maker.

Clean out your inbox

If you’re staring at thousands of old emails when you check your email accounts like I was, it’s time to take action and a weekend works for me! Whether it’s your personal or work account, there’s nothing better than hitting the delete key multiple times. Getting rid of all those unwanted emails that have been piling up can feel liberating.

Take a nap (seriously!)

Americans get less and less sleep every year. Today, we average just 6.8 hours per night, less than the doctor-recommended 7 to 9 hours per night. Catching up on your ZZZs for a couple of hours is the ultimate (and free) energy refresher!

Enjoy the great outdoors

Whether it’s a bike ride along a local trail, a hike through the state park, or just a walk around your neighborhood, get outside and enjoy the weather. You’ll be doing your body (and mental well-being) a favor, too. A recent government study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that a whopping 80% of Americans don’t get the recommended amounts of exercise each week, setting themselves up for years of health problems. I know from my own experiences how important it is to be active.

Organize a neighborhood cleanup

Giving back to your community can be richly rewarding. See if your neighbors would be interested in spending a few hours picking up trash along your local streets, like Mr. Groovy. Just grab some plastic garbage bags and go. You’ll be exercising a sense of neighborhood pride. Chip in for some inexpensive refreshments like sodas and pretzels afterwards and relax and have a few laughs.

Celebrate the season

Whether it’s decorating for an upcoming holiday, or enjoying what the outdoors has to offer at this time of year, be sure to use the calendar for inspiration.

When your low cost weekend comes to a close, resume your normal spending habits—you shouldn’t feel the urge to go hog wild after just two days. In fact, you may even think a little longer about your monetary choices the next time you reach for your wallet. Not doling out a dime for an entire weekend might be too weird of a concept for some, but give it a try if you can. It could help you break unhealthy habits, which may, in turn, have a positive impact on your immediate and future financial situations.

Do you feel you spend too much on the weekends? Do you make an effort to plan your activities or are you just reacting to whatever comes your way on Saturday and Sunday? Do the kids prompt you to spend needlessly? What would your life be like with a little less spending and a whole lot of low cost weekends?


  1. Emily @ JohnJaneDoe

    Hey Gary, that’s an awesome list. I’d like to point out, too, that there are plenty of museums that specialize in things other than art…history, science, transportation, etc.

    Also, especially in the warmer months and during the holidays, there tend to be a lot of inexpensive or free community events. You can still find a lot of events published on your local newspaper’s website, or even just browsing through your Facebook feed.

    And if you really need the experience of “shopping” without the price tag, go to the library and pick out some books, or maybe even movies.

  2. Hey, Gary. You really nailed it with this one. And I’m not saying that because I’m a big proponent of tidying up our parks and roadsides. (Thanks, for the mention, BTW). The biggest problem most Americans face regarding their finances is a lack of imagination. They really think comfort or enjoyment can only be had at a hefty price. Nonsense! Anyone who starts exercising his or her imagination will soon discover that fulfillment and frugality aren’t mutually exclusive. And this post proves it. Thank you, my friend.

    1. I wish more people would take a good hard look at how much is out there for their enjoyment that doesn’t involve breaking the bank. There’s so much emphasis through the media on how to spend your money and so little time and effort spent making us aware of what we have right in our own community that is essentially free or low cost. I’m making an effort to spread the word and you are too, and that’s a good thing! Thanks for your comments, Mr. G.

  3. Claudia @ Two Cup House

    We used to spend too much money on the weekends, going out to eat to entertain ourselves. When we went uber frugal, we spent big chunks of our weekend either side hustling or hiking local parks — some combination of these activities is still perfect for us today. 🙂

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