Winter is not one of my favourite seasons. I live in Canada and here, winter is a long, dark, cold season. The snow hits in December, and stays until April. Temperatures can go down to -35C (-31F) and stay there for weeks, and we measure the snow on the ground by feet, not inches or centimetres.
I’ve never really been an outdoor sports kind of girl, and winter is no exception. Since I don’t ski, snowboard, snowmobile, skate, or play hockey, a lot of the great nordic past times are lost on me.
That said, I’ve got family here, so I really can’t see myself moving to a warmer climate anytime soon. So, I’ve come up with a bunch of fun, frugal winter activities that make passing this season a little easier, and a little more fun.
Fun, Frugal Winter Activities
Snow Man Building – After a fresh snowfall, nothing is more fun than building a snow man. The snow is usually best for building snowmen when the weather is warmer, the excess moisture makes the snow pack together well. As an adult, I find building snowmen creatively to be a lot of fun.
A Winter Fire – I love campfires, and winter campfires are no exception. They help you stay warm during a day of fun outside, and there’s no worry about starting a forest fire like there is in the middle of summer. Just make sure not to get too close! Once when huddled around a fire in the winter, I melted the rubber sole of my shoe – I was just trying to get warm.
Admiring Christmas Lights – This used to be something that the older members of my family did, but in the last few years I’ve really come around to their way of thinking. (Maybe I’m just getting old?) Taking a stroll around the town to admire some of the festively decorated houses can be a lovely way to spend the evening.
Sledding – Parks, meadows, and school playgrounds are great venues for sledding. Ideally, there’s a hill involved, but make sure it’s not too long (long walk back) steep (too much speed) or near any roads (danger!) Also, avoid waxing your sledding aparatus, lest you end up like dear Clark.
Hunkering Down – One of my favourite past times during a heavy snow fall (after I’ve ensured I don’t need to navigate the roads anytime soon) is to just hunker down in my little house and watch it come down. Add in a cozy blanket, a cup of tea, and a movie, and you’ve got yourself one of my ideal afternoons.
Now, a lot of these outdoor activities can end up pretty unpleasant. Cold feet, runny noses, chapped lips and too much ambition can make any of the activities above end up a lot less pleasant than you’d planned. So, follow some of these basic tips to help keep your frugal winter activities fun.
Warm Drinks – My drink of choice is hot apple cider (rum optional). I always make sure to bring a warm drink along on any trip in my mega-insulated mug. Whenever I start to get chilly, my warm beverage helps ward off the cold.
Lip Balm and Tissues – I run outside all winter long and these two items are always on my must have list. The cold, dry air chaps not just my lips, but the end of my nose and my cheeks. If there’s a breeze, my eyes run like crazy, streaming tears that are likely to freeze if I don’t wipe them away. The tissues also come in handy for my perpetually runny nose. (How’s that for a nice mental picture?) If I don’t have these two items during a winter excursion, I’ll definitely have less fun!
Appropriate Attire – Don’t be a tough guy/girl and skimp on winter gear if you want to have a fun day out in the white stuff. A wicking base layer is key to keeping any sweat your planning on working up from giving you a chill, and from there it’s all about insulation and wind breaking. Don’t forget to equip your feet, head and hands, as much as the rest of you.
Winter Doesn’t Have to Be a Drag
There are, undoubtedly, fewer frugal and fun winter activities than there are in the summer time. There are fewer festivals, flea markets, and open air events. But that doesn’t mean that we all need to reach into our wallets in order to have a good time in the winter. With a little creativity and preparation, there are lots of fun, frugal activities to do in the winter time.
I grew up in Minnesota, and I love the winter as well. I haven't been sledding for ages, but it is a blast:)
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I love snow ball fights. Best time to do it is right after a big snow fall so it's easier to pack them into balls. And if you live in the countryside snow mobiles are super fun ^_^ It hasn't started to snow yet on the west coast of Canada but hopefully we'll see a white Christmas this year :0)
John S @ Frugal Rules says
Great ideas! We love going looking at Christmas lights. It's free and the kids love it.
My neighbor is one of those with the crazy light shows set to music. He has a little radio station he boardcasts from every hour from 7-10pm each night. It's fun to go watch his show.
As someone who lives in the south I cannot fathom how you survive when it gets THAT cold. Hope you had a great thanksgiving!
Living Debt Free Rocks! says
I like plopping myself in a pile of fresh snow and making snow angels and looking up at the sky…so relaxing!
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Luckily I live in Florida and don't have to worry about snow 🙂 Also means less fun frugal activities 🙁
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Where I live in Ontario, it's gotten down to -50C a few times in my years here, and usually, we have a foot of snow on the ground for Halloween. I'm a big fan of the hunkering down, but my boyf LOVES all the outdoor winter activities, and has convinced me to get a paid of cross-country skis this year. Next year, with any luck, I'm going to try ice climbing with him, too.
I live in California so our winters are pretty mild. But one of my favorite things to do, is to drive around and look at the Christmas lights. We did that when I was a kid, and I still like to do it 🙂
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Budget and the Beach says
Well I live in LA, so not much changes here. A lot of my friends go skiing/snowboarding in the mountains, but that's not very frugal. Basically I just do that same stuff. I think one thing I might do more of is cook. Since I don't feel as obligated to be outside when it gets dark earlier, I feel like I have more time to cook.
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I haven't really lived through many actual winters, but my favorite snow activity was making snow angels. Ridiculously fun!
like you, my favorite cold weather activity is hunkering down, preferably with some hot cocoa and a movie or book. However, I also like checking out Christmas lights and Christmas craft fairs/markets… even if it's just to look!
I didn't realize you were from Canada. Wow! I think I would not survive being from Cali. I think I would hunker down and never leave the house. I'd save money on activities but the heat bill would probably be high.
Financial Confessions of a Former Brat says
SLEDDING, definitely. My old elementary school has the best sled hill in my area. We can't go at night though because the neighbourhood kids build massive bumps to get some air, and if you hit one you literally fly.
DC@Young Adult Money says
To be more frugal during the winters, I haven't snowboarded for three years. Now that I'm married, I would only want to go out again if my wife was able to go as well. I'd want her to get her own gear and we'd have to go at least 3+ times for her to learn and be able to go down hills and whatnot, and then obviously we'd want to go more! So anyway, I am sticking to frugal activities this winter, as you mentioned in this post. One day when I have more $ we will go snowboarding, but for now, time to save $!
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Pauline @ Reach Financial Independence says
I love long walks when all is white and quiet. The snow making funny noises as I walk. And then come home for hot chocolate!
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These are all wonderful ideas that sound like a lot of fun! Can't wait to give them a try!
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Matthew Allen says
Ditto on the winter fires. Nothing beats em! People think campfires are a summer activity for some reason and that doesn't even make sense! We don't need fire to keep warm in the summer time!
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I'll trade winters with you! I loooove the snow and am bummed that here in MO we don't get hardly a dusting!
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Jessica N says
These are some great ideas! I actually signed up for a redbox membership and I get text messages every once in a while with movie and game codes for one free night of rental. That's another great frugal idea to add to this list. Nothing better than cozying up on the couch and watching a movie for FREE. I'm a big fan of free.