How To Enjoy Life Without Going Broke

I used to have the mindset that you couldn’t have fun unless you spent a lot of money. Life isn’t all about money though, and there are plenty of ways to have fun without going broke. The items/experiences below are not all free (is anything absolutely free anyways?), but they are ways for you to enjoy…

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Last Updated: March 4, 2024

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How To Enjoy Life Without Going BrokeI used to have the mindset that you couldn’t have fun unless you spent a lot of money. Life isn’t all about money though, and there are plenty of ways to have fun without going broke.

The items/experiences below are not all free (is anything absolutely free anyways?), but they are ways for you to enjoy life without paying a ton of money for it.


Have a potluck.

I always love a fun potluck. You can have one at your home, or you can even see if your group of friends/family want to have a rotating schedule – with a different person hosting one each week or each month.

This can be a great way to get everyone together at a much cheaper price. I would rather have a fun get together at home instead of at a restaurant anyways – the atmosphere is just better!


Use Groupon or other discount websites.

If there is something that you know you plan on buying, you should always try seeing if there is a coupon or discount out there first. There almost always is.

Different websites to look at include, Groupon, LivingSocial, Airbnb,, and RetailMeNot.


Earn extra money.

Of course, I included this point in this blog post. I think there are so many positives of earning extra money, so it only makes sense.

If you know that you need to save a certain amount of money in order to do something (such as taking a vacation, skydiving, or something else), then you may want to work on making extra money so that you can afford it.

You could sell items, earn free cash back from shopping online, take up a part-time job, freelance or something else.

You could then put all of this extra money towards what you are saving for so that it is not coming directly out of your budget.

Related article: 10 Things I’ve Done To Make Extra Money


Find a trail.

We’ve been taking walks and bike rides on the Katy Trail near our home a lot lately. I think last week we did around 20 miles altogether by just walking the trail with our dogs. It’s a lot of fun, and it’s a great way to relax, enjoy the nice weather, and get a frugal workout in.

If you live by a lake or beach, utilize that and walk near it! Whenever I go on vacation to the beach, I always talk to the people who live there and tell them how lucky they are to live near the beach. Almost every single time they say “Yes, it’s nice, but I haven’t been to the beach in over a year.” WHAT?! You guys are crazy!

You need to utilize the areas around you. I’m sure 99% of you have a great public area to use. You can go for a hike, bike ride, walk, run, and more.


Use rewards points.

If you can trust yourself with credit cards, then you may want to try earning some free travel or free gift cards by using your credit card just like you normally would.


Read a book.

I will admit that I don’t read as many books as I would like, but whenever I do start reading a good one it is nearly impossible to put it down.

Reading a book can be a lot of fun, and it can be free if you get your books from the library.


Use your student ID.

Even though I graduated with my MBA in 2012, I still carry about my student ID.  Many stores, restaurants, movie theaters and other places will give you a discount if you show them your student ID.

Some may say that this crosses into the cheap or maybe even stealing category, but I don’t really see anything wrong with it. It doesn’t save me a huge amount of money, but I can usually save somewhere around 10% to 25% when I go places just for carrying a small card in my wallet.


Get an annual pass.

This may exceed budgets for some, but if you have a place that you love to go to (such as a national park, amusement park, etc.) and you know that you would get good use out of it, then you may be able to justify the costs.

If you average out how many times you use it by the annual cost, you may find that you are actually just spending a couple of dollars each time you go. It can be especially cheap if you live close to the park because you can save on gas as well.

You might be saying “but the food is so expensive at amusement parks!” Yes, that is true. However, you can always pack your lunch, put it in a cooler, and take a break from visiting the park to eat your packed lunch.

How do you try to enjoy life without going broke?

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Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Author: Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Hey! I’m Michelle Schroeder-Gardner and I am the founder of Making Sense of Cents. I’m passionate about all things personal finance, side hustles, making extra money, and online businesses. I have been featured in major publications such as Forbes, CNBC, Time, and Business Insider. Learn more here.

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  1. My student ID expired the year after grad, but friends at other institutions that don’t print expiry dates still use theirs. I would!

    1. Mine doesn’t have an expiration date printed on it luckily!

  2. Cherie

    I gotta say while I like most of the list that student id thing is definitely unethical – it’s a discount offered to current students, not people who just kept an expired student id LOL

    That said, I need to find a trail . . . .

    1. My student ID isn’t expired though! It automatically transferred itself into an alumni ID when I graduated. No one has ever questioned it, and I’ve even told stores that I’ve already graduated and they never care.

  3. These are great frugal activities Michelle. You know in the Midwest everyone loves their potlucks haha. We have quite a few of them every year here in Minnesota with friends, organizations, etc.

    1. Haha they are so much fun!

  4. Travis @debtchronicles

    I’m a huge fan of the potluck….our neighborhood has potlucks almost weekly when summer rolls around. I’m SOOOO looking forward to that season ramping up soon!

    1. Oooh that is awesome!

  5. I also use my student ID Michelle to get a discount, especially when we are planning to have a long land trip travel and we need to take a public bus. Aside from going to park for a jogging and biking, every weekend we usually have a movie marathon with my family at home.

    1. A movie marathon is always fun also! I forgot to put that on the list 🙂

  6. This is a solid list Michelle! We do a number of these things in order to have fun. We have a couple of annual passes to a few of the places around town as they usually pay for themselves after the first trip. Thankfully younger kids are pretty easily entertained, so that keeps costs down quite a bit.

    1. Annual passes are a great way to save money!

  7. I agree – I’ve noticed my friends and I tend to hang out at each others houses a lot on weekend nights doing a potluck or just having a few drinks with apps and catching up. I think it’s a sign we’re all getting older! We also openly talk about financial plans like buying houses. Now that the weather is nicer, we’ll have to spend more time outside hiking and having patio drinks!

    1. Yes, I love the nicer weather and being able to be outside more. It makes it so much easier to be more frugal.

  8. Sounds like a great time Thomas! We need to start having more.

  9. This past weekend I rode my bike 23 miles to a Tesla meetup event. It was the most fun I’ve had all year and it didn’t cost me a thing!

    Also, listening to audio books while biking is a great way ‘read’ more.

    1. 23 miles is amazing! Good job.

      1. I find that once you get in a rhythm, it’s not too difficult to go for a long time (no pun intended).

        1. I agree. I recently did 20 miles. I probably would have done more but my stupid bike broke before I could finish!

          1. Time to throw that thing over your shoulder and run the rest of the way! Like a boss!

            Hahaha.. would be super cool though.

  10. Thank you Kassandra! I need to find a friend with a pool 🙂

  11. I think pot lucks are the best! We southerners love our casseroles!
    I think exercising is a great way to do something free! You get outside you get active and can have fun. We love checking out parks all over our city. They are each so different!

    1. Yuummm I really want a casserole now!

  12. I’m a huge fan of potlucks (especially in the summer, who doesn’t love bbq season?!) and I totally still use my student card for discounts!

    1. Glad I’m not alone Charlotte! 🙂

  13. I have been totally guilty of living near the beach and never going. For some reason, it never interested me that much unless I was going with friends. You had to get there really early, otherwise it would be too crowded (plus traffic, as there was usually one bridge to cross over to get to the beaches). I’d rather go to a trail in the woods, which we did take advantage of. Reading is another great one!

  14. I’m glad the weather is getting nicer so we can participate in more outdoor activities which are often not too costly. I love spending time with friends and family. While it’s possible to do potlucks, which I think is great…sometimes it’s tough for bigger groups in NYC since everyone has small apartments! Also a big fan of looking for deals on groupon and other sites…never pay full price!

    1. Yes, I’m so excited for the warmer weather. Lots of frugal workouts are in store for me!

  15. Joshua

    Hey Michelle, great tips here! Personally, I’m incredibly lucky when it comes to cost free enjoyment. I live in Oregon, a very green, very mountainous state. Because of where I live, I can ski and snowboard in desolate areas during the winter, during the summer months, there are all kinds of beautiful hikes through mountains, valleys, and across water falls. I spend $30 a year on a national forest parking pass and my fun is covered!

    1. That is awesome Joshua! Oregon sounds amazing 🙂

  16. I love finding a new trail for my runs and walks. One of my other favorite things to do is be a tourist in my own town. Just walk around and discover.

    1. Yes, being a tourist in your own town is always a lot of fun!

  17. People often think I’m still in middle/high school, so I have no problem using it!

  18. This is a great list. I do most of these except for the potlucks. Most of my friends can’t cook.

    1. Haha luckily my friends are pretty decent!

  19. Barb

    I agree with everything you said Michelle. I would like to add that most banks and credit unions will reward you for using your debit card as credit instead of debit when making purchases. The money is taken out of your account the same day, or at most a day or two. And, some credit cards, like Discover, will offer cash back in place of rewards. You can have the money put towards your credit card bill, you can have a check sent or a direct deposit.

    Also, before making a purchase from a discount site like Groupon, LivingSocial, and such, I will check to see if I can find discount codes. Many times (not always) I will find discount codes on sites like RetailMeNot for these discount sites. However, before I go to the discount site and make my purchase using the discount code I found I will go through Mr. Rebates, Ebates, Befrugal, or SavingStar to earn that extra percent they offer for going through their site to make the purchase in addition to using the discount code and getting deeper discounts.

    1. That is a good tip! I always forget to use Mr. Rebates and Ebates, even though I have accounts on both of those websites.

  20. One of the best things about spring is re-discovering the great outdoors. There are so many nice trails and parks nearby that I rarely take advantage of. Same thing for the free events that the city offers in the summer. I am hoping that this year I go out and enjoy them as much as I can.

    Something I would add to the list would be hosting game nights with friends. (It would work perfectly with a potluck!) Some of the best nights I’ve had involved little more than a good old fashion deck of cards.

    1. Yes, I love being able to get outside more. We have been trying to try a new park each week. I’m loving it!

  21. I really wish that Groupon and similar things were available where I live. I try to use them when I travel, but that’s about it. (Although, maybe it’s a good thing I don’t have these available to me – I can see myself buying things I don’t want/need just because there’s a deal.)

    I’ve been known to use my Student ID from time to time, too. I can understand why some people frown upon it, but like you mentioned, the discounts aren’t very much.

    1. Yeah, I don’t use my ID often – maybe a few times a year. I usually forget about it.

  22. My dad and step-mom live in Florida and have in-state annual passes to Disney. I can’t remember what they cost, but it’s pretty inexpensive given then can go as much and as many times as they want. They’ve seen a ton of singers and performers for “free” (well the cost of the ticket). They bring their own food and water so the only thing that costs them money is the gas to get there.

    1. That sounds like a good deal to me! 🙂

  23. Max Arthur

    Hope I could find a trail near my house.. That would be cool.

    1. I’m sure you can! We have over 10 near our home.

  24. Hiking, movies, and potlucks are great ideas! I also like naps 🙂 Maybe it’s just me, but I think they are a lot of fun, lol. You could play board games, go bike riding or have a wine and cheese party. Some of us pf bloggers did that last year — we each brought one cheese or wine, and got to sample a bunch.

    1. Yes, naps are always a blast! 🙂

  25. We are doing most of these and loving it, Michelle!! We just got a year-long pass to the Historical society here on Groupon for $45 for Rick and I and all four kids. Talk about cheap fun!!!

    1. $45 sounds like a great deal!

  26. lyle @ the Joy of Simple

    Hey Michelle. Great bunch of ideas 🙂

    I use my local university to see free or cheap concerts, movies and theatrical productions.

    The of course there’s cheapie Tuesday nights at the cinemas…plus there’s plenty of dinners with friends.

    And as I work at a comedy club part-time, I get to see great comedic acts each week…plus I can invite friends to see a show so it all works out for everyone 🙂

    Take care and all the best.

    1. Thanks Lyle! 🙂

  27. My best frugal tip is buying a Kindle. Sure, it’s a bit of an investment but since buying one I’ve read over 40 books and I share books amongst friends so it’s super cheap.

    1. I have a kindle and I don’t get enough use out of it. I need to though!

  28. Lisa E. @ Lisa vs. the Loans

    Potlucks are in my top 5 favorite ways to have a good, frugal time!

    1. They are great! 🙂

  29. One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is finding free and low-cost hobbies that I enjoy. For example, I’m never happier than when I’m out in the countryside on a sunny day, digital camera in hand, taking wildlife photos. Truly the best days ever.

    However since buying my camera (of Ebay, for a good price) my costs are virtually zero. I take a packed lunch. I either walk or drive to my chosen location. I use rechargeable batteries in my camera. And that’s it; I’m set for the day.

    Finding these things that bring us true happiness without the need to spend much money are a key factor, I believe, in enjoying life without going broke.

  30. Athena

    Love these suggestions! I live in Arizona and we have some amazing trails in local parks that are beautiful. I need to remember to take advantage of them when the weather is nice!

  31. I thought I knew what this post was gonna say, but I was totally wrong! I like how you gave specific ideas for having fun without spending a ton of money. Isn’t it sad that I sometimes need to be reminded that the library is free? 🙁

    1. I need the reminder as well. We just moved and I definitely need to get a library card here!

  32. DNN

    I’m going to start reviewing soon many of the purchases I make because then I can earn some of my $ gUaP $ back and avoid going broke in the future.