How To Be Frugal And Fun (And Not Boring)

There’s a myth out there that being frugal means you can’t have any fun. Many believe that frugal fun and frugal ideas don’t even exist. These are myths I despise and ones I’m trying to prove false. Being frugal doesn’t mean you have to be boring. There are plenty of ways to enjoy your life while…

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Last Updated: December 31, 2023

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There’s a myth out there that being frugal means you can’t have any fun. Many believe that frugal fun and frugal ideas don’t even exist.

These are myths I despise and ones I’m trying to prove false.

Being frugal doesn’t mean you have to be boring.

There are plenty of ways to enjoy your life while staying on a realistic budget.

In fact, I believe that some of the many great ways to have fun are free or affordable. We spend hardly any money within our entertainment budget each month and still have a great time filled with new experiences. Just check out my Instagram if you don’t believe me!

Below are several different frugal ideas for fun activities.

Mystery shop for frugal fun.

Mystery shopping won’t make you rich, but it can be an easy way to earn free meals at restaurants, free outings, free hotel stays, and more.

You’ll have to pay for everything upfront with your own money and you will be required to fill out surveys afterward, but it’s a way to spoil yourself while still having frugal fun.

Related article: My Guide To Mystery Shopping

Take advantage of happy hours.

Happy hours are a great way to have discounted food and drinks. You may be able to save 50% or more by just visiting bars and restaurants during a specified time.

Another way to be frugal similar to this is to take advantage of cheaper days. For example, many rock climbing gyms have “ladies nights” and so do bars/restaurants, and many other places. The Valvoline near my house even has a Ladies Day for oil changes! Ladies night may mean free or discounted admission, drinks, etc. for women.

Sign up for email lists.

The next time your favorite restaurant or place asks if you would like to sign up for their email list, say yes!

You can earn valuable coupons, free visits, and more by doing this.

If you want to take it one step further, you could even create a separate email address for all of these offers to go to. That way you aren’t cluttering up your normal email address.

Recommended reading: 31 Birthday Freebies You Should Sign Up For

Visit the library.

Your local library can provide for many frugal ideas for you and your family.

You can borrow books or movies, which you can then bring home and have a fun night at home with friends and/or family members.

Many libraries nowadays even do much more than that. For example, my local library lets you also borrow things like state park passes, telescopes, hiking bags, games, musical instruments, and so much more. Many libraries also have free craft workshops or book club, which are great!

Get rewards from credit cards.

You can still go on vacations even if you are frugal and on a budget.

One way to have frugal fun and go on vacations is to churn credit cards. This is what I do and I earn more than $500 every other month for free – all I have to do is use credit cards to pay my bills just like how I normally would.

If you are good at managing credit cards and you know you won’t go into debt in order to earn rewards, then this can be a nice way to go on vacations on a budget.

Related article: Best Rewards Credit Cards

Go outside.

There are many frugal ideas for what you could do outside for fun. Plus, if you already have all of the gear then it can be an extremely cheap way to enjoy yourself.

For outdoor activities, you could:

  • Go for a bike ride.
  • Go for a hike.
  • Go rock climbing.
  • Go for a walk.
  • Go for a run with your dogs.
  • Go for a swim.
  • Go fishing.
  • Play soccer.
  • Go camping.
  • Have a picnic.
  • Find local trails near your neighborhood.
  • Have a bonfire.
  • Watch a movie at an outdoor movie theater (look for discounts or even free admission days!).

There are a lot of fun things you can do outside!

Find free attractions in your city.

One thing I love about St. Louis (where I am from) is that pretty much everything is free. There are free concerts with famous bands every summer, there are free museums, the zoo is free, there are countless free festivals, and more.

I’m sure St. Louis isn’t the only city which offers so many free options either. I recommend checking out your town’s calendar and website to see what free attractions your town offers.

If you live in a town that is near a national park, you may also want to find out when their free entry days are. They usually have a few each year and that can be a great way to save money and enjoy amazing views.

If you have kids, another option for frugal fun ideas for kids is to go to Home Depot and attend one of their free workshops where you will build something.

Do fun things with your family at home.

There are so many frugal fun ideas that you can do at home. Entertainment options include:

  • Arts and crafts
  • Playing board games (like Monopoly!) on game night
  • Learning how to bake with your kids (such as baking cookies!)
  • Doing puzzles
  • Making ice cream
  • Building forts
  • Finding a new recipe to make with your partner or kids with ingredients that you already have
  • Having scavenger hunts
  • Make an obstacle course in the backyard
  • Journal
  • Flying a kite
  • Have a lemonade stand
  • Dollar store crafts
  • Have a pizza night
  • Put a tent in the backyard
  • Go to a local park
  • Having a movie night with your own snacks (like a bowl of popcorn!) and blankets

As you can see, there are many frugal ways to have fun that are low cost and won’t hurt your wallet!


There are many places where you can volunteer and make a meaningful difference by doing something fulfilling.

This may include a place such as an animal shelter.

What do you do for frugal fun? What frugal ideas do you have for fun activities?

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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. Amy @ DebtGal

    Definitely going for walks outside, gardening, and using the library. Also, one of my absolute favorite things to do is sit on our deck with a good (library) book and a cup of coffee.

    1. All of this sounds like fun to me 🙂

  2. I love the idea of mystery shopping for fun. That’s always seemed like such a neat side hustle or even hobby of sorts. Going outside is a great way to save money while still having adventures. That’s the beauty of nature – it’s always changing – so there’s something new to see and do. I also have a group of friends who host potlucks or inexpensive cookouts where everyone brings a little something. Because it’s a pretty small group, it fits within our grocery budget, gives me a chance to try to recipes, and allows me catch up with friends.

    1. Potlucks are always a great idea!

  3. Every weekend, I usually play with my daughter and nephews. It’s a good thing to have fun without even spending a penny and it’s totally priceless!

  4. Connie @ Savvy With Saving

    I live in NYC and while it can be ridiculously expensive sometimes, there’s lots of free events, especially in the summertime. Just have to deal with the crowds :\

    1. Crowds can stink but free is good! 🙂

  5. Heather @ Simply Save

    Being frugal is fun! I’ve loved exploring my city at free events. The library is a big addiction for me, and also I love all the free outdoor hobbies! (Just a little harder in the winter, but that what the library is for!) Being frugal in general and trying to find ways to save money is like a fun little game/challenge for me. I like it!

  6. Erica {}

    I lived in Pensacola, FL for the last 7 years before moving to podunk Alabama (military husband.) I LOVED all of the free events they had going on year round! Between that and the beach 5 miles away I rarely spent money on entertainment but had something to do every weekend.

    Voted for your blog!

  7. Being frugal is great, everyone should practice being frugal. One thing I wish we can get into a bit more is credit card churning to get more rewards points.

  8. Sarah

    We use our library A LOT. We get books, movies, CDs, and they have a bunch of programs for reading, art, etc. We DIY whenever possible and use coupons for things that we need. We rarely go out to eat (due to a lack of babysitter more than anything else) but on the rare chance that we can, we do take advantage of happy hour. I cook from scratch as much as possible and hit up yard sales.

  9. I don’t have the energy/time to mystery shop anymore, but you’re right that it’s an awesome route to frugal fun. I’ve snagged Tim and myself free dinners (including Ruth Chris once), trips to the arcade, hotel stays, (small) amusement parks, (small) casinos — yes, gambling was reimbursed up to $100 — and drinks.

  10. Absolutely agree, when I started to have a budget I started to find nice things nice and absolutely free to do…and my true friends enjoy a lot of activities…I would must to do a stop in the videos section of library…but now I noticed that it offers great events (FREE)… I am always looking for nice and fun ideas that don’t intack my savings thanks for sharing

  11. Jess

    Yes, I totally agree!
    We use the Baby Time classes at our local library (they are free)! They are super well put together and lots of fun for baby. Baby classes in my city can be super expensive so we always look to our library for a starting point 🙂

  12. I literally just came in from jogging in my neighborhood. Those are all great ideas.

  13. Ray @ Squirrelers

    A good local library is often an underrated source of really good free things. As in, new releases of books and movies! While that might seem boring, it can be great for families 🙂

    1. Yes! I’m guilty of not going to the library enough!

  14. Stockbeard

    I couldn’t agree more. It pushes you out of your normal boundaries, asking oneself “how are we going to have fun today, in a way that is not blatantly advertised in our face (and costly)?”

    I like that it makes us much more creative than we used to be

  15. Brittney @ Life On A Discount

    A lot of great ideas! We work credit card rewards and often look for free events or ones that have Groupons or coupons. We haven’t tried mystery shopping, but it’s something we would like to look into in the near future.

  16. I no longer pay for going out..or I pay basically nothing. There are so many things that can be done for free in Colorado (as you know) that I just have a great time. Denver is awesome because there are tons, and tons of free things that you can do: Tour De Fat (google it), free concerts, movies outside, festivals, and the list goes on!

    1. Yes, love all of the free things here!

  17. Travis @enemyofdebt

    My wife and I use restaurant mystery shopping for dates – we get to go out to eat, spend time with each other, and it doesn’t cost us any money!

  18. Gina

    I totally agree that living frugally is fun. I like baking and cooking, so I do this most days. Not only can it be cheaper to make my own food than buy processed items at the store, it’s a fun thing my husband and I do together. Every so often we have a couple of baked goods that we make together like soft pretzels. It’s a fun night in to make the pretzels and watch a movie while they rise. Then we have a snack when they’re finished!

  19. I always have fun in playing badminton and jogging every morning. It’s frugal and fun at the same time. Nice ideas Michelle! Next, I’d find free attractions in our city.Very exciting!

  20. Great tips. The happy hour and email list for local places is something I take advantage of all the time. I live an area that has some great deals. It also doubles as a wonderful networking opportunity on a professional level. The credit card rewards suggestion you made was a game changer. I pursue travel rewards, so it forces me to take some off to go places. As you pointed out, you’re spending the money on monthly bills anyways… it makes sense to get the perks that go with it by cycling it through your rewards credit card.

  21. I agree Mystery Shopping is great frugal fun! I didn’t pay for one oil change last year because of mystery shops! The tricky part is finding frugal fun that the teenagers will enjoy too! The library is an excellent source for checking out tickets to local museums but I’m always looking for new ideas!

  22. Jen @ Frugal Millennial

    This frustrates me too! I have a complete spending ban on outings with friends while I pay off my debt. There are a ton of fun things that can be done for free, such as: free yoga classes, going for a walk at a park, going to a lake or a friend’s apartment pool, having a movie night or board game night, going to a free festival, etc.

    1. All of those things sound like fun!

  23. Elizabeth

    A lot of people I know think that spending money IS fun… I prefer good old fashioned fun… Good conversation, watching movies at home, board games…

  24. Lindsey

    One of my favorite frugal ways to have fun is to go to the movie theatre near us on discount tuesdays. The popcorn, drinks, and candy are two dollars each. Last time we went, I had racked up enough rewards to get those for Free! So total we ended up paying just for our tickets.

  25. Alan Oncken

    We live in Williamsburg, VA. People pay big money coming here to visit but most of it for us is free or almost free. We regularly walk thru Colonial Williamsburg, Jamestown and Yorktown. Most of it is free or a very low cost for local residents and VA residents. Just down the road in Newport News is The Mariners Museum which can take an entire day to see everything there. Then there are tons of beaches, some within just a 15 car ride for us. Also, having seasons passes to Busch Gardens provides great fun and we are there at least once per week, mostly for the walking exercise. Guess we are lucky to live here!

    1. Beth

      Totally agree! Living on the other side of the York River, there is Gloucester, which also has great historical sites! Try the Rosewell Plantation or Gloucester Circle! Beautiful town on Main St, and only getting awesome-r since I moved here 9 years ago!

  26. Colleen

    So refreshing to see a positive spin on Frugality. I have always been frugal and really enjoy saving money and getting the best value out of things. I love my local library, museums and the beach. I collect sea glass with my kids and make art with it. We always get the Early bird meals. And most recently paid only €94 for a 3 night trip to London. I take serious joy in getting a bargain 😉 My friend recently became a mom too and was looking for advice on how to manage as she wants to reduce her hours and I told her the secret, u have to make it a way of life and enjoy it. Well done paying off that huge debt, what an achievement!