Frugal recreation: any tips?

Wendy S. Delmater
By Wendy S. Delmater on Sun, Nov 3, 2013 - 5:52pm

Today's Daily Digest had a link to an article by Charles Hugh Smith:  Unaffordable Recreation and the Ratchet Effect.

As a kid in the late 70s my great uncle took me fishing in Lake Tahoe in his boat and probably spent a total of $5 (including sandwiches and bait). Last year when I borrowed a friend's boat I was amazed what it cost just to use it for one day...$100 to $300 for just one day on Lake Tahoe fishing with one kid.

Another example from the article: 

In the same time period (the late 70s), my Dad would drive me and my sisters and two friends each up to Squaw Valley in our '73 Dodge Van for the day.

At the time adult lift tickets were $13 and kids under 12 (or who were 13 or 14 and and said they were 12) skiied FREE. We always had peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with dried fruit (that my Mom dehydrated herself with her food dehydrator) and a bag of mini Snickers for lunch. On the way home we would stop at Burger King in Auburn for dinner.

Today the average family makes about 3x what they made in the late 70's but if an Adult wants to take 9 kids skiing at Squaw last year (I looked and the new rates are not posted yet) it would cost almost $600!! (46x more) at $99 for Adults and $55 for kids.

Having just gotten back from a vacation and therefore being very cognizant of what that cost, I compared it in my mind to what I did with my kids who are now in their early 30s. If you've always been frugal, I guess not much has changed. Camping, visiting relatives, museums or zoos (on their cheap entry days), and the library, crafts and cookouts were all we could afford, so the debates about,"OMG - we can no longer afford a pool pass or to go skiing!" kind of fall on my deaf ears. We made do with water guns instead of pools, for example.

So what are you doing for frugal fun nowadays?


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Wendy S. Delmater's picture
Wendy S. Delmater
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Posts: 1988
tips from our vacation

My husband and I recently had an eight-day vacation visiting relatives and friends, and spent two of those days in the Hamptons,  for a grand total of $420.  Here is how we did it.

  • We drove, which was more cost effective than flying. The total trip was 2,400 miles but our Subaru gets very good mileage. We made sure our tires were properly inflated and it was tuned up, and then we drove conservatively, avoided rush-hours in metro areas, and coasted down some of the hills. We used Gas Buddy  to find the least expensive gasoline along our route.
  • We traveled in the off-season, not near a major holiday. therefore got us a bed & breakfast in the Hamptons for $87 a night. Mostly, we stayed with relatives and friends. They all got homemade hostess gifts. We got free lodging.
  • These friends and relatives also insisted on feeding us, but we did fine in between destinations because we planned ahead. We packed a cooler full of ice and home-cooked healthy food and drink, and had picnics. We got a lot of jealous looks from fellow travelers as a bonus.
Nervous Nelly's picture
Nervous Nelly
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Posts: 209
We do some Orienteering

Great fun running or walking around the woods finding the different control points. You can go individually or as a team.This originated in  Sweden. . Year family pass is 50$ (here in Quebec). The only thing you need as equipment is a compass and good walking (running)shoes. 

Some families go around with the baby carriage and do the open trails. You can take this sport seriously or just casually.


robie robinson's picture
robie robinson
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tite wad respite

our flock grazes our yard (4acres) and orchard, this is allowed because we've an electric gate at the end of our drive.

My partner and i will put up the gate, mix a couple drinks or open our newly ready hard cider,(Amanda, if you read this post, our cider came in with no additions other than fresh pressed apples, a month in the primary fermenter, then straight into the bottles. this resulted in approx 3.5per cent COH and a fresh winey as there is little to no carbonation, taste) and sit at the top of the hill overlooking our gardens under a shade tree next to the behives and watch whatever is in grow.

i'msorryfor the streamofconsciousnesstyping  robie 

robie robinson's picture
robie robinson
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Days may pass

during the above activity

earthwise's picture
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Posts: 848
Cheapskate fun!

This past summer, another homeschool family invited us to the beach. We asked what time. "Five O'clock" he said.

Really? Why?

"That's what time the parking lot attendant closes the toll booth. After that parking is free."

He continued: "We build a bonfire, barbeque dinner, play in the ocean. We leave just before nine to catch the fireworks show at Legoland." (We live in Southern California; Legoland is a mile from the beach. The fireworks show is up close and personal from the boulevard.) All this for the price of gas.


 Another example: Balboa Park in San Diego has dozens of cool museums and exhibits. They are all relatively inexpensive but even better is the fact that every Tuesday, on a rotating basis, one-fourth of them are free! Our three boys love it, and also Balboa Park is home to the San Diego Zoo, where we have season passes. We frequently go to a couple of museums then to the zoo. Again, all for the price of gas.

jtwalsh's picture
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Posts: 270
Inexpensive fun

From the east coast.  Our favorite time to go to the beach is in the late afternoon.  No parking fees. No tourists. No vendors.   No sun burns. Just a cool breeze, warm water and the tranquility of watching the sun set.  When our kids were little we'd let them run around until after dark and were usually rewarded with a quiet ride back to town as they all fell asleep in the car.

We also discovered for many places, such as aquariums, children's museums and even some theme parks, if you purchased an annual family pass it was only a little more than you would pay for a one day entry.  We would purchase a pass and go several times during that year.  The next year we'd pick a different place to visit.  The family pass usually only cost one and one half the price of buying individual one day tickets so the second visit would be half price and the third would be free.

Another thing we do is what we call the "23 hour vacation."  We pick a week night to spend in a hotel or bed and breakfast.  We try to do this off season and with any "special discounts" we can find on the web so the room fees are cheap. We check in before dinner, spend the night in the hotel and take the next day off from work, usually arriving back home by dinner time. When the kids were young this made finding a sitter easier as the sitter only had a one night commitment.  It is amazing how relaxed and renewed you can feel by just taking a day away from your normal routine.





ferralhen's picture
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Posts: 151
i sit on a cheap chaise

i sit on a cheap chaise lounge($15), in my greenhouse on a sunny day in the winter, with a solar radio playing and i either read a book or close my eyes and think im at the beach...anywhere i want the beach.

when it's cold outside...including down to  -10 degrees , it's 90-110 in the greenhouse...on a sunny day.

costs...nothing now that i have it.

RoseHip's picture
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Posts: 150
What a great topic

I'll join the forum.

Researched local farms found one that advertised a free stay in a geothermal yurt. Took the whole family and friends. Turned a large compost pile and separated out the fine particulate, watered and planted many a plant as well tasted a few, floated in the bass pond and collected pond scum which the kids thought was super gross which was packed full of creatures. Made dinner from local sources play some music drank a few beverages and slept in the greenhouse. Left with tomato starts and plenty of new friends and knowledge. 

Now just have to figure out how to get invite from ferralhen.


Arthur Robey's picture
Arthur Robey
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Posts: 3936
Books, Brews and Bed. (Internet dosen't rhyme.)

Home brew. (Gotta have something to go with the salted peanuts.)


Coke, Koch and cokeing coal,

World domination was their goal.

But alas, they found too late,

There was no world to dominate.

Eeerm. Don't repeat it too often-you will get verbal reflux.

Woodman's picture
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Posts: 1028

My kids are into geocaching now, looking for hidden containers using GPS coordinates.  It doesn't cost anything to do, and it gives us that extra motivation to go explore someplace new we haven't been before. 


solana314's picture
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Posts: 9
Camp free in National Forests

Almost all National Forests allow free dispersed camping.  Just call the national park before you go to make sure, and ask if they have any fire restrictions at the time (don't start a campfire in dispersed camping if they have restrictions).  See here for rules:

 They don't have "campsites" with picnic tables, toilets of any kind, running water, fire rings, or anything--just you in the middle of nowhere off a forest service road (look up minimum distance you should have your tent from the road.  We love the adventure of truly roughing it.  We got a garage sale folding camp table, made our own portable toilet out of a potty training seat and a corugated plastic sign (like the ones on telephone poles that shouldn't really be there), and bring our own water, and it's great.  We actually prefer this to campgrounds since we can't hear or see any other people, and our young children making noise at night don't bother anyone.  

Last summer, we spent a week vacation staying at a different national forest each night, all for free, and just called each day to the one we thought we'd end up at that night.  Many national parks have national forests right next to or around them, so we would spend the day at a national park (got the annual pass) then camp for free in the national forest right by it.  

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