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10 people share their ideas for fun without breaking the bank

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Fun and play are just as essential as sleep or nutrition to a healthy life, says play researcher Stuart Brown.

But a lot of the time, the actual activities that we consider fun can financially burden us. When you're out to dinner or the movies, it can feel like you're having a good time at the expense of future-you, who will have to bear the monetary consequences. But minding your budget doesn't mean you have to be stuck at home experiencing FOMO.

Life Kit recently shared some recommendations from NPR staff members and play experts on having fun for cheap.

We also asked readers for their best ideas, and today we're sharing how NPR listeners and readers have fun (at home and out and about) without spending too much.

I tell my kids all of the time money does not equal happiness. My kids love doing a lemonade or Kool-Aid stand for the neighbors. Also, the three of us take the dogs for walks, ride bikes and visit the park. We have a membership to a pool that is $150 a year, and this provides the kids a way to cool off in the heat and have fun for hours without spending a ton. – Michelle Middleton

Find a lake or pond with a bench, or bring an outdoor rug or pillow to prop against a tree and read or listen to a good book, avoiding the cell phone scrolling habit. Just being outside, in the early morning or evening after the hottest hours are over, is refreshing and a great change from being stuck inside working all day. – Gayle White

I occasionally take the Metro to explore neighborhoods I've never been in. I'll review Google Maps first and get some ideas of cafes, shops and parks within walking distance of a subway station. Then I'll take the train there and leisurely wander around the area to get a feel for the community. – Jill Vanderweit

Take your camera or phone out with you during the 'magic hour,' which is half an hour before or after sunrise and sunset. Everything will have a different glow. It is an amazing time to take photographs of ordinary things! I often just walk down my street, to a local park or even in my backyard. I am always amazed at what there is to see that I never noticed until I was really looking. – Benita VanWinkle

My husband and I love finding new ways to fall in love with our neighborhood. For example, starting during the COVID-19 pandemic, when the radius of our evening walks seemed smaller, we instituted "three bunny" walks where we would keep walking until three rabbits crossed our paths. We also took note of the changes in people's window boxes, front yards, and sometimes we were even lucky enough to chat with the owners themselves and share with them what joy we took in their plants. Finally, we sometimes decided to walk in silence and allow ourselves to be bathed in the waves of sound around us. All these micro-intentions mirror our effort to take delight in new aspects of each other as we celebrate 25 years and counting! Often, the most magical moments of connection are the small (and free) ones right in front of us. "Grow where you're planted," as they say. – Stefanie Haug
Two-minute drawing game: each person uses a pencil and one sheet of paper. Each person offers a prompt of what to draw for two minutes. Set a timer and draw your representation of the prompt. There is no wrong representation. When the two minutes end, share your drawing. No critiques. Praise is welcome. Amazing revelations occur with no judgments. 'Draw your biggest fear' elicited my adult son's fear of praying mantises! Three or four rounds are sufficient and keep the game from being too long or becoming tedious. –Rhonda Davis

Get a couple of kites from a dollar store and some string. Head to a local park or lake for hours of enjoyment. Pack some snacks and water too. – Rick Gammel

Our local library system hosts all types of activities, including coloring clubs, craft nights, themed parties, ukulele clubs, anime clubs, book-themed events, lectures, trivia nights, and, of course, book clubs. There are activities for children, tweens, teens, and adults, and all the activities are free! – Marcia Forrester

My boyfriend and I go to the nearest Zia Records and buy the cheapest used vinyl record we can find (usually about 99¢). We come home, open a bottle of wine and dance to pop music from the '60s, laugh along to comedy albums, or discover obscure indie bands. – Andrea Luque

I play disc golf and there are free play parks all over the US and world. All you need is a starter kit and a local park. You can play solo or check out folks in local clubs. – Paul Neugebauer

We'd love to hear from you. Email us at LifeKit@npr.org. Listen to Life Kit onApple Podcasts andSpotify, or sign up for ournewsletter.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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