Cheap Fun

So in less than a week the world has suddenly become a vastly better place. Even people of differing politcal viewpoints pretty much agree on that.
But ... our economy is still in the crapper and that's not going to change quickly. We're in a mess and we're all going to have to be doing our part. I see it kind of like WW II, when everyone had to sacrifice to get things right. Fortunately we don't have to lose any more young men and women than we're already losing over in the middle east, and maybe even that will stop soon.

But you know, a girl's gotta have fun. So I'm going to do a series on cheap ways to have fun, enjoy Christmas , cheap presents, even cheap ways to get over the post-Christmas blues.

First off, since it really isn't Christmas season yet though it's moving that way, we'll do TEN CHEAP WAYS TO HAVE FUN (on your own or with others).

1. Most museums have one day a week when they're free to the public. Find one you like and head out. This time is for you. Wander through the exhibits, sit and take them in. If you've got an extra dollar or two there'll probably be a place for donations. Museums are going to be going through a hard time too. Funding will be cut, donations will be down. The $12 entry fee might be too much to handle, but a buck or two won't hurt.

2. Go through your TBR (To Be Read) pile and choose the juiciest, most delectable one, even if you've told yourself you have to go in order. Or even better, go back and find one of your most favorite books and reread it. A YA is always fun -- find a treasure from your teenage years. Or the best Laura Kinsale or Laura London golden oldie. Grab a cup of herb tea, snuggle under a quilt and enjoy.

3. Likewise, do the same with those videos you have. Remember a movie you saw in the theater, fell in love with, immediately bought the DVD when it came out and yet never watched it? Like Phantom of the Opera, or Enchanted. Or find something in your DVD collection that hasn't been in constant rotation on tv, or only been on tv with commercials. Spend the afternoon falling in love again.

4. Shop but don't buy. All those lovely catalogues that appeal to our inner Barbie? Don't look at them and drool. Give yourself a mythical budget. Say $1000 for a Neiman Marcus catalogue. Then figure out how you'd spend it. Books? Go to Amazon.com and virtually spend whatever you're budgeting. (The cool thing is that what you want most you could put on a wish list and maybe buy one at a time when you can afford it).

5. Bake something wonderful. You don't have to be a great cook. Sugar and flour are expensive (I was appalled when I bought flour recently -- the price had doubled) but you still gotta have them. Or brownies -- you can find brownie mix on sale for close to 99 cents and they're almost foolproof to make. And they go really well with books and movies.

6. If you've got satellite tv and no tivo-like recording device, call your provider and ask what it would cost to upgrade. Same for Hi-def. When I called about the digital recording thingy it turned out I could get it for just about no price. Another friend with the competing service also got a nice upgrade because she was having issues with her service. So give them a call and see what it would cot you to go DVR (digital video recording) or Hi-def, and you may be happily surprised. Don't know if cable does the same thing (I live in the boonies) but they might.

7. Go for a walk. Seems kind of silly, but some times the most obvious ideas are overlooked. Walking makes you feel good, it doesn't cost anything.

8. Got an old sewing machine? Maybe your mother's, maybe you used to sew. Drag it out. There's a world of fun to be had. You know that dress you loved but is now too short for you? Cut off another ten inches, hem it and now you've got a new top. Decorate your jeans -- use rows of those fancy stitches around the cuffs and you don't even need to open the seam on them. It can open a whole new world.

9. Go shopping in your house. Come on, admit it. You've shopped too much. You have clothes with tags still on them, you have kitchen gadgets like a waffle iron or an immersion blender or a Foreman grill that you've never used. Go find them. The Foreman grill is amazing for grilled cheese sandwiches. Immersion blenders are great for soup, and soup and bread and salad dinners are cheap and delicious. (So is having pancakes or waffles for dinner). I bet you can find a craft project that you thought would be cool and then never did it. Or a half finished embroidered pillow. Maybe you bought a boutique coffee maker, thinking you'd break your Starbucks habit, and then never figured out how to use it. Now is the time.

10. Hug your family. Come on, you know you love them. They're annoying as hell, your teenagers are brats, your sister drives you crazy, you're husband's a pain. Hug them anyway. The best thing we have, in hard times, in lean times, is family. Go ahead and hug them. Chances are, they'll hug you back, and that'll feel better than the other nine ideas put together.

See? We're all far richer than we thought, with tons of new and interesting things to do or have. It's going to be all right, I promise. We just have to be careful for a little while, but it doesn't mean we can't still have fun.

Give us some more ideas. What else can we do to have fun without spending money?