Friday just has to be my favorite day of the week. From the minute I get up in the morning, I have a delicious sense of anticipation-free time to spend with my husband and friends is just hours away! But these days money is so tight that plans can come to a screeching halt. What if I told you there are lots of fun things you can do next weekend that won't cost a penny? Would that get your attention? Great-because here are a few of my favorites.1. Learn a New Skill
Find online videos or library books that teach you to knit, quilt, cook, give a massage, or navigate a computer program like Photoshop or Excel. I learned to knit by watching videos on YouTube.com and KnittingHelp.com. My current project? A coat! Learn some massage moves by going to ExpertVillage.com and typing "massage techniques" into the search bar. Or learn new stuff the old-fashioned way: Ask a talented friend to teach you.
2. Treat Yourself to a Pantry Spa
Invite a friend over and raid your pantry to create a day of pampering! Honey, oatmeal, avocados, lemon, even beer are all great ingredients. Go to Life123.com, type "pantry spa" in the search box, and you'll have all the recipes and instructions you need to give yourself treatments like a facial or oatmeal scrub.
3. Play Games Online
At AddictingGames.com you'll find thousands of games-action, sports, puzzle and board, and more. Test your dexterity with Sketch a Match, do a jigsaw puzzle with Daily Jigsaw or relive your old Tetris days with a similar version called Phit. Find more at FreeArcade.com. You can even find a free MMO (massively multiplayer online) game at MapleStory.com that enables players to cooperate and compete over an Internet connection. (Your kids will know about the MMO thing!) Finally, WomansDay.com has a number of brain games that help improve your memory while having fun.
4. Start a Photo Project
Everyone has a box of family pictures-time to dig through it and put together an album. Once you start, you'll be hooked. If your pictures are digital, upload the keepers to a photo website like PhotoBucket.com or Flickr.com. Both are truly free and so cool. You can crop, edit and organize photos to create albums, then share with friends and family.
5. Take a Nap
Not just any old nap. Make it special with all your favorite things-pillow, comfy blanket, soft music, open window or secluded spot outdoors. Or turn off the phone, grab a great book and just steal away for an entire afternoon.
6. Go Camping in Your Own Backyard
Prepare for the best weekend you've ever had-roughing it out back, knowing full well that the comforts of home are only steps away. If you have a tent, get it out, dust it off and pitch it. For tried-and-true camp cuisine, including s'mores, go to CampRecipes.com. And get games and songs at UltimateCampResource.com.
7. Make a Playlist for Someone Special
Pick out some music and make someone's day. If you don't already know how to make a playlist, find a great tutorial at iTunes.com (or go to Microsoft.com to make one using Windows Media Player). When you're done, just burn a CD or load the playlist onto the person's cell phone or iPod.
8. Visit a Museum
Most museums and galleries offer free admission on special days or weekends (go to Free-Attractions.com). Also look into Bank of America's "Museums on Us" program. If you have a B of A credit or debit card, you can get free admission to more than 70 museums on the first weekend of every month.
9. Go Geocaching
Not exactly a sporting event, geocaching (pronounced GEE-o-cashing) is an outdoor treasure-hunting game in which the participants use a GPS to hide and seek containers (caches). A typical cache is a small waterproof container concealing a logbook or "treasure," usually toys or trinkets of little value. More than 750,000 geocaches are registered on various websites devoted to this pastime. If you have a handheld GPS or a GPS-enabled cell phone, or you can borrow one, you're ready to go. Go to Geocaching.com and read "Getting Started." You'll need to register, but it's free. Once you're ready, just type in your zip code and start exploring!
10. Swap Stuff
Go to Swapstyle.com to join an online fashion swap party. Read the guidelines, browse through a wardrobe of clothes and accessories, then swap all day long for free. Swap books at PaperBackSwap.com and textbooks at BookSwap.com. Got DVDs? Go to SwapaDVD.com or TitleTrader.com.
11. Find Your Favorite Student (or Yourself) a Scholarship
Have a few hours? Visit FastWeb.com, a source for scholarships and grants available to college students. There's also lots of information and advice to help win more awards. You'll need to register your student to narrow the field of awards for which he or she qualifies. It's not a quick process, but you're very likely to find some scholarships and grants that fit your specific background.
12. Attend a Home-Improvement Clinic
Spruce up your space! The Home Depot offers in-store classes on subjects like how to tile a floor, hang drywall and paint. Go to HomeDepot.com, click on "Know-How," then "Clinics." For online tutorials, go to Lowes.com, click on "Services," then "How-To Projects."
13. Take in a Local Event
Most cities have free summer concerts, picnics and festivals, so check your newspaper, and visit the websites of local colleges, churches and your chamber of commerce. Google the name of your city plus "tourist," and prepare to be surprised by events and attractions you'd either forgotten about or didn't know existed. Support your community and have a ball at the same time.
14. Take a Factory Tour
Let me just say two things: Jelly Belly and Hershey's. It's fun to see how things are made-especially when the tour concludes with free samples. (Go to JellyBelly.com and click on "Visit Jelly Belly.") Hershey's Chocolate World offers a free chocolate-making tour with samples (Hersheys.com). Go to FactoryToursUSA.com to peruse 528 different tours, many of them free.
16. Set Up a Game Tournament
Pull out your board games and round up the family for an evening of fun. Monopoly has taken on a whole new meaning in this economy! (Wouldn't we all like to "Pass Go" and pick up $200 this week?) If you're tired of your old games, swap with friends and neighbors.
You could spend a day at the library organizing periodicals, or doing other tasks that are continually left undone for lack of personnel. Visit a women's shelter or hospital (find out if the pediatric ward could use a storyteller). Call your church to discover projects just waiting for someone to help out.
18. Continue Your Education
Attend free lectures at local colleges or at your alma mater. (Check websites for details.) Or learn in the comfort of your own home: Search for video lectures online. A good place to start: ocw.mit.edu.
19. Catch Up with Friends
Have a webcam on your computer? You'll love Skype. Just download the program at Skype.com and you'll be able to have a video chat for free. No webcam? You can also make free long-distance Skype-to-Skype calls.
20. Clean Out a Closet
OK, this sounds more like work than play, but hear me out. Just think about the wonderful feeling of satisfaction you'll get when you see that space totally reorganized. Who knows-maybe you can sell some castoffs on eBay.com or SecondSpin.com. Combine this with #5 and you'll be smiling all the way to Monday.
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