With Memorial Day coming up and the Fourth of July on a Friday this year, there are many opportunities for people to enjoy the freedom of a three-day weekend.
It can be tempting to spend those weekends going on a trip, hosting a big party or heading out for a round of shopping. Those events, while fun, can really put a pinch on your wallet.
Instead, why not consider weekend activities that allow you to be social and possibly help reshape your life -- all without much expense? Here are four great options for your next holiday weekend:
Plan day trips. Instead of spending a lot of money to travel to a distant destination, look for interesting places within a few hours of where you live and plan day trips to those locations.
Countless historical and cultural locations are spread around the country, and chances are there are dozens of places to visit and enjoy within two or three hours of your home. Find one of them, pack a meal or two in a picnic basket and head there for the day.
Day trips to state and national parks are great options, as they can be filled with exploring, hiking, fishing and many other activities that will cost you very little.
Take on a project at home. Almost all of us have a project or two we've been thinking about doing and putting off. Make a list of them, choose the one that seems the most enjoyable and devote your long weekend to taking care of it.
This is a great way to get your children involved as well. Projects are chock-full of teachable moments, so get your son or daughter out there with you. Teach your child how to use tools or how to organize an area of your home. It might make the project go a little slower, but it transforms the task into an opportunity to bond with your child and teach some things, too.
You can also take the project idea outside the home and volunteer for a community project. Many volunteer organizations run projects during long weekends, and it's easy to get involved.
Host a potluck or two. The big thing that holds people back from hosting dinner parties is the cost, since it can be quite expensive to have several people over for a nice meal.
That problem is easily solved by a potluck. Simply assign every guest to bring a side dish and/or item to grill. This drastically reduces your food costs, bringing the expense down to a little more than what a typical meal would cost for your family.
In exchange for that, you get an enjoyable evening with friends. Over a holiday weekend, you can host multiple potlucks -- or plan something special, like a slow-cooked barbecue meal, that wouldn't be feasible over a shorter weekend.
If the weather doesn't cooperate, turn it into a "big night in." Get a few new releases and have a movie night, or pull out a deck of cards and a board game. You can easily fill up an evening with socialization and fun that lasts until the wee hours of the morning.
Have a personal "retreat." This is an option people tend to overlook, but it can be deeply fulfilling. Take a weekend and just disconnect from all the stress and distractions in your life. Turn off the television. Turn off the computer. Turn off the cellphone. Put down the to-do list.
Instead, spend the weekend getting in touch with yourself. Spend the first day taking care of nagging tasks (so that you're not distracted later in the weekend).Then spend the next day reflecting on your life and goals, and doing things you never seem to have the time for. Spend the evening reading something you've always wanted to read for personal fulfillment, or get a few great nights of sleep without the threat of an alarm clock.
This simple process can turn a holiday weekend into something that reaffirms your life and helps you put your priorities in order. It might not be "fun" in the strictest sense of the word, but it can certainly lift up your life, relieve stress and put you on a new path that opens the door to greater joys.
Trent Hamm is the founder of the personal finance website TheSimpleDollar.com, which provides consumers with resources and tools to make informed financial decisions.
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