When you're strapped by student loans or simply short on cash, it can seem impossible to get together with friends without spending money, but there are more entertaining things to do for free than you might think. Whether you want to play in nature or go out on the town, you'll be surprised at how much fun you can have without spending a dime.
Most museums have one day or night per week or month when they are open to the public free of charge. Check the websites for the art and science museums in your city to see if they offer such events. While you're on the websites, check the museums' regular pricing. Often, museums ask for a "suggested donation," rather than an entry fee. If this is the case, you may feel awkward explaining that you're not going to donate, but you'll be permitted to enter.
Gallery Openings and Literary Events
These may be easier to find if you're in an urban area, but art gallery openings and author readings are a way to have a posh and culturally enriching night on the town without spending money. In some cities, rows of galleries will open shows on the same night, so you can hop from gallery to gallery, looking at different art works and even drinking the free wine that's sometimes offered.
And although readings by best-selling authors often come with a price tag, many emerging or lesser-known writers read at bookstores and galleries for free. These events sometimes offer free wine and snacks, too. You can find out about art and literary events in free alternative weekly newspapers or on local radio stations. You may also want to stop by the local bookstore and ask about author events.
Many city parks have hiking trails of varying lengths and difficulty levels. Research the city and state parks in your area. Then, head over early in the morning, procure a map and plan a hike. Make sure to bring plenty of water, sun protection and snacks. Bring a swimsuit if it looks as though the park has a lake or river. It can also be nice to bring a book or a journal and have some quiet reading or sketching time outdoors.
Cooking and Baking
Look through your old cookbooks, or check your favorite cooking website and get inspired. Baking cookies or a cake can be productive and entertaining, especially with friends or children. If you don't have all the ingredients to make a dessert, you could organize a "cupboard potluck," where guests invent their own recipes using ingredients they already have in their kitchens. You may end up with some hilariously delicious fare.
Free Movies and Concerts
Especially in the summer, many cities have a concert or movie series, with free shows in a park or other open outdoor area. Check your local paper or radio station to find out about free concerts and movies in your area. Show up early, and bring a picnic to make a complete night of it.