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12 free ways to relax this weekend

It's the last official week of summer. Here are a dozen no-cost ways to enjoy it.

By Donna_Freedman Aug 29, 2012 3:21PM

Image: Beach (© Purestock/SuperStock)You have permission to slack off over the holiday weekend -- or, as the Daily Worth website puts it, to "respect the recharge."

"Taking the time to relax brings renewed energy. Bonus: That mental distance from problems brings perspective. And if that's not a productive use of your time, what is?" says the DW team in a post called "In defense of total relaxation."


It's fairly telling that our modern idea of R&R is to relax so that we can become more productive.

But that's how we tend to roll, whether it's healthy or not. Try it this way: Spend at least one day of the long weekend doing things that will not improve your résumé or your Klout rating. Goof off at the beach or on the balcony. Visit the supermarket for things you will later deny having eaten.

Not that slacking has to mean total slothdom. Sleeping until 10 a.m. and not getting dressed until after lunch (if then) can certainly be delicious. So can eating directly out of the cereal box while catching up on the third season of "Big Bang Theory" on DVD.

Some frugal R&R
Yet active pursuits qualify if you interpret "slacking" as "not thinking about work, even a little bit." Shed your responsibilities and do something fun and/or out of character.

But do it frugally. In fact, why not do it for free?

Try one of these 12 slack-for-free suggestions. Otherwise you might wind up organizing the garage or doing a load of laundry. Seriously: don't.

Long weekend already booked solid? Hang on to this list anyway. Use it to factor a little frugal R&R into your life the rest of the year, too.

A slow start

1. Sleep late.
Turn off the alarm and wake up when you feel like it -- and then roll over for an extra half-hour of shut-eye. Turn off your phone, too, so some gung-ho pal doesn't call you at 8 a.m. to warble, "Let’s take a long run!"

2. Enjoy the Sunday Times.
Slice some bagels, make a bigger-than-usual pot of coffee, and enjoy The New York Times for free. Well, a lot of it, anyway. "4 free ways to keep reading The New York Times" explains how to get past the digital subscription fee. You can do this on Saturday or Monday, too, but it doesn't have the same frisson.

3. DIY day spa.
Use everyday items to create exfoliants, facials and other luxuries. Invite a friend over, and do each other's nails. Or just lie around with cucumber slices on your eyes and call it good. (Post continues after video.)

4. Enjoy free music. Put on some slow, calm classical music during the spa treatment, check out new jazz artists during dinner, earn good parent points by letting your teen introduce you to some of his favorite artists  -- and do all of this without spending a dime. For the how-to, see "8 ways to get your favorite music for free."

5. Plan your next birthday
. You can have a festive yet frugal natal day by signing up for some (or all) of the offers in "25 freebies for your birthday" -- everything from ice cream to garden seeds to underpants. This shouldn't take more than an hour, tops. You can spare it: It's a three-day weekend.

Out and about

6. Go to a museum.
Bank of America's "Museums on Us" program will get you in free at some 150 U.S. museums. It happens on the first Saturday (and maybe Sunday) of every month, and it isn't limited to institutions that specialize in 200-year-old paintings of fruit bowls. Among the places on the list are the Country Music Hall of Fame, the Shedd Aquarium, the Motown Museum, the Houston Zoo and the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum.

7. Check out a local attraction.
Many libraries offer free passes to area museums, cultural attractions, botanical gardens and zoos. Some are good for multiple family members over several days, while others are more limited. Call your city or county library and ask.

8. See a free film.
A website called Gofobo gives out free movie passes in nearly 150 cities in the U.S. and Canada. There might be a screening on Thursday, which means getting a head start on the long holiday weekend. (No screenings in your area? Start saving up for free AMC movie tickets through My Coke Rewards.)

9. Take a walk.
Pretend you're a tourist in your own neighborhood. A good way to do this is to take pictures, whether with your camera or your smartphone. Looking for the unusual, or even looking more closely at things you've stopped noticing, can help you enjoy your town in a whole new way.

Entertaining -- yourself or others

10. Read a good book.
Finally, an extra day to get to that novel that's been sitting patiently on your bedside table. You could also hit the library on Friday before it closes. If you have an e-reader, you can browse millions of free e-books in just about every genre imaginable, from great classics to graphic novels. Go get lost in the pages, whether physical or virtual.

11. Good TV marathons.
Hit the library for a few seasons' worth of those TV programs everyone else raves about but that you keep missing. You won't even have to fast-forward through commercials.

12. Have friends over.
Try one or more of the following activities: charades, costume party, cupcake decorating, improv comedy games, shooting a "smartphone verité" movie with a script you make up as you go along.

What are your favorite free/cheap ways to spend a long weekend?

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Donna Freedman's Frugal Nation blog is for readers who want to live cheaply -- whether due to necessity or a lifestyle choice. It explores living sustainably and making life more meaningful at the same time.


Donna Freedman

Donna Freedman, a writer based in Anchorage, Alaska, writes the Frugal Nation blog for MSN Money. She won regional and national prizes during an 18-year newspaper career and earned a college degree in midlife without taking out student loans. Donna also writes about the frugal life for her own site, Surviving and Thriving.