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Winter Fun on a Budget

With winter's combination of colder days and less daylight it's tempting to hole up in our nice cozy houses until spring returns. Spending more time indoors can quickly lead kids and adults alike to run out of things to do. One solution is to run to a nice cozy mall, movie theatre, or caf� and spend our way out of boredom. But for most of us who are on a budget, that isn't the best decision. Don't resign yourself to a long boring winter just because you are on a tight budget. You can find lots of things to do in the winter that won't cause you to spend beyond your means if you: take advantage of off-season, bargains, bundle up and get outside, or stay indoors and use your imagination to get creative.

Off Season Bargains

Many times you can find discounts for activities and attractions in the "off-season." An added benefit is there are often smaller crowds as well. Check for savings on:

  • Amusement Parks � In some parts of the country, amusement parks shut down for the season, but check to see if there are off-season hours or rates at your favorite amusement park. If you live near one, you should also look into a season pass.
  • State or National Parks � Some parks have special tours, where guides will point out the winter habitats of forest animals and birds.
  • Beach resorts � You may not be able to swim, but visiting the beach in the off-season is a great time for collecting shells, or just playing on the beach and rooms are much cheaper than in the summer.
  • Campgrounds � There's just as much scenery in the winter and as long as it's not too cold you can camp almost for free compared to in-season.
  • Resorts � Use the internet to find bargains on "off-season" resorts or hotels. You can find deals that are sometimes more than 50% off peak-season.
  • Museums or Art Galleries � Check on-line for discounted hours or free admission for cultural activities.

Outdoor Activities

There are many relatively inexpensive activities you can do outside, as long as you are willing to bundle up. Some activities may require a moderate investment or cost, but others are free. If you don't already own equipment, look for bargains on what you'll need at yard sales, or at internet sites like: eBay, Craigslist, or even Freecycle (where people are willing to part with items for free rather than just throw them away.)

  • Skiing � A day on the slopes can be expensive, but search the internet for discounts or coupons. You can also buy a season pass at many ski areas that significantly reduce the cost per visit if you use it regularly.
  • Ice skating � Skating is great exercise and if it's not cold enough to skate outside, you can always head to an indoor ice rink.
  • Sledding � Sledding doesn't require fancy equipment. In fact lot's of kids use cardboard boxes. All you need is snow, a hill, and something to slide on.
  • Cross-country skiing � Cross-country skiing is great exercise and as long as you have snow, you can do it just about anywhere.
  • Snowshoeing � If your New Year's resolution was to start a walking program, don't let a foot of snow be your excuse for postponing getting started � put on some snowshoes!
  • Make a snowman or snow fort � Many of us look at snow as a nuisance that creates work like shoveling and digging out cars. Don't let the snow get you down. When "Life gives you snow, make a snowman!"

Many of the activities above require snow, or at least for the weather to be very cold. If you live in an area that has little snow or freezing weather, you can still take advantage of the cooler weather to participate in outdoor activities that may be too hot to do in the summer months.

  • Bicycling
  • Hiking
  • Camping

Get Creative

If the activities already mentioned don't appeal to you, or your budget prevents you from spending any money, get creative to think of some free or low cost activities you can do at home.

  • Make a list of books you've been meaning to read and visit your local library
  • Borrow DVDs or movies from the library
  • Dust off some board games and have a family game night
  • Play games that don't require materials like charades
  • Use the long winter evening to teach yourself a new skill
  • Take an on-line class
  • Organize your photos
  • Check the local paper for free community activities
  • Invite friends or neighbors over for a pot-luck dinner
  • Make a list of indoor projects you've been meaning to get to like cleaning out the basement, or organizing your pantry
  • Force flower bulbs into bloom to brighten the house until spring arrives
  • Clean out your closets and donate any clothes you no longer want or need to charity � someone may be able to use that old coat you no longer wear
  • Catch up with old friends by sending emails or hand writing a letter (when's the last time you got a letter in the mail- what a nice surprise that would be for someone)

Don't let a tight budget spoil your winter fun. With a little advance planning and imagination there are lots of activities to keep you busy and entertained until spring arrives!

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