Frugal Living 

Low Cost Weekend Idea: Borrow Library Videos

This week’s hot low cost weekend idea comes from something my wife and I have been doing lately, borrowing movies and television shows from our local library (that’s where we continued our Enterprise fix after HDNet experienced contractual problems broadcasting it in HD). We borrow more television shows than movies (two hour movies are a much longer time commitment than bite-sized forty-minute television shows) but either way, the total cost of renting them is $0. Granted, we benefit from living within walking distance from the movie so if you have to drive, it might cost you a couple dollars in gas to get to and from the place.

It beats going to the movies at $8-$10 a pop or renting something at Blockbuster for $4-$5 (I don’t even know how much movie rentals cost).

One important tip: Don’t be late with returning videos. The penalties for late returns on videos is typically higher than on books. At our library, the late fee for a video is 50 cents. The late fee for a book is a nickel.

Another important tip: If your library offers online account access, sign up. If they offer online account access, they will usually offer online renewals of rentals too. Then, after you rent the movie, book, or television series, immediately log on and renew the video. At our local library, we can renew titles for two rental periods, as long as there is no one waiting, and I often do. Longer rental periods mean smaller chance of being late, especially when you’re talking about DVDs with four television episodes each.

Good alternative: Red Box. If you don’t have a library nearby or the library has a poor selection of video rentals, you could always visit a Red Box kiosk. You can always find Red Box promotional rental codes that give you a free one day rental (otherwise it’s only $1 plus tax per day) with a quick search online (and you can use each code once per credit card).


Low Cost Weekend Ideas: Visit National Landmarks

Mt. RushmoreMy wife and I, along with everyone living within a stone’s throw of Washington D.C., benefit from an abundance of national landmarks. Within Washington D.C. there are over eighty national landmarks, many of which are clustered around the Mall. In one trip, you could see dozens of our nation’s great treasures absolutely free (and if you do come to the Mall, practically every museum in the area is free too).

If you live elsewhere, don’t fret. There are over 2,460 landmarks in the United States. New York takes top honors with a 256 according to Wikipedia, with Delaware bringing up the rear with five. In Maryland, there are 71 and we’ve only gone to one of them – the Bollman Truss Railroad Bridge (by accident too). You could go to one landmark each weekend and be busy until the end of next year!

Check out your state and find a piece of America’s history to explore this weekend!

(Photo by Dean.Franklin)


Low Cost Weekend Ideas: Visit Your State Tourism Website

If you’re out of ideas for what to do, a great place to check out is your local tourism office’s website. Each state has their own and chances are that your local area may have one as well. The sites each vary in terms of quality and on some you can request brochures and other little kitchy things; it all depends on availability and how aggressive each state’s tourism department is. I’ve received several free travel mugs, booklets, and other items upon request (the coffee travel mug I used this morning was from Louisiana).

I’ve included after the jump a link to each of the department or division or office of tourism for your convenience.


New Hampshire
New Jersey
New Mexico
New York
North Carolina
North Dakota

Rhode Island
South Carolina
South Dakota
Washington D.C.
West Virginia

 Free, General, Shopping 

Low Cost Weekend Ideas: Rent a RedBox Movie

For those of you without a Netflix (or any of the other rent-by-mail movie services), or simply have seen all the ones they have currently rented and aren’t getting a new movie tonight, should consider a cheap alternative — Redbox. RedBox is a single day movie rental service that has kiosks in MacDonald’s franchises all over the place and their free night’s rental promotional codes are widely published. In fact, for a little while I had a rapidly updated Redbox promotion code page that readers were helping me keep up to date.

Briefly, the way Redbox works is you borrow a movie from one of their kiosks and you can return it at any other kiosk. As long as you return the movie by 7PM the following day, you are charged one dollar. Return it in two days, that’s only $2. With the promotion codes, that’s a free nightly rental. You can use the same codes over and over again, I just switch the credit card I swipe (I’ve used GREGG about twenty times I think, it’s the one I remember every time I reach a kiosk). Enjoy!

 Frugal Living, Personal Finance 

Low Cost Weekend Ideas: Visit Your Library

I live about a three minute walk from one of the county libraries and it’s quite a treat. They have an extensive collection of books and movies and, being only three minutes away, it’s like having an enormous bookshelf of the latest and greatest books without actually having to pay for it (besides taxes). The library system also has a great online website where you can log into your account, search the stacks, and reserve books that you want to read. It’s almost like visiting, searching for your book, and buying it – except you don’t actually have to pay anything.

The library also has a pretty solid collection of DVDs as well and a very generous five day rental period. Unlike some libraries where the movies are all old boring movies about Henry V, there are plenty of new releases and an extremely well-stocked collection of television shows (I’m still waiting to jump on the 24 bandwagon) and foreign films.

So if you haven’t become familiar with your local library, you might want to give them a look this weekend.

 Frugal Living 

Low Cost Weekend Ideas: Go To A Major League Ballgame

Camden Yards - pmoa
Is this really a low cost weekend idea? Hot dogs at a baseball game usually run about $4, a beer goes for a little more, but you can get a bleacher seat at most major league ballparks for less than the price of a movie ticket. Here in Maryland, students can get a ticket to a Baltimore Orioles baseball game for $5 on Fridays and the cheap seats are only $9 anyway. Also, another perk at Camden, you can bring in your own beverages… so no need to buy your sodas at the park. Need another perk? Food vendors are right outside with cheap eats like dollar hot dogs. So, you can get four hot dogs, four sodas, and four upper deck seats for less than $30 – beats the movie theater any day.

Granted, not all ballparks will have such a lax beverage policy, but upper deck seats are usually a bargain and there will be someone selling food outside the stadium at prices that are much better than inside the park. This idea is, of course, not restricted to weekends.

Photo courtesy of pmoa.

 Frugal Living, Travel 

Low Cost Weekend Ideas: United States Mint Tours

If you happen to live in the Philadelphia or Denver area, both of those Mints offer a free tour of their facilities. Unfortunately those are the only two that offer tours at all. For more information on tours for the Denver facility, click here, and for information on tours for the Philadelphia facility, click here.

Tours cover both the present state of coin manufacturing as well as the history of the Mint. Learn about the craftsmanship required at all stages of the minting process, from the original designs and sculptures to the actual striking of the coins. (tour information website)

If you’re a resident living in the Washington D.C. area, there is a US Mint Kiosk in Union Station that showcases some of the products for sale but not much else. “The kiosk offers the latest commemorative and annual coins, the popular new quarters, collector maps, medals, and a variety of coin jewelry.”

Folks who don’t live anywhere near any of those can go on a free Virtual Tour, if you have Macromedia Flash 7.

More Low Cost Weekend Ideas

 Frugal Living, Personal Finance 

Low Cost Weekend Ideas: Visit a National Historic Park

Check out the website of the National Park Service and you’ll be amazed at the sheer number of National Historic Parks, Trails and Monuments under the watchful eye of the U.S. Department of the Interior. They have a handy park search page where you can enter your ZIP code and find all the parks nearby. For example, I found that twenty four miles away from me is the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail, a “National Scenic Trail,” that is absolutely free. Sometimes you have to pay for parking but otherwise the various parks, trails, and such are usually free to the public.

Sticklers out there will say that your taxes pay for the National Historic Parks (they’re right) but visiting a park usually costs no money out of your pocket. So, unless this weekend is dreary like it is around the Baltimore/D.C. area, give the site a look maybe take a little two hour hike this weekend to get the heart pumping and the blood flowing.

More Low Cost Weekend Ideas

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