Amusing Yourself without Spending Much Money

Being careful with your money doesn't have to leave you bored or with nothing to do. It's true that being a teenager can be expensive. These days, a movie ticket and a small popcorn can set you back $15. When you go to the mall, you're surrounded by things you'll want to buy. Even a cheap meal from the food court can cost $10. What's a frugal teenager to do?

Fortunately, you have plenty of options to have a good time while keeping costs low.

  • Go to an art gallery. You don't pay a cent to walk through the door of an art gallery. Take your time and critique each art piece, considering carefully what you like and don't like about each one. If the artist or gallery owner is there, ask questions and get their insight about the works.
  • Walk through a park. City parks are always free, and state and national parks charge minimal entrance fees. Tour the wildlife center to learn more about the flora and fauna that lives in the park. If you go to a state or national park, consider visiting the park lodge for a quick tour or to grab an inexpensive lunch. If you've seen every park in your city, consider botanical gardens and wildlife refuges as alternatives.
  • Take a drive out of the city and stargaze. Even small towns create amazing amounts of light pollution. Pick a pleasant country road and drive into the boonies. When you find a secluded (but safe) spot, pull off the road, then turn off your car — or more importantly, your headlights — and look up. The number of stars you might see on a clear night can take your breath away. You might find yourself staring into space for hours.
  • Visit an airport. If you live in or near a big city, the airport is an excellent source of cheap thrills. Not only can you watch planes take off and land, but people-watching doesn't get any better than it does at an airport. Consider taking a diary and making up stories about selected travelers and where they are off to. (Remember that airport parking lots can be expensive, so factor in this cost.)
  • Volunteer. This is a double-whammy — not only is it free, but you're helping someone else. Pick something you've always enjoyed being around (kids, books, dogs) and search out a volunteer opportunity (day cares, libraries, animal shelters).
  • Attend a league sporting event. Most cities and towns have local softball, flag football, and soccer leagues. Larger cities will offer rugby, rowing, and more. Being a spectator at these events is free, or close to it.
  • Get in the game. Grab a friend and head to a park for a free game of Frisbee, or go find a batting cage or ice skating rink for less than $5.
  • Find a festival. Wandering through a community ethnic festival requires no admission (be aware, however, the food vendors at many street fairs and festivals charge an arm and a leg; eat before you come). Look through the events section of your town's newspaper, or its Web site, for ideas. Even church flea markets and fundraising dinners can be cheap and fun diversions.
  • Attend a lecture or concert at a bookstore. Most major bookstores have entertainment, from poetry slams to author lectures to concerts. Grab a cup of coffee from the café and enjoy the spoken word or tunes from an up-and-coming musician. These events are almost always free.
  • Call local theater companies. It's not highly advertised, but many theater companies have a performance reserved each month (or week) that they call pay-what-you-can night. By doing a bit of investigation, you might discover a time when you can see a $45 performance for less than $10.