Who Wants Free Entertainment?

“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”  Truer words were never spoken.  Maybe Jack should have tried financial independence or early retirement (FIRE).

That quote (of course) is from The Shining, a Stanley Kubrick classic.  If you haven’t seen the movie, I highly suggest you put it on your “to watch” list.

Jack has a point — Without entertainment and socialization, humans can get a little nutty.  In some Asian countries this is taken to the extreme; individuals sometimes work themselves into serious health problems or commit suicide from stress and depression.  All from working too much.

The Japanese even have a word for it… Karōshi, which quite literally means “death from overwork”.

Can we all agree that’s just not a healthy way to live?  Humans are not robots, and our mental health is more important than padding the bonuses of highly-paid CEOs.

In today’s post, we’re going to take a look at how the Tako family keeps our entertainment & socialization so costs extremely low — most months our entertainment spending only amounts to a few dollars for the entire family … yet we remain a healthy, sane, and happy.

How do we do it?  Read on to find out!


The Outdoors

The first major category of entertainment I’m going to call “Being Outdoors”.  

We try to spend as much time as possible outdoors, but there’s one small problem — We live in an area of the world that has 8 months of fairly horrible weather.  When the weather finally does dry out, we do our best to go outdoors and get some exercise.  

Maybe it’s just cabin fever, but after weeks and weeks of rain, taking walks around the neighborhood and hiking on local trails is an absolute blast.  The kids always want to go for bike rides (on their free bikes), and when the weather is nice I can’t help but say “Yes” to that!

Snow days
Snow days are perfect for playing outside in the winter. What kid doesn’t like to play in the snow?

The best part about outdoor entertain is how simple and accessible it is.  Local city parks also offer great family-friendly outdoor-entertainment.  My kids love to play on the jungle-gym equipment, and walk on the trails…all for free.

While there are now a few local parks that charge money for parking, we no longer visit them.  I hope this isn’t the start of a bigger trend.

Thankfully, no one tries to charge me money to walk down the street (yet).


The Library

Next up in my list of free entertainment is the library.  It seems like every blogger on the planet likes to point out how local libraries have music, movies, and TV shows that can be borrowed on DVD…..but did you also know the library also has these things called books.

Wait…what?  Books?!  The things on the shelves that everybody seems to ignore…  Those are books!

All joking aside, we make heavy use of our local library.  We read our children books from the library every single day.  Our local library is also pretty diverse, so we’re even able to get children’s books in foreign languages.  It’s a big boon in our multi-language multicultural household.

Readers of this blog also know that I’m a bit of a book hound, and I love to borrow various investment books as well as sci-fi novels (like the Expanse series).



I guess I should also mention that we’re not complete neophytes either…  We use technology for entertainment too!  Like most families, we have TV’s, game consoles, and computers for entertainment.  We just watch significantly less TV than the average American family.

When we do watch TV, it’s streamed for free from the major television networks (ABC, CBS, PBS, NBC, SyFy etc) via an old laptop hooked up to our free television.  Who needs to buy a roku or set top box when you have old laptops lying around?

The end result
Our free TV used to watch free entertainment “on-demand” via an old PC.  Who needs more than that?

In the event that we want to watch a new movie, we typically will rent from either the Microsoft Store or Amazon (assuming the library doesn’t have it).

For both services, we generate free gift cards using the Microsoft rewards program.  With a little effort, this can completely pay for movie rentals.  The Microsoft Store currently has a small advantage over Amazon during point redemption, but Amazon also offers month long free Prime trials.  Either way, it’s easy to score completely free entertainment using these services.

If you haven’t already guessed, we don’t bother paying for cable TV or other subscription TV services (like Netflix or Hulu).

Why?  It would be a big waste of money!  We already watch more than enough television!  Why would we try to make the experience better by paying for a service?  We already have more than enough!

Instead, we spend much of our time working on projects…



Personal projects tend to be where the bulk of our free time is spent.  For me, this blog and various woodworking or electronics projects get most of my attention.  

While the blog isn’t free, it manages to pay for itself using Google Ads on the sidebar.  I prefer not to sell you guys products I wouldn’t use myself, so that’s why you don’t see the typical Betterment or Personal Capital ads on this site.  Mr. Tako Escapes mainly benefits when people click on the ads, but that’s a relatively rare occurrence.

As far as my woodworking projects go, I prefer to use free materials.  Whenever possible, free tools are the way I roll.  Sometimes those tools need a little love, but that’s half the fun — making something from nothing.

Side Table
My projects usually involve some kind of woodworking, like this nifty side table I built last fall.  It was made entirely from free materials using free tools.  If that’s not frugal, I don’t know what is.

Mrs. Tako also loves to work on her own projects — She’s a really crafty gal that likes to sew, and bake things.  Her Christmas hats for the boys were just too adorable not to share here again.

Christmas hats made by Mrs. Tako. She loves sewing cute stuff like this in her spare time.  These hats turned out fantastic, and the boys love’em.

Recently, she’s also started building stuff out of cardboard.  Yes, cardboard…

Cardboard slide
Mrs. Tako built this indoor slide for the kids last summer using only cardboard and glue.  The cardboard was free of course.

Mrs. Tako’s projects typically involve making adorable clothes for the kids, or things we use around the house.

Wherever possible, we try to involve the kids in these projects.  They love to help out.  Sometimes that ends up slowing the project down, but the time spent doing things together, is time well spent.



Speaking of doing things together… who better to do things together with than friends?

We routinely get together with friends to share good meals together, and socialize.  Instead of heading out to expensive restaurants or bars, we take turns hosting each other in our homes.

This saves a significant amount of money for everyone involved, and it’s WAY better than going to some noisy overcrowded restaurant and waiting an hour for a table.  No tipping required either!

If there’s time, we’ll even play a few board games after the meal.  In my mind, this is social interaction at its best.


Cheap Venues

Last but not least, our family makes use of free or very cheap entertainment venues.  Usually this means going to our local pool, the zoo, or local festivals.

These kinds of events are incredibly cheap, and usually quite family friendly.  For example, the local pool can soak up the better part of a day for only $8.  That’s a great deal!  If we can arrange meetups with our with friends, it’s even better!

The local pool makes for some vary affordable entertainment!

Another example is local fairs and festivals.  Last year we went to the Washington State Fair and had an immense amount of fun for less than $50.  We could have spent far more than that paying for rides, but there was already so much to see and do!

John Deere tractor.
Tako Jr. #2 riding the tractors at the State Fair. Riding was free, but the tractors were not.

Other years we’ve gone to the garlic festival, the blueberry festival, and even the strawberry festival.  Yes, we love our food festivals out here in Washington State.

Generally we do these kinds of “cheap venue” activities once every couple of months.  This keeps the costs very affordable, and hedonic adaptation doesn’t set in quite so quickly that way.



I hope you enjoyed today’s little peak into how we fill our free time in the Tako household.

There seems to be a common misconception among modern families that you have to pay for expensive entertainment to lead a good life.  Frankly, that just isn’t true.  Enjoying the simple (and free) things in life can fill your life with just as much joy and happiness.

We’re not big believers in paying for entertainment, and yet our calendar is still filled with things to do.  In my mind, there’s too much free entertainment out there to even bother with more expensive options!

Yet people still believe you have to spend lots to lead a good life — For example, we have friends that fly to Disneyland almost every single year.  After the flight, hotel, and the extremely expensive theme park tickets, they easily spend over $1000 for a single weekend.  Incredible.

I’m not against splurging on a little luxury once in awhile, but they do this every year!  To me, this kind of behavior looks absolutely ridiculous — which is probably why they’re still working.

I wish I could tell them “You don’t need to pay for entertainment to lead a very good life!  You just have to change your mindset!”  But my words would probably just fall on deaf ears.  C’est la vie.

There’s loads of entertainment ready to be enjoyed for free (or nearly free)… more than even FIREd folks like myself have time to take advantage of.

Don’t miss out!

20 thoughts on “Who Wants Free Entertainment?

  • February 15, 2017 at 5:37 AM

    Man, you guys really know how to have some fun!

    Loved the “the library also has these things called books” part. You might like this one – we go to the library book sale twice a year (it’s like Black Friday at that place!). We get like 80 books for my daughter for less than $20. Then I donate all her old books back to the library for a tax deduction! That kid’s basically got a full library in her room now! 🙂

    The other one that I love to do are the Home Depot Kids Workshops. I’ve been doing that for the past two or three years now. It’s free, takes about an hour of the day, and she looks forward to it every month.

    — Jim
    Jim @ Route To Retire recently posted…Should You Buy Disability Insurance?

  • February 15, 2017 at 6:32 AM

    So much yes to this! It’s kind of funny, but Mr. Picky Pincher and I went to the library yesterday for Valentine’s Day. 🙂 I checked out all kinds of free books and we had a great time. I even got a free Harry Potter coloring sheet that I plan to color and hang up on my depressing cubicle. Ahh.

    We also scored a free (new!) TV thanks to my SIL’s generosity, which we use to stream Netflix for $9/mo. I do need to be better about exploring the outdoors, too. It’s so nice being outside. 🙂

  • February 15, 2017 at 7:15 AM

    Please tell me more about this book thing 🙂

    Often times spending money also causes us to loose our creativity. We get lazy and try to spend our way into a good time. There are so many free and low cost activities out there.

    That’s a sweet slide, first time I’ve seen a serious cardboard construction like that!

  • February 15, 2017 at 7:25 AM

    Absolutely. We do a lot of the same thing. Going outside for a walk or playing at the park is our first option. It’s a lot of fun and it doesn’t cost anything. The weather has been terrible this winter. We are so ready for Spring.
    Those are some awesome projects. The slide is great! How long did it last? We’ve made a play house from a big cardboard box before, but nothing that elaborate.

    • February 15, 2017 at 8:19 AM

      The slide is still going strong. No noticeable depreciation from what I can tell.

  • February 15, 2017 at 7:59 AM

    I love our local library. The libraries in this country were a revelation to me! They are so well stocked and our library allows us to take out up to a 100 (a 100! why? that is crazy!) items at a time. The few times growing up that I did have access to a library there were always long waiting lists for books and we were only allowed to take out two at a time. The sheer bounty of the libraries here still astounds me. Toddler BITA watched her first magic show (for free) at the library.

    Oh and that cardboard slide is just amazing. Well done Mrs. Tako!
    Mrs. BITA recently posted…The Complete Backdoor Roth How-to

  • February 15, 2017 at 10:36 AM

    Did somebody say FREE? I love free!

    There seems to be an assumption / expectation that spending money is automatically going to result in a better time than not spending money. And that the more you spend, the better the experience. It’s so not true.

    It’s also true that you can’t do certain things without spending money, like going to Disney or downhill skiing over and over with the aid of a chairlift, but when most of your outings are free or close to it, the occasional splurge is quite alright.


  • February 15, 2017 at 11:47 AM

    We also do a lot of these things. My wife has taken to using the libraries app to checkout e books. The kids go to the library to play but we usually don’t check out physical books. Even when we pay for something it’s typically a membership to a children’s museum where on a poor weather day we can en stop in for little cost.
    FullTimeFinance recently posted…Show Me Your Friends

  • February 16, 2017 at 7:50 AM

    You have to block out all the marketing and advertising telling you that you have to drive this car, go to this restaurant, buy this phone etc to be having fun. Its all about your mindset and some self-control. I’ve come to appreciate the simpler things more and many times they don’t cost much at all. Just taking a ride to someplace new and walking around. Movie night at home with some good food or snacks. Riding my mountain bike. And others like you mention above. There are plenty of hacks to save money on the things you like to do also. I can probably get about a years worth out of all the free streaming trials. Sign up for the free month then cancel. Wait a month or 2 then get sign up for another one. (It spreads it out and I dont need it all the time) Redbox has 99 cent rentals or even free sometimes. Various restaurants seem to offer specials that ive noticed like 40% off their anniversary week. Or Buy 1 get 1 free. Then pay with a discounted gift card. It doesnt mean I will always go, but if I want to , Ill usually wait for one of these deals to come up.

  • February 17, 2017 at 6:40 PM

    Hi there I read your blog avidly and admire all your fantastic ideas
    when you hook up the laptop to the TV how do you get the sound to come through. I can only get the video?

    Thanks a lot

    • February 17, 2017 at 8:40 PM

      Yes, sound works fine. You might have to change the default sound output device in your settings.

  • February 17, 2017 at 8:51 PM

    I went to the library yesterday & got actual and audio books. The audio book made my commute today much more enjoyable. I finished one who-dun-it. A friend called before I could start the next one.
    I try to find free / inexpensive activities when I visit friends ‘back home’. It makes sense to get together for a meal, but I try for something with walking too. Over the summer we hit up the county fair, free admission and my friend & I split some of the snacks. I don’t mind paying a few bucks admission to a historical society or conservation group. My friend with 2 daughters has a family membership so we just paid for my guest pass at her local living history farm. Cows and pigs and chickens, turkeys etc. Great way to spend an afternoon!

  • February 17, 2017 at 10:53 PM

    That is a seriously awesome slide…and I can’t believe it’s made out of free, environmentally-friendly cardboard! So cool. I feel like this is something that Millennials, like myself, would love. Easy to assemble, good for the environment, useful and fun! I wonder if there’s a business there for DYI cardboard furniture. Seems like too cool of an idea not to do anything with…hm…

    Love how you guys found some many free activities! Very creative. We’re a huge fan of the library too…especially since there are now so many e-books you can take out from the library, no need to even leave the house in the winter!

  • February 24, 2017 at 4:46 PM

    That cardboard slide looks awesome! We never seem to keep enough cardboard around the condo to build something that massive though 🙁

    • February 24, 2017 at 5:05 PM

      Mrs. Tako drove around to various stores to collect it. I think a lot of the larger boxes came from furniture stores like World Market.

  • February 27, 2017 at 7:09 PM

    Being raised in theatre, I know first-hand that cardboard can be used to make so much. Especially appropriate for children’s toys, because it is cheap and does not care how destructive kids can be.

  • March 1, 2017 at 9:06 PM

    That is the coolest slide I have ever seen. What a creative mind Mrs. Tako has!

    My kids range from 7 to 19 years old and we decided this year birthday presents will be hiking boots. There are so many beautiful hiking trails close by, just need to pack a lunch and you can have a day of it.

    The youngest and I made snow Ice Cream the recent snowmaggedon he was just tickled.

    I haven’t had cable that I paid for in 18 years. Whenever we stay in a hotel, I always check it out to see if there is anything worth watching. Not one time in 18 years have I found anything I want to watch. We do already have Amazon Prime which has more movies that we really need.

    So many fun things are free…no need to spend thousands of dollars for a trip to Disneyland to have a blast(that place stresses me out anyway…too crowded)

  • March 11, 2017 at 4:37 PM

    I absolutely love cheap / free entertainment. MrFIRE and I are in our late 20’s (okay, he’s hit 30, but shush) and our best weekends generally involve having friends over for board games. We went a little crazy at one point and spent about $300 on games in three months, but our favourites are old old games that are peeling at the edges and have been nibbled on by mice (no even kidding)

    All for the grand cost of snacks and a couple of drinks.
    LadyFIRE recently posted…She’s making a list…

  • April 20, 2017 at 2:16 AM

    We are from Cape Town, South Africa and share your outlook on entertainment. We have a 7 year old son, so being active and outdoors is essential to keeping him happy and healthy… and using up what limitless energy. In the evenings and rainy days we enjoy games, crafts, Playstation and Lego. What I love most about the activities you listed above, are how they unite and create a strong family.

    Thanks for sharing such cool articles.
    Bianca Knauf recently posted…How Hiking Changes Your Brain & Your Body


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