“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 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!
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).
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?
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.
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.
Recently, she’s also started building stuff out of cardboard. Yes, cardboard…
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.
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!
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!
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!