Finding free things to do can seem daunting, but opportunities abound all around you. Here are some ideas on how to find free things to do in your area. As a bonus for Lancaster County residents (this is where I live), I’ve included links to make it easy to find free things to do.

Check Your Local Resources

       If you’re looking for events or even just some ideas, your local resources will be a great first stop. Look for county, city, and community websites and publications that offer a calendar of events. Possible resources include newspapers, government agencies, schools, radio stations, churches, libraries, museums, recreation centers, parks, tourism websites, volunteer organizations, and so on.

       Some groups offer online calendars that are updated regularly. If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to sort out the free things to do. If not, you’ll have to sort through your options to find the free things. If you’re a family, make this a group effort to find something everyone is interested in.

       The links for Lancaster County residents are below. The rest of this article is just a list of ideas (93 ideas to be exact!) for things to do. Most are free or at least very cheap (unless you make them expensive). You won’t like everything on these lists, but you’ll probably find at least one thing you’d like to do. Enjoy!

Links for Lancaster County residents:


Get Outside

  • Take a walk
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  • Take a Hike
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  • Go birdwatching
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  • Go stargazing
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  • Just go outside and sit
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  • Go to a park
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  • Take a walking tour (of your neighborhood or city)
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  • Garden or landscape
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  • Forage for wild foods (Be careful! Be sure you know what you’re picking!)


Get Creative

  • Cook something new
  •  

  • Write poetry
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  • Read a book
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  • Paint or draw
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  • Bake some bread
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  • Make something with your hands (woodcraft, knit/crochet, crafts, etc.)
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  • Take digital photographs
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  • Create some graphic art
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  • Start a blog
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  • Try origami
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  • Watch a classic, foreign, or independent film
  •  

  • Make your own movie
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  • Stock up on homemade greeting & holiday cards
  •  

  • Write a journal
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  • Play some music
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  • Listen to some music (really listen)
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  • Read some poetry
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  • Act out a play
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  • Write a play
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  • Make up a game


Get Smart

  • Go to the library
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  • Learn a new skill for your career
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  • Take a free community class or workshop
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  • Read a newspaper
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  • Watch an educational video or show
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  • Memorize Bible verses
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  • Do some puzzles (crossword, sudoku, jigsaw, etc.)
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  • Learn a new language (or just 10 words in a new language)
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  • Refresh your brain on school subjects you’ve forgotten
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  • Visit a museum or zoo
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  • Learn auto, home, or appliance maintenance & repair skills
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  • Study the basics of a new subject
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  • Read about something you’ve always wanted to do & learn how
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  • Learn to play a new musical instrument


Get Personal

  • Play a board or card game together
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  • Write a letter to an old friend, your parents, or a relative
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  • Go meet your neighbors (combine with baking cookies)
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  • Take time to be intimate with your spouse
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  • Call someone and keep in touch
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  • Study and research your genealogy
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  • Talk about your goals with your spouse/family
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  • Join an interest group (like a book club)
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  • Write a letter to your future descendants
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  • Play with your pet(s)
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  • Host a potluck & movie night with your friends
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  • Go to church
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  • Pray and read the Bible together
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  • Clean up your neighborhood (with your neighbors!)


Get Organized

  • Clean out a closet or a room
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  • Plan your next vacation
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  • Make or buy Christmas gifts
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  • Work on your will & estate documents
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  • Clean your whole house (inside or out)
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  • Have a yard sale (get rid of stuff you don’t use & make some money!)
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  • Scan your old pictures and documents, then organize them in folders on your computer
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  • Organize your financial papers
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  • Review your budget & net worth (and look for savings)
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  • Create a to-do list (with deadlines, next actions, and categories)
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  • Inspect your house for maintenance tasks that need to be done (make a list)
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  • Sort through your books, CDs, DVDs, etc. and get rid of what you don’t want
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  • Create an emergency information binder (health & financial records, account #’s & passwords, etc.)
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  • Clean off your desk, refrigerator, or table (wherever you pile stuff)
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  • Cook some meals in advance and freeze them
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  • Rearrange your furniture


Get Active

  • Play some Frisbee
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  • Join a community sports team
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  • Exercise
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  • Go for a bike ride
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  • Play football, soccer, or catch
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  • Learn yoga or tai chi
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  • Take martial arts lessons (the first one is often free!)
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  • Go swimming (at a friend’s house or in a stream/creek/river/pond/ocean/etc.)


Give Back

  • Volunteer your time
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  • Help out an elderly or disabled neighbor or friend
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  • Take a nap (give back to yourself)
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  • Donate some stuff to charity (combine with organization activities!)
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  • Be a friend to the needy and the outcast (spend time & develop a relationship)
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  • Help out with a church project
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  • Plant a tree
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  • Gather the recycling for your neighborhood (if you don’t have a service)
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  • Write a how-to or knowledge article for Instructables, Wikipedia, etc.
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  • Make a useful video for YouTube
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  • Help out with an open-source software project (if you know or want to learn programming)
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  • Hold a fundraiser for a charity


Share Your Ideas

       The best ideas are the ones you come up with yourself. If you’ve got a good idea on how to find free things to do or just know some free things anyone can do, share them in the comments below!

sweet iced tea in a mason jar by House of Sims on Flickr       Cut me and I’m likely to bleed sweet tea. My wife can testify that we almost always have a gallon pitcher of sweet tea in our refrigerator. Earlier in our marriage, she would have said this was completely my fault. But she says I have her hooked now – at least to my version of sweet tea. She doesn’t like the manufactured brands anymore. I can’t blame her. Lipton brewed tea is just about the only manufactured tea I can tolerate – and then only just.

       You see, I’ve never been one who likes water. I know it’s cheap and I know it’s healthy, but I’ve just never liked it. You could say I’m a “water snob”, though you’ll never catch me drinking Fiji bottled water. I just like my water to be cold and non-chlorinated with no funny tastes or smells. Our tap water doesn’t make the grade (plus it’s full of nitrates), so I tend to live on sweet tea. (This could have repercussions for my health though – diabetes, anyone?)

       But in terms of cost, sweet tea is much cheaper than soft drinks. It’s much healthier, too. Even with my version (which is fairly sweet), you’ll still be getting less sugar than you would in a soft drink. Before you tout diet soft drinks (which are still expensive), remember you can use artificial sweeteners in your sweet tea. I’d never use artificial sweetener in my sweet tea since I hate the taste, but it is an option. Some people forgo the sweetener altogether (artificial or not), but I’m not sure how they do that. Bleh…

       A gallon of sweet tea costs me just under $1.00 to make. That’s 50-70% cheaper than most soft drinks if you’re buying a 2 liter bottle. It’d be even cheaper if you’re comparing cans or 20 ounce bottles. Twenty ounces of sweet tea costs $0.16 and twelve will cost you just over $0.09. It’s quick and easy, too. It only takes me about 3 minutes of hands-on time to make a gallon. Here’s how I do it.

Paul’s Not-So-Top-Secret Sweet Tea Recipe

       Fill up a gallon pitcher nearly to the top (you want to leave some room for the sugar later). I use hot water from our tap because it duplicates the taste of sun tea but is faster. If you’re going to make sun tea, you can use cold water.

       Add 4 family size tea bags (I always use Lipton…my preference). Let it sit for a couple hours (longer if you’re making sun tea). It’s done when it looks like tea. Darker is stronger but that can mean bitter. However, it’s difficult to make your tea too bitter with this method. The water just doesn’t get hot enough for that to happen.

       Remove the tea bags. Add 1 1/3 to 1 1/2 cups of sugar. Stir until dissolved. Refrigerate until cold or pour over ice if you want to enjoy it immediately. No lemon, please. Serve in a Mason jar for added effect.

I Need to Drink More Water

       Despite my fondness for sweet tea, I know I need to drink more water. It may not be bad on my wallet, but it’s not good for my health. I probably have a good risk of diabetes based on family history alone, and my sweet tea habit isn’t helping. Anyone else struggle with drinking water? Have any tips on how to start drinking more? Let me know in the comments!

       This is a guest post from the people at Lender 411.

       The largest investment many of us will ever make is the purchase of a home. Many people purchase this “product” at least once during their lifetime. This “product”, however, is often so expensive that only a small fraction of potential buyers can actually afford to buy it in full at any given time. Few future homeowners have $300,000 in cash in their hands. Most of us will likely earn far more money than this over our lifetime, but we don’t have access to it all at once. In the meantime, we need a place to live.

       A mortgage helps solve this problem. Banks, with access to large sums of money, agree to give you the $300,000 you need right now at a price. This price is what we call interest, and you may have heard it said that “interest is the price of money”. This is true in one sense, but in reality what you’re paying for is time. Remember, you will undoubtedly earn far more than $300,000 over the course of your career. The interest, the “price” that the bank charges you, is not buying you the actual $300,000 itself. You will eventually earn that either way. What you get is time. The bank gives you $300,000 and time, often 30 years or so, in which to earn this money. You ultimately give the bank $300,000 back plus the price of the time.

       Different banks charge different rates for their time, and of course, the amount of time you’re buying will differ from bank to bank as well and will depend on your personal situation. But at the core, this is how mortgages work.

       What’s the value of a mortgage refinance? Simply put, a refinance allows you to repurchase the time that you’ve bought from your bank at a different interest rate, one that is lower and more favorable to you. You can also extend the life of your loan, buying you additional time at this decreased rate. A refinance, then, is like purchasing additional time at a lower price. If you can find or arrange such a deal, a mortgage refinance can be immensely valuable.

       There’s the logic behind it. As you consider whether this financial step would benefit you, remember one thing. Time is a commodity. You can buy it from any financial institution. Educate yourself and learn what your options are. Find the lowest mortgage rates that are available to you, because the lowest rate will get you the best price on the time that you’ve purchased.

       I have great news! J.D. Roth of Get Rich Slowly published a guest post I submitted to him. It’s up on his website today. It’s called The Personal Finance Continuum. In the article, I discuss the idea that there are a number of money-making or money-saving activities you can pursue with varying rewards and effort. The important thing isn’t always picking the “right” activity but picking the ones that you enjoy and will help you reach your goals. Be sure to check it out and leave a comment!

       Note to visitors from Get Rich Slowly: Thanks for stopping by! If you’d like to get a better feel for what Provident Planning is all about, make sure you check out the Start Here page. I’ve got some free stuff for you as well. Thanks again for taking the time to visit!

Conformed or Transformed?

Corey —  June 15, 2010 — 1 Comment

       If someone were to look at your bank or credit card statement, would they see a Christian? Are the choices you make still following the pattern of the world? Or have you been transformed by the renewing of your mind and presented your body (and your money) as a sacrifice to God?

       1 Therefore I urge you, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service. 2 Don’t be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what is the good, well-pleasing, and perfect will of God.

Romans 12:1-2 (WEB)



       These verses encourage us to live changed lives in light of God’s overflowing mercy toward us. I would not begin to imply that it relates specifically to finances. However, the choices you make with the money God has given you can clearly reflect where your heart is focused. When you make your money decisions are you thinking in terms of God’s will, or are you continuing in the patterns of the world?

       This doesn’t mean that you are perfectly holy and good if your account statements show that you give all your money away (or even live on very little and give the rest away). Outward appearances are not necessarily an indication of the heart. Jesus spent most of His time teaching this exact idea. If you do not have God’s love and your actions are not motivated by that same love, then your pious actions will help you in no way.

       The challenge I want to present to you (and myself) is simply this: In your earning, spending, and managing money, how are you presenting yourself as a sacrifice to God and seeking His will? In other words, are your money decisions in alignment with God’s principles and values?

       It’s very easy to live just as the rest of the world does. In many ways, Christians are indistinguishable from non-Christians. But we are called to live differently. This doesn’t necessarily mean rejecting everything the world does, but it will often look that way. Rather, we must give everything over to God (as a response to the gift of salvation) and seek His will.

       A transformed life may not look very different from the world. Much personal finance advice is good regardless of your faith (though the motivations may be quite different). On the other hand, it may be the exact opposite of the world’s ways. Giving is one example. It simply doesn’t make sense if you look only at the numbers.

       How your life will look is not the point. A transformed life could look different from one Christian to another (though there will be some similarities). The point is whether or not you are seeking that transformed life, seeking God’s will, and striving to persevere until the end. A life of following Jesus is not marked by the absence of sin. It is marked by striving against sin, by denying your own will, by giving up those things that keep you from God, and by taking up your cross each day. If you’re willing to do that (you’ve counted the cost), then God will transform your mind and your life as you grow in the likeness of Christ.

       So take time (at least each month, if not more frequently) to ask yourself this question as you review your finances: Am I following Jesus, or am I following the world?

       I never find myself falling short on ideas for articles on Provident Planning. Personal finance includes so many different areas that the topics are endless. Budgeting (and every area you might spend money), retirement, investing, insurance, estate planning, taxes, education, and strategies to increase your income are all fair game.

       I tend to want to start by writing about the basics and build up from there. I’d like to see Provident Planning become a place where people can learn most everything they need to make smart personal finance decisions that will honor God. But that takes time and it can be really boring, too. And there’s information on the basics everywhere. (I think the basics are essential though. They’ll get you 90% of the way and they’re all most people ever really need.)

       I want to be useful to you all, my readers, while I’m building up the material on this website. So I’m asking you: What are your money questions? They can be questions about personal finance in the Bible or just personal finance in general. Your questions will make the articles I write more interesting and relevant for you.

       If you have a question or topic you’d like to see me write about, you can leave a comment on this post or you can contact me directly. Either way, I’ll respond to you and write an article to cover the questions you have. Sound like a good deal? Great! Now just start sending in those questions!!!

Amish Ingenuity

Corey —  June 10, 2010 — 4 Comments

       Living in “Amish country” often affords me the privilege of seeing some interesting sights. Take this one for instance:


Amish Ingenuity


       And in case you can’t tell what’s wrong with the picture, I’ve zoomed in and highlight the problem for you:





       This is an example of the dangers of extreme frugality (frugality at the expense of safety). I hope this was just a temporary fix!

       This was just an interesting picture I wanted to share with you all. Hope you got a laugh like I did! :)

       And yes, the Amish do drive tractors occasionally. Some even own tractors, but those tractors won’t have rubber wheels. Instead, they use steel wheels. I’m guessing this guy was borrowing the John Deere from a neighbor.