The "Only If It's FREE" Policy

EDIT: This post was written in 2014-2015 – our original One Year of Simplicity. It’s so good that we’re re-sharing and re-committing to the “Only If It’s Free!” policy in 2020! 

I’ve been diving into a lot of books and blogs lately searching for ways to save money, and I stumbled upon this concept called the “Only If It’s Free” Policy. In a nutshell, a family or an individual will only partake in entertainment outside of the home if it’s free (or dangerously close to free).

For example: Instead of taking our kids to the Children’s Discovery Center where the entry fee is $8 per person, we could instead use our family’s existing Zoo membership (which we’ve already paid for)… so it’s costing us zero out of pocket. 

Museums have free days in every city. Parks and play structures are always free. Heck, the water hose and backyard kiddie pool is free and my kids are out there for hours on end. Instead of taking them to see a movie on the weekend we might choose one of Home Depot or Lowe’s FREE Kids’ Workshops on a Saturday mornings. It’s about finding fun, alternative entertainment options that don’t cost anything out of pocket.

The trick to spending less is to figure out how to feel happier about not spending money. Find things that make you feel good that don’t cost anything. Find ways that your family can spend time together doing something enjoyable at little to no cost and focus on those things. 

Explore the area you live in online and make a list of fun things you can do for free. Post it on your refrigerator! If there is something that you really, really want to do, search google, Twittter or Facebook for coupon codes to bring the price down. When you have to overcome a limited budget, it forces you to get creative.

Our family is going to adopt the “Only If It’s Free” policy for our One Year of Simplicity. I think it will force us to start thinking outside the box and try things we’ve never done before. 

Here’s a quick snapshot of free entertainment options here in Hawaii that I was able to put together within an hour of a google search. You can do this for your city too!

• Museum of Art – FREE every 3rd Sunday of the month
• Koko Head Hike (and a million other hikes on this island- except Waimea Falls- that one costs $15 per person, and Diamond Head charges $5 per vehicle entry, or $1 per walk-in visitor )
• Iolani Palace – FREE tours every 2nd Sunday of the month, starting at 9:00am
• Wahiawa Botanical Gardens (totally paved and stroller-friendly)
• Kane’ohe Friendship Garden
• Home Depot and Lowe’s FREE Kid’s workshops
• Story Time at Public Libraries. FREE every week (days vary, depending on location)
• Free catch-and-release fishing for kids at the Ho’omaluhia Botanical Gardens in Kaneohe every Saturday & Sunday
• The BEACH (all day, every day, year round!)

Simple as that.

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