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9 Free Ways to Spend an Evening with Family and Friends

During the summer, the great outdoors provide virtually unlimited ways to enjoy time with the people you care about at very little cost. But cooler weather and a lighter wallet don’t mean you have to turn your friends and family away. These nine free ideas provide endless get-togethers with friends, girls’ nights in, and evenings of family fun.

Play Something

  • Balderdash–Although you can buy Balderdash, you can play it for free with a dictionary, scraps of paper, pencils, and a dictionary. One player serves as the reader and picks a word at random from the dictionary. If no one knows what the word means, the reader writes down the correct definition while everyone else writes down a guess what the word means. The reader reads each definition, including the correct one, aloud. Each player votes for his or her favorite. One point for guessing the right definition. One point for every player who votes for your definition. And three points for the reader if no one guesses the correct definition. Play to a set number of points or until it’s time to go home.
  • Broken-Pictionary-Telephone–Half-way between Pictionary and telephone, all this fun game requires is paper, pencils, and four or more players who can read the same language. (The game works best with an even number, but you can fudge by cutting off game play a turn early.) Give each player a piece of paper. Before the game begins, each player should write her name in very small letters on the bottom then, in regular print at the top of the page, write anything she wants. An idiom. A statement about the hostess. A line of poetry, perhaps. When players are finished, they pass their papers clockwise. The next player illustrates the phrase as best she can, then folds the paper over some the phrase is no longer visible and passes the paper on again. The next player writes a description of what she thinks the drawing represents. As play continues, players draw and write in turn until the paper returns to its original owner. Everyone shares the hilarious results. Repeat as many times as you like.
  • A Play–A group reading of a play is a lot more fun than you might imagine. I usually borrow plays from my school, but it’s just as easy to borrow a number of copies from a local library. Tech savvy friends can also find copies of many out-of-copyright plays for free on-line. Suggest that everyone to dress in costume. Encourage wacky voices and over-the-top performances. Comedies by Shakespeare, Moliere, and Oscar Wilde are great places to start. My personal favorite is Peter Pan, although, due to a charitable quirk in English copyright law, it isn’t available for free on-line as the other plays are.

Make Something

  • Art Therapy–Art therapy is an incredibly relaxing experience that can bring you closer to your family and friends. Gather as many art supplies as you can. Markers, crayons, magazines, glue, scissors, paint…  Let everyone do her own thing or offer one of these 100 great prompts as guidance.
  • Budget scrapbooking with spare supplies and magazine clippings

    Budget Scrapbooking–Big-box craft stores have talked us into the idea that storing memories is a big-bucks affair. Au contraire. Ask guests to bring any loose photos they’d like to store. (You might even like to exchange a few with each other.) Everyone should bring extra scrapbooking supplies, spare magazines, catalogues, and greeting cards. Cut borders, pictures, letters, and statements from the shared materials to make truly unique, inexpensive scrapbook pages. Make one for your group, for a friend who will soon marry or move away, or let guests take their pages home.

  • “Window Shopping”–An entertaining way to give gifts without spending a dime. Just ask your friends to bring over all the extra magazines and catalogues they have and let the fun begin. Read more about window shopping parties…

Watch Something

  • A Game–Any game! It doesn’t have to be football, although those of us who watch TV exclusive on-line really appreciate the invitations. Sports games make great parties because they provide a focus, but also space for conversation. Besides, it’s a great co-ed get-together.
  • A Film–Decide in advance and invite friends over for a specific movie. Better yet, set up a film series, switching venues so everyone gets a chance to play hostess. My best friend and I are working on a series of films from the 100 movies every woman should see.
  • Embarrassing Home Movies–Do this one with family, or with friends and cocktails. Dig out your old VCR. Ask every guest to bring an embarrassing home movie. For example we’ve got a tape of my husband dressed up as a snake on a rock for a third-grade production of How the Elephant Got His Trunk and my triumphant, high-school stage debut as the main prostitute in Les Miserable. Let the hilarity ensue.

What free or cheap things do you and your loved ones do for fun? Let us know in the comments.

4 responses »

  1. This is FABULOUS, Allison! I have a box of construction paper to give away, that is YOURS for the taking, and count on us (in our cute little new apartment) for an afternoon of TV, or movies, or US Open, or football!

  2. Allison, these are great ideas some of which I hadn’t thought of before! Thanks so much! We often have homemade pizza night with company and it is a nice relaxing way to spend an evening.
    I had to laugh at the football. We watch online, too, so we’re always happy for a game invitation! 🙂


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