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The $100 Long Weekend: how to have a great 3 days on a budget

There are, sadly, only a few long weekends left this year, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy them to the max. Recently, I was thinking about the best way to have a long weekend without emptying your wallet. It won’t work for everyone, of course, but I bet that—with a little planning and a lot of ingenuity—you can have a $100 long weekend.

TIP: Keep your $100 in a jar. You can only use the jar money for your weekend; anything else is off limits. It becomes more like a game then, and you can see your spending in a very real way.

Here’s my idea for the $100 long weekend:

The “Staycation” angle/Attitude Adjustment

Remaining fundage: $100

First thing’s first: the right mindset is going to make all the difference. A friend of mine recently went on a protracted rant about the word “staycation” and how stupid it was. “Why,” she opined, “don’t people just call it ‘staying at home’?” I found myself in the unusual position of defending a word that I also think is a bit silly, but my reasoning was sound: the idea is that the word makes you feel and act differently. Instead of the usual bumming around in your sweats, eating all the PB with a spoon and watching reruns of Fresh Prince, pretend your house is a hotel. Bring out the fancy sheets and silverware. Order “room service” (ie: eat in bed…that’s what washing machines are for). Watch a movie you haven’t seen before. Play charades. Have a romantic night in a different room of the house (rowr!). Unplug the phone and the internet cable. Staycation, guys.

FRIDAY: Get the cheap stuff, or make it

Remaining fundage: $80

A long weekend most definitely requires a libation or two. But instead of busting the bank at the liquor store, find some recipes online for sangria or a similar booze-based drink that will be enjoyable and different but not use up your booze super fast. Get the cheap wine (it’ll be mixed with juice and fruit anyway). Make a huge batch; refrigerate.

FRIDAY: Bake in bulk

Remaining fundage: $50

Aside from booze, food is probably the next most expensive part of a long weekend. That’s why I’m totally for the idea of a huge meal on the Friday (potluck, anyone?) which will yield leftovers for the entire weekend. Go ahead: make that beer can chicken you’ve always wanted to try, and toss up a massive green (read: cheap) salad. Voila: chicken sandwiches and even soup to last the next few days. You’re welcome.

SATURDAY: Rethink the activity

Remaining fundage: $50

It’s easy to buy a new toy or game to satiate the appetites of fidgety kids or ADD grownups, but it’s harder to find creative ways to pass the time. I’ve recently been revisiting games from my childhood, like the card game Golf or an old-fashioned scavenger hunt. With games like the latter, you can as much fun (or more) coming up with the clues as you do with the hunting. What about hide and go seek? Tag? When’s the last time you played tag? Seriously! Kick the Can? Capture the Flag? I miss all that, and I bet you do too.

SATURDAY/SUNDAY: Change the movie rules

Remaining fundage: $30

Okay, so this one’s a little more specialized, but have you ever watched a movie outside at night? A friend of mine owns a home projector which I sometimes “rent” for $20, and with a simple cord it can be connected to my computer. Put a bed sheet up on the back fence, and voila: You have an outdoor theater. Movie night has never been so awesome.

SUNDAY: Farmer’s market it up!

Remaining fundage: $20

Okay. You made it all the way from Friday to Sunday, and you have a little money left in the jar. Make a game of your weekly farmer’s market visit by only allowing yourself $10 to make the afternoon meal with. See what you can find—you’ll be surprised. I made a massive stir-fry last weekend with $8 worth of market veggies. Mmm.

MONDAY: Backyard weenie roast/s’more city

Remaining fundage: $0

So, it’s Monday night. Back to the grind tomorrow. Sigh. Now, unless you’re amazing at portion control, you’re going to run out of leftover chicken at some point during the weekend. When you do, go old school and fix up a weenie roast for the backyard, complete with homemade ketchup. To make the s’more experience a little more exciting, I like doing something I heard about a little while back: looking up photos of the skyline of a city and recreating them with s’mores. I haven’t tried this one yet, but oh man! Can you imagine? Send me a photo if you try it! Also, if you find you have a little money leftover, can I recommend a firework or two? Y’know, go out with a bang.

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