EXPOSE | Less Social but Spending More
“…since 2003 the amount of time Americans spend either attending or hosting social events has declined by 30%… in 1970 the average American spent $850 on recreation each year, while today each person spends $2500… what this data suggests is that while we don’t recreate as often, when we do, we tend to choose more expensive activities to engage in.” – Brett McKay
EXPLORE | The Best Things in Life are (almost) Free
You may remember a time when people got together, just to spend time together. Dinner, cards, maybe a game.
Growing up, I vividly remember my parents going out almost weekly–to another family’s home. Going out simply meant leaving our home to go to someone else’s home. You might bring over drinks or dessert, but otherwise, it really didn’t cost you anything, and a meaningful time was more dependent on relationship rather than setting, location, or the latest ‘rent-an-experience’. Now there is less emphasis on just being together and more effort and expense on having a “great experience.”
Have we lost the art of ‘cheap recreation’ as Brett McKay suggests? And, at what cost?
Being a single-income family living in a very expensive city, we have come to depend on–and enjoy–our ability to be cheaply entertained. Which, has not only saved us money, but has provided many necessary benefits. It makes the times we do spend a little money so much more enjoyable, because it’s special, and has also helped us realize that we don’t need to really spend any money to have valuable, meaningful time together. Our time together becomes more beneficial the more we depend on ourselves for the experience, and in the end, we spend less and profit more.
Have we over-complicated our social interactions, and in the process stripped away it’s intended benefits?
EXECUTE | Live Simply, but Richly
If our goal is to spend wisely and at the same time provide valuable, meaningful experiences that enrich our lives and relationships, redeeming the lost art of being cheaply entertained may be a necessary course correction. Especially as we head into prime ‘how can we pack our summer full of things to do’ season.
Brett raises some strong arguments for cheap entertainment:
The cheaper the recreation, the more often you can do it.
Cheap recreation can involve all of your friends, regardless of their financial status.
Cheap recreation gives you the chance to improvise and create.
Cheap recreation often provides more adventure/memories.
In discussing this with my wife (who had some really good ideas), we were able to quickly highlight the influence of being cheaply entertained has had on our family:
Entitlement – our kids have learned that expensive entertainment is a gift, not a right
Our kids have reasonable expectations – set the bar too high, and $100 seats to a Chicago Bulls game becomes the norm
Being truly thankful for what we do get to do – being cheaply entertained can do a lot for our being content, and truly enjoying even the simplest of activities.
Develop a conviction over spending money and the return on what you pay for – spoiler: the ‘happiest place on earth’ may not actually be all that happy; expensive, yes. Crowded, you bet. Happy? Not so much. We only spent one day at Disney, and I have to say that I’m happier knowing that we’ll never need to go back.
Better understanding of ‘need vs want’ – this concept has become clearer to our boys as they’ve realized firsthand that one actually is more important than they other
Not doing something just because you can – even if we’re able to afford going out to eat every week, do we really need to?
Finding a role model that supports right spending/creative entertainment – two words: Dude Perfect (check out their Youtube channel). As a result, our boys haul a mini-hoop (but a bucket worked fine to start) all over the neighborhood to do their own trick shots. Cheap. Fun. Thoroughly entertaining. Oh, and take a look at Studio C. The kids think it’s funny… and it’ll get a giggle from me every once and awhile.
Let me challenge you with a few of questions:
What is necessary to create the most valuable, meaningful experience?
How much should we really invest in being entertained?
What would your wife say to your suggesting saving money and investing in quality time for your family?
Again, it isn’t just about the money being spent, but the total cost of our commitment to having an experience over simplifying our leisure and truly enjoying one another.
A few ideas to warm you up:
Find a new setting. You’ve seen people showing movies in their backyard, so where might you do your favorite thing in a new way or place? We started doing Frisbee golf around the neighborhood (who needs an official course?!). The other day we grabbed a 5 gallon bucket and a tennis ball on our way to a park and invented ‘bucket ball’. You take turns shooting from one step away from the bucket. If you make it, you take another step back. First person to make a shot after 7 steps, wins. Ta-da.
Take the typical and give it a twist. Take a favorite game, and change up the rules. There are a number of ways you can take Monopoly to the next level.
Create new combos. Combine two or three types of games to create a new, enjoyable hybrid.
Find what’s free. While Chicago can be obnoxiously expensive, they do offer free classical concerts in the heart of the city. We get to picnic as the sun sets on the city, while we listen to renowned musicians–for free. Find the free in your area.
Is it time for something completely new? Find a thrift store with indoor/outdoor games (dirt cheap) and rotate between family members as to who gets to pick a thing that everyone has to do; maybe do this a few times a year (around the seasons).
The mother of all innovation: no (or little) cash. Put yourself to the test. Brainstorm what you could do if you chose to spend little or no money. In fact, some of the more meaningful times together can be doing something for someone else–who do you know needs help?
Less is more. You could just simply lessen the frequency of what you’re currently doing. If there are experiences that you find you’re doing just because you can, cut back on them (if not cut them out).
We have found the value of cheap. Being less dependent on having to ‘pay to play’, our time together as a family have become truly satisfying.
[Original article: the lost art of cheap recreation]