Thanksgiving Family Fun for Free or Cheap

November 26, 2009 at 9:00 AM Leave a comment

Happy Thanksgiving!  I hope you’re at home with loved ones, eating too much and loving every minute of it.

Thanksgiving comes with a lot of downtime, though—quality time spent with family, but not spent doing much.

Here’s a Thanksgiving bonus:  A few ideas to keep your fam entertained for free or for cheap!

For Free

Movie Night: Whatever you do, don’t drive to the movies and buy tickets and concession stand treats for everyone . . . it’ll cost you more than your Thanksgiving dinner.  I’ll bet you have an old movie (still got a VHS player?) lying around in a dusty drawer that everyone loves and nobody’s seen in years.  Get everone together and watch it!

Better idea: Make snacks for the occasion out of whatever you have lying around (avoid Thanksgiving leftovers if you just ate a feast!):

  • Ice cream sundaes are easy to do for everyone, and just about anything sweet (or salty!) can become a great topping.
  • Got chips, popcorn, salted nuts, or any other salty snacks?  Put ‘em all together in a big bowl and set them out for movie time.
  • Don’t be afraid to go healthy.  Chop up lots of fruit and vegetables, then set out a few different dips (think ranch or blue cheese dressing, a honey-mustard vinaigrette made with balsamic vinegar and honey mustard, or just about any dressing in your fridge).

Board Game Night: Got a bunch of board games lying in the closet?  Yeah, you do.  You might not get through a whole Monopoly game, but pulling out the old boards can get everyone invested and entertained for hours.

Party Game Night: Family games aren’t all bound to boards.  Here are three to play without any props necessary:

  • Charades: Two teams compete against each other to act out (and guess) a phrase.  The team that guesses the most wins!  Rules
  • Mafia/Assassin: Someone (or maybe multiple someones) is a killer.  They’re killing you off, one by one, just by winking at you (terrifying superpower!).  Your job is to guess who before you get it, too. Full description and rules
  • Fictionary: This is the for-free version of the pricey game Balderdash.  One person picks a bizarre word from a dictionary (you have that lying around, too).  They know the word’s definition; everyone else makes a definition up.  Whichever definition gets voted the most plausible (and it’s not usually the dictionary’s) wins a point.  Rules

Card Game Night: Yep, I know you have a pack of cards around, too.  Dig through some drawers.  Be sure to count ‘em out and make sure you have 52—nothing spoils a card game faster than missing cards.

  • Egyptian Ratscrew: How quick are you? Players start with the same number of cards (which they never see), then take turns flipping them into a center pile.  Once a face card is down, the next player has a certain number of chances (depending on the card played) to get another face card—or the player before them gets the pile.  There’s a slapping rule, too, that can get pretty violent (re: awesome).  Rules
  • Go Fish: Players ask other players for certain cards to complete sets of 4 of the same card.  If the player they ask doesn’t have the card, they have to ‘Go Fish.’  But the point of the game is to end up with no cards, so—try not to ‘Go Fish’ too often.  Rules
  • Spit: This is a game for 2, but games go fast.  Spit tournament?  Each player moves only one hand and touches only one card at a time.  The faster player wins.  Rules

For Cheap

Family Olympics: Might require supplies.  Try to work in all the great events:

  • Don’t Drop the Egg: Contestants hold a spoon in their mouth, an egg is placed on the spoon, and a race begins.  Don’t drop the egg.  (Dare you to do this indoors!)
  • Obstacle Course: Be creative: use lots of stuff on the ground, strings tied to various things and spanning through the air, sheets and blankets to keep visibility low, and lots of spectators on the sidelines cheering and booing.  Don’ t make an obstacle course too close to anything valuable!
  • Grape Toss: Put a bucket or pitcher on one side of a room.  Get contestants lined up on the other.  Who can get the most grapes in?  Unless people are hurling grapes at the walls, the mess should be minimal.

Go Outside: I know it’s cold, but time spent outdoors is always refreshing.  Go to a park, go out on the town, or just go out in your own yard.  Remember: the idea is to be outside—no need to stop in stores or businesses and be a spender.

More Food, Please: Grab some once-in-a-while treats from the store (cheeses? Chocolates? Salty Snacks?) and indulge more!  This one mixes well with any of the above.

Regardless of what you choose to do, I hope you have lots of family fun!

More fun (and frugal) family activities:

Funattic: Fun Family Activities
Moody Family: 100 Fun Things to Do with Your Family
wikiHow: How to Have Family Fun Cheap
Essortment: Cheap Family Fun Activity Ideas


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Sam Warren

I write about money matters that apply to my life—and hopefully yours!

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