Make It. Fake It. Create It. Fun, Free Things To Do This Winter

5 January 2012

I recently read an article in the Economist that talked about how recent research has shown that people value things they make far more than they do shop-bought tat. The research was fascinating. They cited the case of instant cake mixes. When these were first launched the sales were dismal. Why? Because people didn’t feel like the cakes gave them any value, that they hadn’t really earned anything by making them.

So, what did the cake mix companies do? They changed the recipe to “add an egg” and the cake mixes flew off the shelves. While the article goes into far more detail on the where’s and why’s of how we value things we do and make ourselves, I have just stolen one simple idea – don’t spend this year, save and make it yourself.

Here are some ideas that I’ve come up with, that I’ve gleaned from other smart and sassy parents, and that I’ve uncovered with judicious research.

1. Make with spam

All those random flyers and pizza deals and bad newspapers that get slotted through your front door on a daily basis can be used to whip up any manner of fun things on a cold and wintery afternoon. Instead of slumping in front of the TV, why not make a batch of Paper Mache and create masks, puppets and household decorations instead?

You don’t have to make a wobbly ashtray, but you can do some impressive things with Paper Mache and you will find some excellent ideas here. Unleash your creativity and have fun with the kids at the same time. Who knows what zany creations you’ll come up with, and the best part is that you are likely to have all the ingredients at home already.

2. Film festivals

Movies are really, really expensive now. With two kids and two adults going to see a normal film it cost us over £20 in total. Ouch! So this year we are creating a film festival at home. On an evening it is all about the adults getting together in one room and the kids in another. We popped two or three small humans in front of an iPad packed with child-friendly movies and gave them some popcorn and some juice. They were in heaven.

The best part is that kids are quite happy to watch the same movies over and over again, so they can be quite cost effective! When it came to the adults we came up with the idea that they bring one movie we haven’t seen and we provide one movie they haven’t seen. While you do end up watching a flick you have seen before, it is cheap, cheerful and enormous fun.

And you can always sort out snacks and drinks during the movie you’ve already seen…

3. Free culture

No matter where you live, there is bound to be a museum or exhibit that’s free to the public. Not only are these lovely places warm and toasty, but they also offer you an opportunity to learn something new and to share this with your kids and each other.

We often forget to connect and enjoy each other’s company as the days get busy and the nights draw in and we get a bit grumpy for sunlight. Taking time out to spend time with each other and learn about things that interest you all is worth every penny. Oh, wait, you didn’t spend any money at all…Brilliant!

4. Reuse and recover

Have an old and dusty canvas picture lying around unused? Cover it in funky fabric (you can even reuse an pillow case that has lost its matching pair, or that has a few easily mended holes), stitch on some ribbon in diagonal squares, and you have yourself a lovely notice board for family announcements or urgent bills.

Another idea is to take up all your old t-shirts and make a carpet out of them. Sound insane? It isn’t hard to do at all, will cost you very little in terms of essential ingredients, and looks brilliant in a nursery or workspace. And it keeps the room nice and warm, and is easy to clean. See how to do it here.

And on a lighter note, I discovered this brilliant blog where a man reused his ex-wife’s wedding dress in all sorts of insane ways. The idea is pure genius and I dare you not to start cackling.

These are just a few ideas on how you can redo your home, life and budget while having fun at the same time. Do you have any gems to share? Please tell!

1 comment

  • LynleyOram
    Ha ha if my other half ever did THAT to my wedding dress ... Good tips. My top tip for enjoying a free day out in London is to do it early. I get to the Natural History Museum when it opens at about 10 or 10:30am. You avoid all the queues in the dinosaurs, are ready for lunch in time to get seats in the cafe or snag one of the broad benches for a picnic, and then can do all the other stuff too. The Southbank is a fabulous place to go for a free day out if you've got the time to do a bit of research. Stuff like free puppet workshops, gardens on the roof, interactive installations, watching the skateboarders, going to the Tate. Also there's a playground right opposite the London Eye if you need something for the little ones to burn a bit of energy off with (while you slump on a bench).

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