I don’t know about you, but (I’m feeling 22!) I’m constantly invited to events and activities that cost too much for my liking. It’s not that I’m such a Frugal Frannie that I can’t spend money on entertainment. I like rooftop rosé. I occasionally spend way too much money on concert tickets. Contributing toward gas money for the family boat is a very real budget line item. I think it’s less about money, and more about if it’s worth the money for a particular activity. Because, let’s face it, I’m a time snob.
What is a time snob, you ask?
I think it’s where I guard my time violently.
I want to make sure that any activity’s resulting joy/bonding/memories are worth the money I’m spending.
Like you, I work hard. I have a full-time, 40-hour per week job that requires me to use my brain 98% of the time. So when I get a precious day off, I don’t want to spend it doing something I don’t enjoy. Especially if I have to pay to do it.
That seems … reasonable?
And yet, many of us who should carefully guard our time (and money) don’t. We should all be Time Snobs!
It makes every event a little bit sweeter, and every purchased ticket more of a treat.
Conscious money spending — whatta concept.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I’ll not blink an eye paying for music, food or health-related items if it’s within reason. Travel is high up on the list, but I do blink very hard before booking that flight. I blink, head scratch, research, complain about how airlines track my online movements, and then blink again before I book.
But there are a few standard weekend spending activities that I just can’t get behind. In fact, I think it’s cool to not do things I hate in order to go with the crowd (e.g. bowling. I hate it. I’m terrible at it. It always raises my blood pressure and takes away from the main event, which is pizza.).
And while we’re on it, here are three more common activity/entertainment-related expenses that I absolutely hate paying for with a burning passion:
NOOOOOOOOOOOO. Often unavoidable, but often you can figure out a better solution. Hate it.
Covers for bands that just really don’t need covers.
I’m all about supporting musicians, but you have to play your fair share of bars and get to be good enough before you charge me a steep cover. The bar can pay you (yes they can afford it, trust me.). And I will happily tip you. But I don’t get the $20 cover for someone entirely unknown playing in a crowded bar.
Paying for chips & salsa.
This one is maybe a little bit from the left field, but it’s one of my pet peeves when Mexican restaurants don’t bring a hot batch of chips and salsa when you sit down and instead list them as a menu item. Who knows, it’s probably not economical and maybe I sound obnoxious but life is about the little things. Namely, free chips and salsa.
Luckily, in a beautiful, bustling city like Charleston, South Carolina, the opportunities for frugal fun are limitless. Here are six ways to enjoy this city on a budget:
1.) Walk the bridge.
Get your daily dose of sweat rolling on Charleston’s signature silhouette — the Ravenel Bridge.
The bridge, which opened in 2005, features about 2.5 miles of pedestrian and bike lanes.
[Fun fact: The path is called Wonders’ Way. I always thought it was because the view was majestic; in fact, it’s named in memory of Garrett Wonders. An Ohio native, he was commissioned by the U.S. Navy to teach at the Nuclear Power School in Charleston and was training for the 2004 Olympics when he was struck and killed in a bicycle-vehicle collision.]
Easily park below the bridge or on the Patriot's Point side (to the bridge's east), and hop on the path. Watch out for cyclists! If you get too lost in your music and forget to pay attention, you could lose an elbow.
Even if you’re no Olympic-level athlete, walking the bridge is a great way to get your heart pumping and gain a new perspective.
2.) Go to the beach.
You knew this one was coming, right?
Which beach you attend and what time you should go depends on the season and your tolerance for tie-dyed shirts. You pretty much have two beach options if you don’t have a boat: Folly Beach and Sullivan’s Island. I am unashamedly biased toward Sullivan’s Island beaches, but you really can’t go wrong. Both are beaches, both are beautiful, both have horrific, hard-to-find street parking. Both are worth it.
A sunrise stroll in the sand is hard to beat — watching the sun peek over the horizon is the perfect way to start the day. If you’re not into the early alarm, soak in the sun during daylight hours.with some good old fashioned beachin’. Be sure to bring plenty of water to stay hydrated. And although Michelob Ultra tastes like water, alcohol is unfortunately off-limits. Like, super off limits. Like up to $1,040 per penalty ticket off-limits.
I enjoy all of the above, but for me, sitting and watching the sun set is an all-time favorite activity. I’ve seen many a sunset in this world, and I’m fairly confident that Sullivan’s Island sunsets are pretty unbeatable. If you round the corner past the lighthouse, you can watch the sun fade behind the peninsula's cityscape.
3.) Stroll South of Broad
Downtown Charleston has a wide array of mouthwatering and award-winning dishes worth splurging on. Like, a lot. Worthy of their own post. But if you're looking to pinch a few pennies this go 'round, pack your own picnic — maybe some delicious cheeses, salami, fruits and nuts, or maybe the always-reliable PB&J — and head toward the Battery. Spread a blanket in the shade of the giant oak trees and enjoy a lazy afternoon.
Lined by gorgeous mansions, filled with outstanding oaks and facing the Charleston harbor, there's always something to look at while hanging around the Battery. And, the people-watching can't be beat. College kids pretending to read textbooks, tour groups walking cell-phone-first, and the inevitable van that rolls up with children scrambling to get out and stretch their legs after the journey from Ohio. And then, of course, there are people like me, just a-creepin'.
And then, after your tummy is full and you're ready to wander a little more, head around the corner onto East Bay street to catch a gimpse of Rainbow Row. There are no wrong turns around here; finding a back alley is one of the best things you can do, as it will likely lead you somewhere else pretty and pleasing.
4.) Party at the Park
If you don't mind a crowd, head toward the Mount Pleasant Waterfront Park every Tuesday night in June for a free country concert! Local country radio station 103.5 WEZL and the Town of Mount Pleasant host Party at the Park and collaborate with some awesome alcohol and food vendors to make it a fun night. And unlike some radio shows, these concerts feature pretty well-known names — this year included Chase Rice and Maddie&Tae. So load your lawn chair, bring your bug spray and kick back and enjoy. Be sure to learn more about the parking situation and get the full concert lineup before you go!
5.) Visit the Angel Oak Tree
When you picture Charleston, you probably think water, cobblestone and epic oak trees. And you wouldn't be wrong.
One can't-miss stop for any nature lover is the Angel Oak Tree. It's estimated to be between 400-500 years old; imagine the things this tree has seen! If trees could talk, amirite?! It's considered one of the oldest living things in the United States, but with its longest branch measuring 187 feet from tip to tip, you might be more impressed with the tree's gargantuan size.
(I wasn't at age 4, apparently. According to local legend, AKA my mother, upon seeing it for the first time, I announced that I'd "seen much bigger trees than that.")
I'd recommend picking up or packing some sandwiches, perching on one of the picnic tables and marveling at the idea that Revolutionary War soldiers may have stopped and eaten right in the same spot. You shouldn't get too hot — the tree's enormous branches produce about 17,200 square feet of shade.
View more about the Angel Oak Tree's history and park hours, and add this one to your to-do list.
6.) Dig up fun at Mace Brown Natural History Museum at College of Charleston
This is one I haven't actually checked out myself, but it's on my radar. The Mace Brown Natural History Museum at College of Charleston is open to the public daily from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Rumor has it that the museum is home to more than 15,000 fossils from around the globe, including crazy-cool stuff like thier world-renown whale fossil exhibit.
The museum is used for research, teaching and sharing, and I plan on making the most of this free resource soon! Since I haven't been, I can't offer an image, but I would imagine it goes a little something like this:
Wow, there are so many more fun, free or inexpensive things to do in Charleston, but I'm cutting myself off at six. For now. I have a feeling I'll do a more comprehensive guide later on, because I'm a little in love with where I live. But for now, I have to go flip roasting sweet potatoes before a scald them.
What do you do in your town/city when you're looking for a fun and free weekend activity? Give me some ideas in the comments below!