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15 Inexpensive Things To Do In Winter

December 21, 2010 · 55 comments

in Home & Garden, Life

Welcome to the first day of winter – a.k.a the Winter Solstice.

The view from my backyard after our latest snowstorm

Today is the shortest day of the year.  Whereas some people don’t like how short the days are leading up to the Winter Solstice, I have to say that I don’t mind the days being short for awhile.   It kind of forces our lives to slow down a little bit, as we seem to settle in for the night a bit earlier.  The good news for those who prefer more daylight:  the sun will set a little later each day from here on out until around June 21st or so. (My anniversary!)

Many people up here in the north do not actually enjoy the snow that comes with winter.  Even though I generally love snow, I am ready for it to be all gone by February. (I have never learned to appreciate a bitter cold wind, and never will.) However, the winter is a good time of year to take care of some things around the house, and spend more time with family.

So, here is my list of things to do in the winter.  Even if you don’t live in a colder climate, there are still plenty of activities you can enjoy from the list (so don’t just hit the ‘back button’ if you are reading this in Florida).   Some ideas are more fun than others of course, but you can’t have fun every moment of the day, right?

15 Cheap And Mostly Fun Things To Do In Winter

  1. Play board games.  I love board games.  I used to drive my family crazy asking them to play games with me everyday.  Ironically, I am still the same way.  The good thing is, my daughter is the same way so we get to play a lot of games.  I do still try to have specific family game nights where the whole family plays.  It is a good way to reconnect and eat snacks!  (Try Apples to Apples, it is a fantastic family game.)
  2. Go sledding.  I am lucky in that I have a sledding hill in my backyard.  However, I am sure many people have access to hill  within reasonable distance.  Pack a big thermos of cocoa, put on your snow pants, and head toward the nearest hill.
  3. Build a bonfire.  I know this is a carryover from my ‘things to do in fall‘ list, but I really love bonfires.  Having a fire and sledding or building snowmen is a fun thing to do, especially at night.  Again, equip yourself with some cocoa, and bring out some marshmallows.  Plan this ahead of time though so you can ensure the firewood is dry.  Grab all that leftover dryer lint to use as a fire-starter.
  4. Clean your house.  What better time to attack the basement than winter?  Get the kids involved too as I imagine a lot of the stuff is theirs, and they have to decide what they actually use anymore or not.  (Or, if you have a child like my youngest son who won’t part with anything, it might be a better task to handle while the kids are at school.   They can always handle the finishing touches when they come home, like vacuuming and such.)
  5. Donate to charity.  This goes along with number 4.  Collect all those things and head over to the Salvation army or charity of your choice.  Of course, it is a great thing to do before December 31st if you can, but it’s ok if it waits until January.  It is also a good time to review your charitable giving for the year and see if there are any areas that are underfunded.
  6. Start an exercise program.  It is easy to get sedentary over the winter.  However, there are so many easy options for indoor exercising, even if you don’t have an exercise machine.  Look into different video programs like P90x or Pilates.  You don’t need a ton of room and all you need is a TV and a DVR.  Actually, some on demand cable providers have exercise programs and you can just get up and try out a free program on demand.  Regardless of how you exercise, you need to do it regularly.
  7. Cook a big meal.  Even if the holidays are over, roast another turkey or two over the winter.  It’s cheap, delicious, and provides a ton of leftovers.  Not to mention how great the house always smells when a turkey is in the oven.
  8. How a ‘nice’ snowball fight.  Don’t go pelting people in the face, but  make some snow forts and have a friendly battle.
  9. Go for a walk in the snow.  There are few things I like more than when I see giant snowflakes falling from the sky.  I love looking up at the streetlights when it is dark and snowing, it takes me right back to childhood.
  10. Shovel the snow for elderly neighbors.  Provides great exercise, and is a great thing to do for a neighbor.  Don’t wait to be asked, just go do it.
  11. Try skiing/snowboarding.  (I will never heed this advice as I end up with injuries too easily.  However, I know many enjoy snow sports.)
  12. Go for a drive (when it isn’t snowing).  I love going for  a nice drive to see Christmas lights.  We always take some hot cocoal for the ride and have a great time.  I love when I see Christmas lights that are shining under a blanket of snow.
  13. Plan your summer garden.  Look up different flowers or vegetables you might want to experiment with and order the seeds.  It is great to start your plants ahead of time indoors as it just makes you hopeful for nicer weather.  Just don’t start too soon or you might end up with some weak, spindly plants.
  14. Have a winter barbecue.  Keep an eye on the weather, pick a ‘warmer’ day, and make some potato salad!  I know I love cooking with my crockpot, but sometimes I just want some barbecue chicken!   Mixing up the menu like this is especially good in February when you are really getting sick of winter.
  15. Organize your photos and get them in a scrapbook.  This is one of those ‘do as I say and not as I do’ moments.  I probably have 5,000 pictures saved on an external hard drive and organizing seems almost like an impossible task.  Sounds like a New Year’s Resolution to me…

I could go on and on, but I will stop at 15.  I would love to hear if there are any activities you especially like to do in winter, so please share!


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{ 32 comments… read them below or add one }

First Gen American December 21, 2010 at 7:04 am

Don’t you love when those garden catalogs start coming in?

I also like to just think about goals for the following year during winter. Summer is so filled with fun and stuff that I hardly have time to think and ruminate about what I want to be different/better out of life.

Since it’s also tax time, I organize my paperwork and get the shredder going and thin out my files. (Kids love helping with the shredder).


Kris December 21, 2010 at 8:54 am

Isn’t it funny how universally love the paper shredder is? I used to have to divide up my shredding so nobody was left out.

My favorite garden catalog is Gurneys. I have found their products to be pretty high quality, and they sell some pretty unique plants.

Winter is a good time to reflect on what you would like to change. If only that motivation could carry through the whole year for me. (It is easier for me to plan than to execute!)


101 Centavos December 21, 2010 at 7:23 am

Kris, your backyard looks great. We don’t get nearly enough snow in Oklahoma for my taste. Plotting a new spring campaign for the garden is great indoor fun. I carry a list of indoor activities for when we’re housebound, like beer making, cataloging and scanning all those hard copy photographs, organizing closets, and charting past expenses. Not all of them get gotten to, though.


Kris December 21, 2010 at 8:59 am

101: Well, that is not all my ‘backyard’. It is a public open space behind our house, I better go update my description!

Can you drive somewhere to find snow and get some skiing in? Not many live in a locale with the ‘right’ amount of snow. I swear we don’t get as much snow as we did when I was a kid. I wonder if it comes in waves?

So does the beer making get top priority on your list? 🙂 How long does it take to scan photographs? I have never done it, and I have literally bins full of hard copy photos.


101 Centavos December 21, 2010 at 8:23 pm

The closest snow is Colorado, a heck of a drive. I know people that do it, but it’s not for us. I really like the results of making beer, but getting motivated and started is the hardest thing. Sometimes my priorities get rearranged for me.
As for scanning photographs into JPG files, it’s a bit tedious, but cheaper than going from negative (if you have them) to digital at Walmart or a local photo shop. Again, same was with making beer, it’s getting motivated to start.


Kris December 22, 2010 at 9:07 am

101 – How is the quality with the scanned photos?


Nicole December 21, 2010 at 7:46 am

Happily there are benefits to living in the deep South 9 months out of the year. Yesterday I cleaned the bathrooms and aired the house out by opening all the windows. One of these nights we’ll walk around the neighborhood and look at Christmas lights on palm trees.

It was unseasonably cold a few days ago though. We stayed inside and decorated the house and stuff. Watched a little Netflix. Finished grading finals…


Kris December 21, 2010 at 9:01 am

I can’t imagine opening the windows these days. I can’t picture even wearing short sleeves!

I have to say though, Christmas without snow would seem a little odd to me since it is all I know. My brother seems to have adapted just fine though!


Nicole December 21, 2010 at 1:14 pm

In the words of my mother, “Snow is something you drive to.”

That’s why we’ve got mountains right? To put snow on our schedules rather than us on its schedule?


Kris December 22, 2010 at 9:16 am

You and my brother are like-minded. I love the snow, so I would feel cheated without it I guess.


The Grouch December 21, 2010 at 8:16 am

On cold winter days after a good snowfall and playing out in the snow a while, I like to get a cup of hot chocolate and read over some old global warming articles, or watch a little fire-breathing Al Gore in that cinematic masterpiece: “Inconvenient Truth,” and lament about why I’m not paying at least 6 or 7 bucks a gallon for gas and shed a tear or two because my kids may never see snow again in their lifetimes…. or at least until the next blast of cold weather. I also like to burn a little fossil fuel and bake chocolate chip cookies on snowy days (does snow even exist anymore or is it just a mass hallucination?).


Kris December 21, 2010 at 9:03 am

Grouch, I choked on a cookie while reading this. I was at first thinking you were going to read a nice, classic novel.

Thank you for a hilarious comment.


retirebyforty December 21, 2010 at 9:26 am

We get rain here in the Pacific Northwest and people really hibernate in the winter. I’m really glad the winter solstice is done with, it’s all down hill from here. We don’t get a lot of sunlight in general and during this time it’s dark when I get to work AND when I get out of work. I need some sunshine. We do a lot of napping in the winter weekend. 🙂


Kris December 21, 2010 at 9:31 am

RB40- yeah, in your climate, I can see where it could be a little depressing with the short days. Here, between the full moon and snow on the ground, it was quite bright at night. I love sledding on nights like that.

Enjoy your increasingly longer days!


DoNotWait December 21, 2010 at 9:38 am

I like pretty much all the ones you give, although I particularly don’t like the windy days also. You know when you feel your face is just going to disappear under the cold… Anyways, sledding is always fun and making a snowman is good memories also (as well as snow angels). I also do a lot more of cooking during the winter. I enjoy the smell and getting around the table with friends or family. So yes, I LOVE Holidays! But I try to make it last most of winter. Cleaning the house! My God, I have to get into that basement of mine and make something happen! 😉


Kris December 22, 2010 at 9:20 am

DNW- Get in that basement, you can do it!

I love the holidiays too, but I am getting a little nervous as I still have quite a bit to do…


Squirrelers December 21, 2010 at 11:34 am

You know, I’ve lived in cold weather my entire life. I have just been used to it, and haven’t thought twice about it. Until the last few years.

Lately, I have been really embracing November/December cold weather, as it all fits into the cozy holiday feeling. Something about snow and Christmas, with family all present, that’s heartwarming. I tend to enjoy the season, looking forward to snowstorms, being outdoors, etc. Might as well embrace it, and I do.

The only thing is, in the last few years, I’m sick of it by February. Early March is the biggest tease, as we could get a 60 degree day, then a snowstorm the next day. By that time, I’m really looking forward to warm weather.

Right now, though, I’m enjoying the season. Big storm supposed to be on the way in a few days, and I’m looking forward to it. Sure, the driving will be tougher, but it’s all part of the Chicago experience:)


Kris December 22, 2010 at 9:18 am

Squirrel, we are in the exact same boat. February really gets on my nerves. I find March hopeful because you are right, we do get the occasional 60 degree day. It is funny because 60 degrees is freezing in summer, but in March, it is a day to celebrate!

I love snow leading up to Christmas also. Not sure I need it too much after mid-January, unless we get a snow-day because of it.


Lola December 21, 2010 at 1:28 pm

Your list is fairly similar to mine, except I don’t do outdoors stuff so much anymore (just shovel as needed, which is usually not too bad).

Then I look at the list and generally decide to either 1)read or 2) crack open those DVD’s we’ve gotten for Christmas or 3) read some more!


Kris December 22, 2010 at 9:16 am

Oh reading is a wonderful thing. I would do it all day if I could, but then I would look like Jabba the Hut because I also like eating while I read….


Crystal @ BFS December 21, 2010 at 2:22 pm

Snow is great to me as long as I’m hundreds of miles away, lol. It’s hard for me to believe it’s winter since it’s 70 degrees and humid outside right now here in Houston. I do need to work on my photo albums though. I also like the idea of helping out the elderly neighbors. 🙂 Great list!


Kris December 22, 2010 at 9:14 am

I figured that many people probably don’t notice a big change during winter in terms of their day-to-day life. I guess that is part of why I enjoy Michigan- it is four different ways of living in a sense. (At least that is what I tell myself since I can’t move… 🙂 )


Aloysa December 21, 2010 at 6:52 pm

Nice list! We got a snow storm today. Finally! We had rain for a while. I love driving by houses and looking at Christmas decorations. I love snow (hate driving in it, though). I noticed, however, that I become really lazy in the winter and tend to stay home more… take naps. LOL I am one of those who goes into hibernation mode. Like my pug. 🙂


Kris December 22, 2010 at 9:11 am

Aloysa – a nap sounds really good now, and it is only 9 in the morning! 🙂

Driving in snow is a bummer, especially when it freezes over. I enjoy the ‘staying home’ part of winter.


krantcents December 21, 2010 at 8:04 pm

As a former New Yorker (now I live in Los Angeles), I remember my mother baking and the whole house smelled good! Although this is not something I did, you article brings back warm memories.


Kris December 22, 2010 at 9:11 am

There are very few smells in the world that are better than the smell of something baking in the oven. I love walking into the house when it is cold outside and being greeted with the smell of baking cookies! (Or a Turkey)


Roshawn @ Watson Inc December 22, 2010 at 2:31 am

You know, I’m so glad that you mentioned board games. That is definitely a great use of time because it is fun and very interactive too (irrespective of costs).


Kris December 22, 2010 at 8:40 am

Shawn, I am such a fan of the board game! It is probably the cheapest entertainment investment you can make.


Invest It Wisely December 22, 2010 at 9:42 pm

You guys have an awesome backyard… regarding board games, Monopoly has been a favorite, although the game is so luck-based, and Scrabble can be fun, too.


Kris December 23, 2010 at 1:31 pm

Love Monopoly, love Scrabble. You should also try a game called ‘Bananagrams’. It has a Scrabble twist, but you have you own set of tiles and make your own Scrabble-like grid out of your own letters. You play simultaneously against other players who have their own grids. No lengthy waits for your opponent to make up a fake word.

I do love our backyard. It is why we bought the house for sure.


Trevor d January 3, 2012 at 11:01 am

You can also wash your car. I’s always a good idea to have a clean car and you won’t have to worry about breaking a sweat in the process. 🙂


Kris January 3, 2012 at 10:28 pm

I would have to scrape the ice off first. 🙂


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