Our Inceptia Institute contributor, Samantha Piper, is a fourth year student at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities. She is in the Carlson School of Management working towards a Bachelor’s of Science in Business in Human Resources and Industrial Relations and also in the College of Liberal Arts working towards a Bachelor’s of Art in English. She aspires to go to law school and complete it with a limited amount of student debt. 


College is full of opportunities for students to make memories, learn and have fun, but it is also full of numerous expenses. From the obvious expenses of tuition and books, to basic life necessities such as toilet paper and groceries, to the money leaks such as a student’s morning coffee… where do the funds for social activities come from? Students can work at buying on sale, using coupons, and eliminating their money leaks, but they can also find fun things to do for cheap or FREE! Here are a few (cheap) options to have fun that I urge you to share with the students you counsel.


Outdoor Adventures

When you hear the phrase “outdoor adventures” you may think of treacherous mountains and unescapable deep backwoods, although that does not have to be the case. One of my favorite things to do for fun is to explore the neighborhoods around my house. When in need of a homework break, my roommates and I will oftentimes wander around the neighborhood and look at the old houses.


Another option for a fun afternoon is to go for a hike or go to the beach (depending on where your college is located). In Minnesota, the season for these activities is limited so we take advantage of these opportunities whenever we can. Do some research and find out what parks are in your area; city, state, regional, or national. Pack a picnic and make a day of it!


Dinner with Friends

You need to eat, so why not make it into a fun adventure? Gather a few friends and think of something you would like to try cooking. Figure out what ingredients you will need and head to the store together. Making a big meal is not nearly so expensive when the bill is split multiple ways. Follow a recipe or add a pinch of this and a dash of that, but most importantly have some fun.


If you want to try a bunch of everything, consider having a potluck game night. Invite friends; ask them each to bring over their favorite dish and a board game. Everyone contributes a little, and you can have hours of fun discovering new games and dishes.


Student Discounts

Many businesses offer student discounts when you present a student ID. From sporting events and museums, to dance venues, movie theaters and retails shops, many companies offer deals – the key is, you have to ask. Pla Mor Ballroom in Lincoln, Nebraska has line dancing on Sunday nights for $5 for students. This could be an inexpensive night of fun that allows you to experience the local culture and history. Check out what opportunities are in your area for cultural events with student deals.


Local Festivals

Many cities and towns have festivals throughout the year. In Minneapolis, the annual Aquatennial is a ten day festival in July with many options for free entertainment. There is entertainment, fireworks and sandcastle competitions to enjoy in the sun. Attend a festival in your area and enjoy some cheap/free entertainment.


University Events

At least once a year I go to a dance, opera, or play that is performed by the University of Minnesota students. And as a student, I receive a great deal on tickets and really enjoy the performance as I support fellow university students. Many schools even offer free tickets to their students to see certain university sponsored performances.


If you are not interested in something quite so formal, check out student activities that are being hosted by the school. How about a campus wide game of capture the flag?


Encourage students to not only take advantage of these options, but search for additional ones in their area. By doing a little homework upfront, students can expect to see a rewarding return ($$$) in their wallets. Every dollar saved helps!


We want to hear from you. Tweet @MoneyKnowl and @Inceptia with your favorite cheap and fun thing to do.


I would like to thank Haley Peitzmeier, a senior at the University of Nebraska- Lincoln, and Denali Wilson, a senior at New Mexico State University, for contributing ideas to this article.


This article was originally published on October 23, 2014 at and can be found here.