How to Save Money and Have Fun with The REI Outdoor School

I realize it’s January and in many parts of the country (or the world) going outside right now doesn’t sound all that fun. However, the winter Olympics are coming up so I know there’s lots of outdoor activities that are enjoyable even in the winter. 

Finding some fun inexpensive stuff to do outside that doesn’t cost a lot can be tricky but it is possible throughout the year no matter the weather. Today, I want to tell you about one of my favorite resources for fun activities both indoors and outdoors. It’s the REI Outdoor School.

While the name would imply that all of their activities take place outdoors that actually isn’t true. Some take place in local establishments, like a rock climbing gym, or in the store where you can learn new skills for free. Though they do of course have many outdoor activities too.

What is the REI Outdoor School?

The store  name stands for Recreational Equipment Incorporated and it’s Outdoor School offers activities many free and some paid activities for people in their community. These could be bike maintenance courses or an outdoor yoga class. Or even learning how to rock climb. 

For the really ambitious people, they even offer planning sessions for hiking the Appalachian Trail or whatever big trail is near you. I imagine that on the West Coast they offer sessions on planning to hike the Pacific Crest Trail, a la Wild. 

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What kind of activities do they have?

Pretty much any activity that gets you moving and can be done outside (even if before you trek outside you do an indoor activity.

Outdoor Yoga

Last fall I took a FREE (I love that word) Yoga class outside at the Art Museum. The museum has a beautiful park associated with it and the class took place on a gorgeous fall day.

Bike Maintenance Classes

I also took a FREE (there’s that word again) Level 1 Bike Maintenance class, it didn’t require any equipment and was a great watch and learn class. They show you how to properly maintain a bike, of course all the tools you need can be bought in the store 😉 but they aren’t pushy about it and offer alternative ideas if you already have something similar.

They also have hands-on bike maintenance classes where you bring your bike and can learn that way, though those classes usually cost money (a very reasonable $30ish dollars)

Organized Outdoor Bike Rides

They also will put together organized bike rides where you can meet up with a bunch of other people to go for a bike ride and have a picnic. So it’s a great just community builder and a great way to get outside, meet people, and have some fun for a free or for a low cost.

Plus Tons of Other Activities

It all just depends on what you’re interested in doing or learning about, you can always search for activities by topic.

How much does it cost?

It depends on the activity. While they do offer lots of free activities, they also have paid activities to help cover the cost of equipment or food etc. Cost an also vary if, for example you bring your own bike to the bike ride rather than riding one of REI’s bikes.

How to Get a Discount

You can also get a discount by using your REI membership. It usually saves you $5, but sometimes it can mean the difference between an activity being free or paid.

How to become an REI member

As a member you not only get a slight discount on most of the Outdoor School’s activities, but once a year, you also get a 10% profit exchange check for the purchases you made at REI in the last year.

It’s easy to become a member, it is a one time $20, NOT an annual fee, it makes you a tiny part owner of REI. Just like that you are a member.

Wrapping it Up With a Bow on Top

In a world of consumer focus it’s nice to see a company that is  helping to build communities. I’m a big fan of REI and what they’re doing with the REI outdoor school. Check out your local REI Outdoor School to see what activities are available in your area for free or low-cost. Now, get out there and have some fun this winter.

Life tools & resources I recommend

The Skimm (for staying informed) I've been a loyal Skimmer for over three years. The Skimm is a news source that shows up in your email first thing in the morning M-F. It gives you a 5-minute rundown of what's happening in the world and links to legitimate news sources if you want to learn more about a topic. I start every day with my coffee and The Skimm. I <3 it so much.

Winc (for Wine Delivery) I like ordering a box of different wines to try from Winc every few months. The bottles average $13 a piece and delivery is free when you get at least 4 bottles (more wine please). If you want to check out Winc, you can get a free bottle of wine using my link. I'm very pro free wine.

Checkout 51 (to save on groceries) To save money on groceries, download the Checkout51 app and sign up for free. Each week on Thursday, "new deals" come out. Go through and star the items that are on your grocery shopping list. Do your shopping and at the end use your phone to snap a picture of receipt through the app and hit submit. Once you earn $20 in rewards you can cash out and Checkout51 will send you a check.


Liz is a blogger helping people with personal finance and working for themselves. She shares her own journey to debt freedom and helps graduates dealing with above average student loan debt on her site, Less Debt More Wine. She currently resides in NC after calling Massachusetts home for nearly a decade.