Pop Culture

Sick of Shopping?: Arty, Fun, Family-Friendly Tips for Spending Texas's Tax-Free Weekend Away from the Mall

Unless you are a bazillionaire or have decent credit, the tax-free weekend in Texas is a nightmare of screaming babies, white people and spilled Icees on the floor of Target. It's a three-day orgy of buying shit you don't need for a 1 percent discount, in cramped and packed stores. Like Black Friday in November, but without the turkey squirts.

Earlier this week on Hair Balls, Rich Connelly gave a few reasons why this bastard holiday isn't really worth the hassle. Between the tax rules, the traffic, the germs, the stabbings and the horrors of human contact, it's enough to make you want to lock yourself in your bathroom until Monday morning.

What are families that don't subscribe to the American way of shopping until you drop to do? It's no fun being left out of the madness, but why not create your own madness?

There are tons of innovative and artistic things to do around Houston for families with little cash and/or patience for idiots.

Visit the National Museum of Funeral History

What better way to drive the point home to the kids that once this sham called life will all be over and no matter how much school you go to, or how much money you make, you will die anyway. Ask the kids to write their own obituaries, and see who can write the saddest one for a dessert prize.

Go See an Astros Game

Houston has a Major League baseball team, I kid you not. They play in the stadium next to the George R. Brown Convention Center, and have jerseys and everything. Some of them even make a good chunk of change, too. Even if sports aren't your family's thing, you can at least bring in your own food now, and if you get hit in the head by a foul ball, you could get a few days off work.

Shop for Christmas Lights

Surely those are already out at Home Depot and Lowe's, right? While the rest of Texas is slitting throats for cheap jeans, you could go and pick out your reindeer and Annual Gift Man for the front yard. Hell, put them up now to avoid the post-Thanksgiving rush. If the neighbors complain, scream something about one of the kids being mildly autistic and allergic to peanut butter. That will shut them all down.

Make Your Own Shoes!

Sustainability is hip these days, so a shoemaking clinic is just what Mother Nature ordered. Got a few full recycling containers? Lay the refuse out in the garage and make everyone in the family fashion a new pair of shoes out of your recyclable garbage, except you. That's gross. It's like, garbage and stuff. Throw some pictures of the kids playing "Sweat Shop" on Pinterest, and you should be on Good Morning America in a week or so.

Finally Get Into Downton Abbey

What's this shit about, like butlers and stuff? And it's on PBS?? Order some pizzas, this sounds epic!

Teach Your Kids How to Make Their Own Memes

Gather your brood around a laptop and show them how to use Paint, Impact font, and pictures of relatives and pets to make beautiful and hilarious memes and rage comics. Older high school-age kids can show the rest of the family how to Photoshop celebrities' heads onto nude bodies to post onto Tumblr for friends and perverts.

GOAT Hunting

Separate your family into groups of two or three (call Grandma and Grandpa and the aunts and creepy uncles, too) and see who can capture as many pictures of GOAT graffiti in Houston. When you are done, whoever wins gets to tag the houses in the neighborhood with their own family-friendly tag.

Start Packing Go Bags for Election Season When the shit hits the fan this fall and you and the fam need to jet to Grandma's house, you will need Go bags -- bags full of essentials you need to leave in an emergency -- at the ready for when the Tea Party stages their revolution. Ramen noodles, Easy Mac and the last few seasons of Doctor Who on DVD are all essential.

But Seriously, Go Buy School Supplies for Underprivileged Students

Everyone worries about getting the coolest new shoes or backpack to impress during that first week back at school, but for some kids, merely having pens, pencils, binders and paper is a trial. Most local grocery stores and YMCA locations are holding drives where you can either purchase a pre-loaded kit of supplies or buy your own and drop off your care package in a designated spot. You'll feel better about yourself, and will be wowed by the advances in school supply technology since you were in school.

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Craig Hlavaty
Contact: Craig Hlavaty