Frugal Living and Fun: Free or Inexpensive Activities and Hobbies
Enjoying a Frugal Lifestyle
Following a frugal lifestyle is very helpful if you have a low income or if you’re saving for a special purchase or event. You need to have fun and continue to enjoy life while you're saving money, though. This is especially important if frugal living becomes your permanent lifestyle by choice or by necessity. Fortunately, many free or inexpensive activities can be very enjoyable and satisfying. While any hobby can become expensive if fancy equipment or clothing is purchased, the following activities can be performed very cheaply or for no cost at all.
Reading Books and Periodicals for Free
Don’t buy books; borrow from a library whenever possible. If you have a library near your home, you probably have access to a huge source of free entertainment and education. If the nearest public library is difficult to visit, borrow as many books as you can to last you between trips. Joining a public library is very often free. A nearby college or university library can be a fantastic resource for learning and fun, although you may have to read books at the library instead of borrowing them.
If you do decide to buy books, check out secondhand bookstores to see if they have inexpensive publications that interest you. Libraries occasionally have book sales where they sell older books or ones that aren't in great condition for a cheap price.
Public libraries often have newspapers and magazines that you can read. Some communities publish free newspapers that describe the latest events in the community and perhaps in other parts of the world as well. These newspapers may be delivered to your home. You may also be able to find them in stores or distribution boxes. Community newspapers often contain crossword or sudoku puzzles to solve as well as information to read. In some cities the newspapers are published every weekday. You may be able to pick up free magazines in your neighbourhood as well.
You may be able to borrow CDs and DVDs from a public library. These could be enjoyable to watch or listen to if you have a device that can play them.
Reading Free Ebooks and Online Periodicals
Many libraries contain computers with Internet access that are intended for public use. Your library may subscribe to sites that provide complete versions of newspapers from around the world as well as magazines and encyclopedias. These resources can be read for free on the library computers. If you want to use a library computer, make a note of the times when it's easiest to find one available. This should reduce the chance of frustration when you visit the library.
If you own a computer or a related device and you belong to the library, you may be able to access the library website and their subscriptions from your home. Where I live, the local libraries have set up an online division where library members can “sign out” books—including recently published ones—by downloading them. After a specified time, the books can no longer be opened on the library member’s computer and are said to have been “returned” to the library. Audiobooks are also available.
Many sources of free ebooks are available on the Internet. Some books can be read online and some can be downloaded. For example, the Project Gutenberg website has a huge collection of books whose copyright has expired. The books cover many different topics, so there are sure to be some that interest you.
Walking can be very enjoyable. It's advisable to choose a safe place and time to walk, however, especially if you travel alone. There may be a walking group or club in your community that you could join. This may expand the number of places that you can explore and also enable you to make new friends.
Walking is an easy, fun, and versatile activity. The only equipment you need are things that you probably already have—comfortable shoes, cool clothes for hot weather (and perhaps sunscreen), warm clothes for cold weather, and an umbrella or rain clothes for the rain. A walk can be slow and relaxed or fast and energetic. It can be a solitary activity or an activity shared with a friend or a group of friends.
Walking has many benefits. It allows us to explore places and look at interesting things. Observing nature, looking at buildings and gardens, people-watching, and walking to free events can all be fun activities. Many people find that walking helps them to think and to solve problems. It can also improve creativity. Brisk walking can improve mood and provides many health benefits, including helping people to maintain a healthy weight, potentially boosting the activity of the immune system, and reducing the risk of many diseases.
You may be able to take enjoyable walks just by stepping outside your front door. If you need transport to reach a walking area, do some research to find the cheapest way to travel. Bus fares are cheapest on the weekend where I live, for example. In addition, you may be able to purchase fare saver tickets. These are less expensive than cash fares.
All you need is paper and a pen or pencil and you’re ready to write stories, poems, essays, plays, and books. If you have trouble thinking of writing topics, try brainstorming activities, write a story based on a picture in a newspaper or magazine, or go for a walk and write about what you see.
Keeping a diary or a journal is a fun way to begin writing. The diary could be a general one describing your day or it could be one about a specific topic. For example, you could:
- keep a nature journal
- record observations made during your walks
- create reviews of books that you have read
- make notes describing what you have learned when exploring the Internet
- describe your opinion and feelings about observations that you've made or facts that you've learned
- record a description of specific experiences that you are having, such as losing weight
Journal entries can often stimulate ideas for new writing in the form of either fiction or nonfiction.
Some Internet sites let you set up free blogs. Here you can type your thoughts, ideas, or research for other people to see. Some sites allow you to submit articles or creative writing for free.
If you can’t afford a computer, this doesn’t mean that you can’t do online writing. A library that contains public computers can be very useful. There’s sometimes a time limit for computer use, so compose your blog entry or article on paper before you get to the library to save time. Copying the article from paper should be faster than creating it.
A number of Internet sites supply free photos that you can use if you want to illustrate your blog posts or your articles. You can socialize on some writing sites, which can add to your enjoyment. It's fun to read articles created by other people.
Drawing, Art, and Sculpture
Drawing is another activity which can be very inexpensive. All you need to draw is a pencil, paper, and a determination to practice. Professional art supplies aren't required. “How to” books about drawing can be borrowed from a library and helpful articles can be read on the Internet. Once you’ve mastered basic skills, drawing, like writing, becomes a wonderful way to document the world around you, to explore ideas and memories, or to create and enter a world of fantasy. As you improve your drawing or writing skills, these activities should become even more satisfying.
It's not necessary to draw in order to create art. Collages can be created from images, letters, and words cut from newspapers, magazines, and flyers, perhaps with the addition of found objects. If you intend to sell your collages, you should investigate copyright laws first.
Art and sculptures can be created from natural materials like pressed leaves and flowers, seeds, fallen branches, logs, driftwood, rocks and pebbles, and empty shells found on a beach. If you explore nature, you may be surprised at how many free art supplies you can find.
Other items that enter the home can also be useful for sculptures and art projects, including toilet paper rolls, food cans, and food packages. The idea is not as strange as it sounds. I've seen photos of some lovely sculptures created from everyday objects that entered the artist's home and were intended for a different use.
Gardening doesn't have to be an expensive activity. Seeds can be collected from the wild or from fruit bought as food, for example.
Gardening and Exploring Nature
In its most basic form, gardening requires only seeds, soil, and a container. Mustard and cress seeds don’t even need soil. They can be grown on damp paper tissue or a paper towel placed on a plate or saucer. As the seedlings grow, it's important to make sure the paper doesn’t dry out but is not soaking wet. In a few days to a week, the sprouted seeds will be ready to eat.
You don’t need a garden to grow plants. They can be grown indoors or on a balcony or patio. Your library and the Internet will give you some ideas.
Exploring plants in nature can also be very satisfying. Walking through parks and looking at cultivated plants are enjoyable activities, too. Like a library, a park can be an entertaining place to visit.
Advantages of a Permanently Frugal Lifestyle
If you are able to access the Internet on a computer, a huge range of activities opens up to you. All of the following activities can be performed for free once you have a computer that you can use, except for the cost of Internet access and powering the computer if you own it. Many of the activities can be performed on library computers as well.
- Virtual travelling using free programs like Google Earth and Google Maps with Street View
- Exploring museums and art galleries online
- Learning a new language or learning about a subject that interests you
- Reading books, newspapers, magazines, and articles
- Solving crosswords, sudoku puzzles, and other types of puzzles
- Playing games
- Watching videos
- Creating art (If you do an Internet search for "online image editor" you will be presented with a long list of painting and photo editing programs that you can try.)
- Writing and publishing
- Listening to music and radio programs from around the world
- Communicating with friends, relatives, and the world using email and social media programs like Facebook and Twitter
You can download freeware or free open source software to your computer as well as use free programs online. Some word processors, art programs, and music creation programs are free to download and use.
Listening to a Radio and Creating Music
You don't need a computer to listen to music. Radios with basic features can be bought very cheaply. A radio lets you listen to the latest news and learn about topics that interest you as well as hear music. Listening to a radio is a great way to keep in touch with your community and the world if you don’t have a television or if you don’t have access to the Internet at home.
Dancing to radio music at home can be fun and improve physical fitness. (Start this activity gently if you're out of shape). Creating your own music by singing or by playing inexpensive homemade instruments can also be fun. Instruments that produce interesting sounds can be made with common items in a home or with items that can be purchased inexpensively. The Internet is a good source of ideas for creating instruments, but imagination and exploration at home is useful as well. If you prefer to use a premade instrument, there may be some inexpensive ones available in secondhand stores.
Talk is free! Visit friends or go for a walk with them. Museums and art galleries occasionally have free admission days; take advantage of these times. You may be able to find free music performances that you and your friends can attend. Play inexpensive games with your companions, like card games, board games, ball games, or disc golf, which is free in some parks. Check your local dollar store for suitable equipment. You can probably think of many other enjoyable and inexpensive activities that you could do with a friend.
Attending Local Events
Joining a local club or social organization or attending free talks open to the public may be interesting and may provide a chance to make new acquaintances. Free music performances and museum visits can be fun even when you don't have a friend to accompany you. Some institutions have open house days that can be interesting to attend.
Other events that are free to attend can also be fun. Street fairs and performances, festivals, parades, farmers markets that include entertainment, and events such as marathons and bicycle races can be enjoyable to observe even when no purchase is made.
Minimalism, or living with fewer material things, can be useful for a person interested in frugality. Avoiding extremism is important for someone who wants to use their possessions to help them enjoy life, however.
Minimalism Without Extremism
If you have the time, perhaps you can volunteer. Volunteering is a good way to meet people, help others, and sometimes to have fun. Most communities have a wide variety of volunteer jobs available. It's wonderful to participate in an activity that interests you and that helps other people at the same time.
Attending a religious service or philosophical discussion that matches your beliefs or interests could be both enjoyable and fulfilling. Though having fun is generally not the main goal of the activities held in a church, temple, synagogue, or meeting hall, it's sometimes a side effect. The organization may provide opportunities for you to meet people and participate in enjoyable activities as well as volunteer to help others.
Following a Frugal Lifestyle
For some people, a frugal lifestyle may be a necessity. For other people, it may be a choice. As the videos in this article point out, there are advantages to being permanently frugal. Collecting "stuff" doesn't necessarily lead to happiness. Even if money is available, living a frugal lifestyle can be enjoyable and worthwhile. The money that's saved can be used for a special purchase or trip. Whatever the reason for living frugally, it's definitely possible to have fun while saving money.
© 2011 Linda Crampton