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Frugal Living and Fun: Free or Inexpensive Activities and Hobbies

Linda Crampton is a writer who is interested in frugal living and reducing clutter. Both of these activities are important in her own life.

It's perfectly possible to have fun while saving money.

It's perfectly possible to have fun while saving money.

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 many hobbies can become expensive if fancy equipment or clothing is purchased, the following activities can be performed very cheaply or for no cost at all.

A library is a very enjoyable source of free entertainment. It can provide a great education, too.

A library is a very enjoyable source of free entertainment. It can provide a great education, too.

Reading Books 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.

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 Periodicals for Free or for a Low Cost

Public libraries often have newspapers and magazines that you can read, even without joining the library. 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 may contain crossword or sudoku puzzles to solve as well as information to read. In some cities, the newspapers are published every weekday.

A newspaper that is sold may have more pages of information and more puzzles than a free one. You may be able to afford buying one of these newspapers once a week on a day when the publication is most attractive for you. The only problem with this plan is accessing the solution to the puzzles. They may be published in the next day or next week's newspaper. One way to avoid buying a second newspaper in a week is to check the answers in a library or an online edition of the paper. Fortunately, a newspaper that I buy publishes multiple puzzles in its Sunday edition and the answers to these puzzles in the next Sunday's edition, which I've already planned to purchase.

Reading Free Online Periodicals and Books

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 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's website and their subscriptions from your home. You may or may not be able to print or save pages from the periodicals, however.

You may also be able to access certain books on the library's website. 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. Other interesting resources are as well, including music and videos.

Many sources of free e-books 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 in the countryside or the city is a fun activity that may be free, depending on transport requirements.

Walking in the countryside or the city is a fun activity that may be free, depending on transport requirements.

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 for Fun and Exercise

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 architecture 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 or passes. These are less expensive than cash fares.

A view of Vancouver and Stanley Park in British Columbia from a walking path

A view of Vancouver and Stanley Park in British Columbia from a walking path


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 or a newspaper
  • 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.

Writing can be a very fulfilling activity.

Writing can be a very fulfilling activity.

Online Writing

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 it might be useful to compose your blog entry or article on paper before you get to the library in order 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 often fun to read articles created by other people.

Coloured pencils can be used for drawing, but an inexpensive writing pencil works well, too

Coloured pencils can be used for drawing, but an inexpensive writing pencil works well, too

Drawing, Art, and Sculpture


Drawing is another activity that 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.

Cultivated and wild flowers are beautiful to see on a walk.

Cultivated and wild flowers are beautiful to see on a walk.

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 in containers indoors or on a balcony or patio. Your library and the Internet should be able to give you some good ideas for growing plants without a garden.

Exploring plants in nature can also be very satisfying. Walking through parks and landscaped areas and looking at cultivated plants are enjoyable activities as well. Like a library, a park can be an entertaining place to visit.

Advantages of a Permanently Frugal Lifestyle

Computer Activities

If you are able to access the Internet on a computer or a related device, 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. In addition, some communities provide free Internet access for people who have their own electronic device.

  • 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 and some TV broadcasts
  • 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, social media programs like Facebook and Twitter, and live connections such as FaceTime and Skype.

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 piano and other types of music on a radio can be very enjoyable.

Listening to piano and other types of music on a radio can be very enjoyable.

Listening to a Radio and Creating Music

You don't need a computer to listen to music. Portable radios with basic features are often inexpensive (though an item that some people consider to be inexpensive may not be so for everyone). Basic radios usually cost far less than a television. Even if the desired radio can't be afforded as soon as it's discovered, it may not take long to save the money for it. A prospective buyer should investigate whether the radio runs only on batteries or can be connected to an electrical outlet. At least where I live, batteries can be quite expensive. Wind-up radios are available, but they are generally more expensive than the cheapest types.

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.

Visiting a playground is fun for children, and it's free.

Visiting a playground is fun for children, and it's free.

Meeting Friends

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, museum visits, and visits to other institutions can be fun even when you don't have a friend to accompany you.

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


Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on February 18, 2013:

It sounds like you have a great public library near you, cabmgmnt! All those activities sound like fun, and it's great that they're free too. Thanks for the visit.

Corey from Northfield, MA on February 18, 2013:

These are wonderful suggestions for finding free things to do. I personally love the local library. Not only can I check out books to read for fun but I can also take out dvds to watch, listen to a guest speaker or join an event. My local library usually has a free hands on event weekly. Anything from an apple pie and coffee social to batik printing on tee shirts. It is a fun way to meet people and get out of the house all for free!

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on May 09, 2012:

Thank you very much for the second comment, Victoria! I agree, writing hubs is a great hobby!

Victoria Lynn from Arkansas, USA on May 09, 2012:

I read this again! It had been 9 months, so I guess I needed a refresher. Great ideas! Some of the most enjoyable hobbies are free. Like writing hubs!

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on April 09, 2012:

Thanks for the comment, megni. I agree, it's a good idea for anyone to be frugal, even if they don't have money problems!

megni on April 09, 2012:

A good and useful hub.It takes only a very amount of effort to save money and that's a worthy thing to do, no matter how much money you have. Being frugal is a right way of appreciating life as it is offered to us day by day.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on September 28, 2011:

Thank you for a great comment, JamaGenee! I still love to visit my local library even though I have a computer and Internet access at home. There is such a wide selection of books, magazines and newspapers to read or borrow at libraries. Books and magazines are expensive to buy nowadays!

I agree very much with your statement that the Internet provides "an entire world at your fingertips". There is no reason for a person to be bored when they have access to the Internet! It's a great resource for schools too, especially if they don't have a very good library.

Thanks for the photography suggestion. If someone's budget allows them to buy a cheap digital camera it's a wonderful source of fun and a great way to be creative!

Joanna McKenna from Central Oklahoma on September 27, 2011:

I agree reading is one of the best free hobbies around! I couldn't live without regular access to a public library. In fact, the one in the town I now live in is nowhere near the size of the one I left behind, but I use it a lot more. When I first moved and didn't have internet access, I used its free internet access (my own laptop, not the lib's public computers). Not too keen on the condition of its DVDs, so I haven't borrowed very many.

For those on a fixed income, even basic home internet access is worth every penny. When my kids were little and got bored, I'd point them to the bookshelves because "there's an entire world at your fingertips". The same is true now of the internet. A friend (who *isn't* on a fixed income) but who has a much better computer and faster internet connection than I rarely goes near it but constantly complains she's bored. I even have to look things up for her and then email her the URL. Mind boggling to say the least!

You don't mention photography, but basic digital cameras can be had very cheaply on Craigslist, at yard sales and at *reputable* pawn shops, meaning those who test electronic items before putting them out for sale. Many pawn shops even offer layaway if you find a camera priced above what you can afford to pay on the spot. ;D

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on August 10, 2011:

Thank you, Victoria Lynn. It's good to meet you! My avatar cat is Nevin, one of my three cats. Like you, I enjoy finding ways to save money. I'm looking forward to reading your hubs too!

Victoria Lynn from Arkansas, USA on August 10, 2011:

Vote up and useful! The pic of the cat caught my eye, first, as I love pets. Then your article on frugal living caught my eye. I have written a couple of hubs on saving money, one related to pets. I love finding ways to save money. It's a fun challenge for me. Thanks for the hub. I'll definitely follow you and see what else you have to share!

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on May 31, 2011:

Thank you for the visit and comment, Maren Morgan M-T!

Maren Elizabeth Morgan from Pennsylvania on May 31, 2011:

A few new ideas for me. Thanks!

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on May 15, 2011:

Thank you very much, Denise. I agree - inexpensive activities are often great fun!

Denise Handlon from North Carolina on May 15, 2011:

Alicia-I love this hub. It is the simple things in life that will often bring us the most pleasure. I remember being on a low income budget for a few years after my divorce and before my graduation as a nurse. I was always at the library with my girls as well as the nature center and the music in the park. Sure, we didn't have lots of money, but we sure still had fun! Great job-voted it up.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on February 13, 2011:

Thank you very much for your comment, Esmeowl12. I follow a lot of my suggestions too!

Cindy A Johnson from Sevierville, TN on February 13, 2011:

These are all great ideas. I know, because we do a lot of them already! Thanks for a great hub.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on January 31, 2011:

Hi, Karanda. Thanks for commenting. I agree with you - walking is great for opening the mind to new thoughts and ideas. Ever since childhood I've used walking to help me think of things to write about and to help me solve problems and create plans.

Karen Wilton from Australia on January 31, 2011:

Great ideas for hobbies that don't cost a lot of money Alicia. I love that you've combined the walking and writing. Going for a walk can open your mind to all sorts of ideas.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on January 25, 2011:

Yes, buying food for friends’ visits could be expensive! Depending on the relationship with the friends, it might be possible to entertain them cheaply. Perhaps instead of inviting our friends for lunch or dinner, we could invite them to our home for tea or coffee and a chat. In some cases it could also be appropriate to mutually agree with our friends that when the friends visit, or when we visit the friends, we’ll simply enjoy tea or coffee with no food, or perhaps with a snack instead of a full meal. If the agreement is set up before the visits and if everyone understands that we love visiting our friends but we need to save money, there should be no hurt feelings. Another alternative is to do an activity that doesn’t require buying food, such as going for a walk.

FStevens from London on January 25, 2011:

Meeting friends is a tricky one - I tend to invite people round for dinner when I want to save money yet then I still have to buy them food which adds up. Spending time with other people seems to be the best way to make me spend money!!

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on January 23, 2011:

Thank you very much for your kind comments, epigramman.

epigramman on January 23, 2011:

....well I know all about frugal living but I don't necessarily want to make a hobby out of it - lol lol lol - but the human mind as you know is very adaptable - and you served this purpose extremely well in this most entertaining and enlightening hub. You are an excellent journalist and by the looks of your profile - a true angel to all creatures great and small!!!

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on January 18, 2011:

Thank you for your comment, BKCreative. I love visiting libraries and walking, too. I’m so lucky where I live – I have a public library and a university library near me – but far enough away that I can get a good exercise walk visiting them. A modern city library is such a wonderful resource. My local library has great online resources that I can use from home, as well.

BkCreative from Brooklyn, New York City on January 18, 2011:

Walking yes yes yes. And we must catch up with friends. Finally a dear friend and I are getting together every other Wed. eve for two hours - to work on our beading projects and of course share a healthy meal and talk. So wonderful.

All of your ideas work - I'm on my way shortly to the library to return videos, books and magazines. Everything I want is there - without cluttering up my home or spending a penny.

Nice to meet you too. I'll follow!