25 votes

No-money fun ideas?

Spouse and I were on a weekend drive-and-walkaround today, and discussing ways to save money on house renovations. We've kept running into things like, "yeah, two arthritic 50-somethings are really going to DIY sheetrocking a ceiling...nope."

I'm guessing nearly all Tilders have gone through times when they didn't have much, if any, disposable income, or had to squeeze budgets to save for big expenses.

So what do you enjoy doing for entertainment that costs little or nothing beyond what you'd ordinarily spend for basic living expenses?

I know we used to do things like gathering people for potluck, cheap jug wine, and chatter, but we're still building a circle of friends and acquaintances, and don't have space for entertaining yet! Walks in the woods, reading, volunteering, and watching movies, are pretty much givens, but happy to hear your thoughts.

28 comments

  1. MimicSquid
    Link
    Often museums will have a free admission day each month, I've seen a lot of cool stuff for free that way.

    Often museums will have a free admission day each month, I've seen a lot of cool stuff for free that way.

    19 votes
  2. [2]
    ibis
    (edited )
    Link
    Instead of eating out, get takeaway fish and chips or make a picnic and find a nice park or beach to eat and drink at. It works well with a group too since you don't have entertaining space. I...

    Instead of eating out, get takeaway fish and chips or make a picnic and find a nice park or beach to eat and drink at.

    It works well with a group too since you don't have entertaining space.

    I think it's technically illegal to drink in public here, but I've never heard of the cops doing anything about having a few low key drinks at a picnic.

    15 votes
    1. teaearlgraycold
      Link Parent
      That's one of those laws that's only there to stop someone if there's a complaint.

      That's one of those laws that's only there to stop someone if there's a complaint.

      4 votes
  3. [5]
    joplin
    Link
    There are approximately a billiondy arts and crafts you can do for little to no money at home. (Most have some small start-up cost, but can be free after that.) Here are some I've tried: Loom...

    There are approximately a billiondy arts and crafts you can do for little to no money at home. (Most have some small start-up cost, but can be free after that.) Here are some I've tried:

    Loom Knitting
    My spouse asked for some loom knitting supplies for Christmas, and when she got them she needed some help learning how to use it. So I watched some YouTube videos with her and ended up learning it myself. I'm now 1/3rd of the way through knitting myself a scarf! Looms can be had for less than $20. You could probably find some for pennies at a local yard sale, honestly. Yarn varies from a few dollars per skien to dozens of dollars. My spouse joined a Facebook group about it, and someone posted that one of the dollar stores was having a sale on yarn, and they picked up a bunch for very little money. But knitting your own scarves, sweaters, hats, and gloves can save you some money, too!

    Photography
    At first, this might seem an odd choice since lenses can cost thousands of dollars. However, you can get a cheap Canon Rebel off of eBay for around $75-100. It comes with a zoom lens that covers the most common range of shots a beginner is likely to take. This is a great learning camera. I also recommend a copy of Understanding Exposure by Brian Peterson. You might be able to find it at your local library. With something like this, you could even start doing some basic astrophotography if you're interested.

    If you already have a smart phone, you can start learning photography for free with your phone's camera app. Check out the Internet for things like how to set the focus and white balance, and how to touch up your images right from your phone. (And also, importantly, how to properly frame and compose images.)

    Music
    You can, of course, listen to the radio and Internet for free. But making music can be free or cheap, too. My first piano was one that a local church was going to throw away. I think my mother had to pay the movers $25-50 to get it to our house, but other than that it was free. And there are tons of videos on the Internet about how to play. My spouse bought a brand new, cheap, Chinese cello for $150 on eBay. You could probably find a used practice one for half that. She also got me a ukulele for my birthday last year. They can be had new for $20-100. You can probably find them used for less. Some libraries will rent musical instruments for free, even!

    Oh, and there's lots of free live music around, too. As mentioned elsewhere, open mic nights at café's or bars. But there's also often classical concerts at churches (because they have pipe organs) or at schools. And don't be afraid to go see a play at your local high school. It might not be broadway, but it supports the community and is entertaining.

    Education
    When we lived in Chicago many years ago, we'd go to Fermi Lab to hear science lectures about all kinds of topics. They ran about once a month and were presented by scientists in the field. Freeman Dyson spoke at one of them. There were talks about genetics, particle physics, astronomy, etc. I believe they were all free. They do something similar at Cal Tech in Pasadena, CA. If you live near any sort of well known University or national lab, they probably do something similar.

    Many planetariums have star parties where people bring their telescopes and you get to look at the stars. (You don't need to bring a telescope yourself. They are happy to share!) Often there's a local scientist in the group that can point out interesting things in the sky and answer questions you may have.

    Volunteer
    You can always volunteer your time for Meals on Wheels, reading to kids at the library, or doing anything else you find joy in in your neighborhood.

    9 votes
    1. [2]
      joplin
      Link Parent
      A few other things that popped into my head: Baking and Cooking You have to spend money on food anyway. Why not try to make something new you always wanted to eat? Look up a recipe and make it...

      A few other things that popped into my head:

      Baking and Cooking
      You have to spend money on food anyway. Why not try to make something new you always wanted to eat? Look up a recipe and make it yourself. It's probably cheaper than ordering it at a restaurant. And often you can make a big batch of it and have leftovers for days. Bake a favorite dessert, or learn to make ice cream. Check out what's fresh at the local farmer's market and look up recipes to make with those ingredients.

      Filmmaking
      That camera on your cell phone can also be used for filmmaking. You don't need to make the next blockbuster or rom-com, but perhaps there's an interesting documentary inside you waiting to get out. Help uncover some small but important injustice, or show the world some hidden beauty.

      Sports & Health
      Walk around a nearby park, or hike a nearby trail or nature preserve. Ride your bike instead of driving when possible. Go swimming or rowing in a nearby lake or ocean.

      Gardening
      I think you said you're in an apartment, but there may be a community garden nearby. If so, get out there and plant something! You can use it in that meal you're going to make when cooking above. ;-)

      Be an usher or ticket taker
      I had an aunt who loved theater and wanted to be involved in it, but didn't want to act. She wasn't really fit for building sets and props, so she ended up being an usher. She got to show people to their seats, and then got to watch plays for free. It was volunteer work, but the reward was seeing the production.

      10 votes
      1. patience_limited
        Link Parent
        Let me mention that we're living in the northern Midwest of the U.S., and it's more or less winter here. Part of the reason we're struggling for cheap fun is that it's either icy or mucky out....

        Let me mention that we're living in the northern Midwest of the U.S., and it's more or less winter here. Part of the reason we're struggling for cheap fun is that it's either icy or mucky out. Many free community activities that would be available during the tourist months simply aren't happening right now. Fresh fruits and vegetables are less available and more expensive during these months than we'd hoped.

        We're cooking quite a lot, and working hard enough at the gym to burn it off is becoming a challenge as well!

        Once spring hits, we will be very involved in building and planting our own garden.

        2 votes
    2. patience_limited
      Link Parent
      Loom knitting looks interesting; I've got some old needle knitting supplies that could be applied. Photography... The spouse has fancy kit, and I used to enjoy tinkering with it. It's never stuck...

      Loom knitting looks interesting; I've got some old needle knitting supplies that could be applied.

      Photography... The spouse has fancy kit, and I used to enjoy tinkering with it. It's never stuck me as a lightweight, spur-of-the-moment proposition to use it, though. The best photography days during winter here are also usually under conditions that are not healthy for fragile electromechanical devices unless handled with care. I'm always afraid I'm going to ruin the most expensive thing we own short of a house or car.

      My phone, a Pixel 3 XL, is a terrific point-and-shoot that I'm carrying anyway. I've already conceded some privacy to Google simply through owning it, so I might as well get the benefits. Spouse has a subscription to Adobe Creative Suite through work, so I suppose that definitely counts as no-money fun. I'll share some examples of the weekend's effort in ~creative shortly.

      Education - we're not near major educational institutions, and winter isn't the season for the bigger traveling events. We've got quite a few low-cost community education classes booked for early spring.

      Volunteer - already putting in time on a couple of things, but we're still looking for activities at times where we can both be available. We're down to a single car, both for frugality and climate conservation reasons.

      3 votes
    3. Keegan
      Link Parent
      A friend of mine in that area visited Fermi Lab recently. It's still a thing and he had a great time with his family.

      When we lived in Chicago many years ago, we'd go to Fermi Lab to hear science lectures about all kinds of topics. They ran about once a month and were presented by scientists in the field.

      A friend of mine in that area visited Fermi Lab recently. It's still a thing and he had a great time with his family.

      2 votes
  4. [7]
    Keegan
    Link
    See what events your local library has! Mine has several movie nights a month and game nights. Either free admission or like a dollar. Very cheap for a few hours of quality time.

    See what events your local library has! Mine has several movie nights a month and game nights. Either free admission or like a dollar. Very cheap for a few hours of quality time.

    12 votes
    1. [5]
      joplin
      Link Parent
      Related to this, check out the Libby app. If you have a library card, you can use this app to read library books on your phone or tablet for free. (Warning, though, the discovery mechanism in the...

      Related to this, check out the Libby app. If you have a library card, you can use this app to read library books on your phone or tablet for free. (Warning, though, the discovery mechanism in the app is terrible, so best if you already know what you want to read.)

      Likewise, Kanopy allows you to stream movies for free using your library card. They tend towards artsy and educational and are probably a year behind paid streaming services. But it's great for catching that art flick you missed at the local theater.

      Also, if you have any computer skills you want to learn, Linda.com allows you to watch their classes for free.

      6 votes
      1. UniquelyGeneric
        Link Parent
        I second Kanopy as it has a wide selection of interesting movies. You won't find many blockbusters in there, but that's kind of the point. Once they added in the Criterion Collection it became the...

        I second Kanopy as it has a wide selection of interesting movies. You won't find many blockbusters in there, but that's kind of the point. Once they added in the Criterion Collection it became the reason I got a library card. It's a shame the NYPL has stopped allowing subscriptions to Kanopy due to the cost.

        3 votes
      2. [2]
        moocow1452
        Link Parent
        May also want to look into Hoopla for multimedia stuff. It can be used on comics, movies, books, audiobooks, tv and music. It's great for catching up with graphic novels IMO since nothing else...

        May also want to look into Hoopla for multimedia stuff. It can be used on comics, movies, books, audiobooks, tv and music. It's great for catching up with graphic novels IMO since nothing else really covers that niche from the Library services

        2 votes
        1. joplin
          Link Parent
          Very cool! Thanks for the link!

          Very cool! Thanks for the link!

          1 vote
      3. Jedi
        Link Parent
        Libby is great, but unfortunately it looks like my library dropped support for it—or the other way around.

        Libby is great, but unfortunately it looks like my library dropped support for it—or the other way around.

        2 votes
    2. patience_limited
      Link Parent
      Thanks! We've been checking the schedule and there are a few movie events we're thinking about.

      Thanks! We've been checking the schedule and there are a few movie events we're thinking about.

      4 votes
  5. [3]
    jcdl
    Link
    A deck of cards can go a long way!

    A deck of cards can go a long way!

    11 votes
    1. tomf
      Link Parent
      ... and if you call up your local casino, they'll give you as many decks of cards as you're willing to take! I asked for a couple for a crib club I was starting, and they gave me about 128 decks...

      ... and if you call up your local casino, they'll give you as many decks of cards as you're willing to take! I asked for a couple for a crib club I was starting, and they gave me about 128 decks or so.

      Bonus: if you have two decks that look identical, hide cards around the house in order, then amaze your friends with cheap card tricks that end with 'go look behind the painting!' Even better, load the entire deck with all of one card and blow their minds... once.

      4 votes
    2. patience_limited
      Link Parent
      I'm back in euchre country. I have it on good advice, though, that when playing euchre my inner demonic nature reveals itself, and I shouldn't do this. There's also clobyosh, which I played a fair...

      I'm back in euchre country. I have it on good advice, though, that when playing euchre my inner demonic nature reveals itself, and I shouldn't do this.

      There's also clobyosh, which I played a fair amount in college. It's loads of fun for two people who didn't hate each other before the game. House rules were, you couldn't throw anything bigger than a toaster.

      2 votes
  6. [2]
    fredland
    Link
    Disc Golf! It's outdoors. It's fun. It's low barrier to entry. Disc set is around $30 and most courses are free to play. Search on Maps and go throw!

    Disc Golf!
    It's outdoors.
    It's fun.
    It's low barrier to entry.
    Disc set is around $30 and most courses are free to play.
    Search on Maps and go throw!

    5 votes
    1. patience_limited
      Link Parent
      Lovely idea for April or later, thank you!

      Lovely idea for April or later, thank you!

      2 votes
  7. tomf
    Link
    Geocaching is pretty fun. You can usually get away with using your phone to find the rough area for the caches. Years ago when I was somewhat into this, I was using a Garmin GPS. We had to spend...

    Geocaching is pretty fun. You can usually get away with using your phone to find the rough area for the caches. Years ago when I was somewhat into this, I was using a Garmin GPS. We had to spend more time looking around than the folks with a good GPS, but it was so much fun.

    If you don't have a dog, you can go through the process to take out local dogs from the SPCA for a good walk. They have a screening / training process, but it isn't much.

    5 votes
  8. [2]
    Wulfsta
    Link
    This isn't no-money, rather low money, but you can look at local cafes, coffee shops, bars, and other places that host shows for local bands or open mic nights and head there for a few hours. It's...

    This isn't no-money, rather low money, but you can look at local cafes, coffee shops, bars, and other places that host shows for local bands or open mic nights and head there for a few hours. It's really fun to check out what the local artistic scene is like, and you meet tons of extraordinary people that way. I would recommend going and watching an open mic at a coffee shop if there are any around you - usually it will cost you a coffee or two for a table, but the environment tends to be relaxed and accepting of whatever is presented. If there's an actual show scheduled for the place you might expect a few dollar cover charge, but that's usually it.

    4 votes
    1. patience_limited
      Link Parent
      I'd love to think of coffee shops as low money, but it's remarkable how quickly the cafes with entertainment will help two people burn $20+ USD on a couple of cups of barely fancy coffee, basic...

      I'd love to think of coffee shops as low money, but it's remarkable how quickly the cafes with entertainment will help two people burn $20+ USD on a couple of cups of barely fancy coffee, basic baked goods, and a humane tip for servers and performers.

      Both the spouse and I generally aren't fans of loud places with live music (he's a bit deaf, and I'm just twitchy about off-key sounds), but I'm sure this will be of help to others!

      5 votes
  9. [3]
    skybrian
    Link
    It sounds like you're talking about ways to get out of the house, but if you're staying home, there is most of the Internet :-) Also, video games can be pretty cheap on a per-hour basis if you...

    It sounds like you're talking about ways to get out of the house, but if you're staying home, there is most of the Internet :-) Also, video games can be pretty cheap on a per-hour basis if you find one you like. If you're looking for a cheap hobby, learning to play a melodica is quite fun and they're inexpensive.

    3 votes
    1. emdash
      Link Parent
      As someone who's used a lot of internet, I can definitely say for the most part it's overrated.

      As someone who's used a lot of internet, I can definitely say for the most part it's overrated.

      8 votes
    2. patience_limited
      Link Parent
      There's a cheap arcade in town that's on my list of things to try, at about $8 per person for unlimited play. They've got a great selection of vintage games, and I expect it'll be a good place for...

      There's a cheap arcade in town that's on my list of things to try, at about $8 per person for unlimited play. They've got a great selection of vintage games, and I expect it'll be a good place for out-of-the-house time.

      We're both struggling a bit because our respective hobbies are either three-season outdoors, or require the workspace we haven't finished for move-in yet. I'd love it if I could pick up guitar again, but my hands aren't in good shape for it, we're in an apartment with thin walls, and I'd have to steal my guitar back from my brother.

      2 votes
  10. [2]
    Akir
    Link
    This is one of those things that I have always found myself asking and never getting a satisfying response. I think it's because you build up some kind of expectations that may not match the...

    This is one of those things that I have always found myself asking and never getting a satisfying response. I think it's because you build up some kind of expectations that may not match the experience.

    With that being said, my advice is to simply look for things you don't usually do and go out and do it. Just think of it as a lightweight adventure. At worst, you wasted a day, but at best you will have a lovely story and maybe even a new favorite thing.

    2 votes
    1. patience_limited
      Link Parent
      Well, this weekend, we said "F___ it" and headed into the miserable sleet, rain, and fog on what would otherwise have been a day of sitting indoors. It turned out to be an awesome day, and the...

      Well, this weekend, we said "F___ it" and headed into the miserable sleet, rain, and fog on what would otherwise have been a day of sitting indoors. It turned out to be an awesome day, and the photographic results are now going up in ~creative.

      4 votes