Sometimes it seems like rich people have all the fun with all their posh pastimes, like sailing and skiing. It especially feels this way right now, when inflation is butchering bank accounts and hitting lower-income folks — who may already be living paycheck-to-paycheck — the hardest. Sticking to a tight budget while also picking up new hobbies can feel impossibly expensive, but it really doesn’t have to be.
You just need to choose activities that can be done cheaply. Fortunately, you have no shortage of options. Let’s explore some fun things you can do to unwind and enjoy life without spending too much money.
Getting out into nature has tons of proven health benefits, but sometimes it can be tricky to make the time to experience the beautiful outdoors without a specific purpose. That’s where birdwatching comes in. This is a super affordable hobby. To get started, all you need is a pair of binoculars and a field guide.
“Yes, yarn can be expensive if you’re purchasing hand-dyed lots from indie creators, but if you’re just getting started, you can pick up a skein of yarn for just a few bucks at stores like Joann or Michael’s,” said Julie Ramhold, consumer analyst with DealNews.com. “And if you think one skein won’t be enough, you’d be mistaken — there are plenty of patterns that require one skein or less to complete. Check sites like Ravelry, Pinterest or even just perform a Google search for ‘one skein free crochet patterns.'”
You’ll need to purchase a hook too, but Ramhold noted that there are plenty of affordable options out there to help you get started there.
“I recommend picking up a commonly used hook like a G, H or J — or even a small set that has all three so you can experiment,” she said. “If you find that you really enjoy it, then you can branch out and try different yarns and hooks to find what works best for your projects.”
“This is really similar to crochet, but you’ll need to purchase a couple of needles with your yarn in order to get started,” Ramhold said.
“Again you can find yarn for just a few bucks and needles for less than $10 in many cases; it’s just a matter of finding products that work for you. Choose some easy patterns to start and give the craft a try before you go all-in on supplies to make sure you really like it. Once you do, be sure to watch craft stores for frequent sales and stock up when you can.”
“Most of us probably need more exercise and yoga is a great way to strengthen muscles and lessen your stress. It’s also super easy to find videos on YouTube for free to teach yourself how to go about performing different routines,” Ramhold said.
“Yoga with Adriene is a super popular [YouTube] channel that has a huge variety of routines to energize you, help you relax, gain flexibility and more. You’ll probably want to pick up a yoga mat before you dive into trying this out, but you can find them for less than $20 at stores like Target, so it’s a relatively small investment.”
“If you’ve had a knack for writing, or if you just want to try it out, this is one of the cheapest hobbies to pick up,” Ramhold said. “If you have access to the internet, you can absolutely utilize something like Google Docs to write in your browser, and if you prefer to do it by hand, you can pick up a cheap notebook at stores like Target or even Staples and start scribbling away.”
If writing evolves into something you love, you can always pick up books from the library on honing your craft and even invest in software like Scrivener, Ramhold added.
Learning a New Language
“There are a lot of paid programs for learning a new language, but there are also free apps like Duolingo out there,” Ramhold said. “These can be good to get you started, but if you want to take it even further, you can also check YouTube for creators who will lay out their best methods for learning a new language and even point you to free resources to help you gain more skills.”
You can also do it the old-fashioned way and pick up a book on the new language, or watch a TV show or movie in the new language (though you may want to turn on subtitles).
You don’t need to go to wizard school to succeed at magic. All you really need to do is spend a bit of time watching online tutorials or reading a book on magic tricks. Wait to see if you like it before you go buying hats and rabbits. A mere pack of playing cards will help you get started, and you can usually find those at a dollar store.
Origami isn’t just a fascinating art, it’s also a practice with proven health benefits. It helps develop hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills, and hones concentration skills — which is partly why it’s an art therapy go-to. Getting started with origami requires almost no money. All you need is paper, and a book on the art of origami if you’d like to advance in the practice.
With the rise of laptops, tablets and smartphones, we don’t write with our hands much anymore. It’s a bit of a shame, because writing in cursive has been found to be good for brain development. But it’s never too late to develop, hone and elevate this practice with calligraphy. For this old-fashioned art, you’ll just need a calligraphy pen, paper, nibs and ink.
“You may want a telescope for this hobby, but you can also do it without any additional tools,” Ramhold said.
“Really you just need a dark enough place to look up at the sky and actually be able to see things without light pollution from nearby areas. You can also find free guides online that’ll help you to spot constellations and other things in the night sky. If it turns into something you do frequently and really enjoy, then you can definitely pick up a telescope to be able to see even more.”
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