We often think of hobbies as expensive, and some are. If you want to raise horses, collect antique cars, take up drag racing, or own your own plane to indulge your passion for flying, you’re going to pay a lot of money. However, there are plenty of hobbies available that are free or inexpensive. With almost any hobby, there are ways to make it less expensive. You can shop the used market, borrow or rent supplies, or trade supplies with other hobbyists. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that, just because you are on a tight budget (or don’t want to spend a lot of money), you can’t have any hobbies. Here are some ideas for inexpensive hobbies:
There are a lot of places that you can get reading material on the cheap if not for free. Use the library, shop used book stores and sales, hit thrift stores and yard sales, and read free eBooks.
Who doesn’t have the fantasy of stumbling across hidden treasure? You can buy a metal detector for under $100 (less if you buy used) and search for those treasures in your spare time. Anything you find can be sold or recycled for money.
Crafting can get expensive, but if you create something unique or useful, you can sell it to recoup your costs. Some ideas:
- Cross sttich
- Jewelry making
- Latch hooking
- Wreath making (inexpensive especially if you use natural, seasonal materials)
- Pottery (Rent a wheel, got to a facility where you can rent time on a wheel, or buy used)
- Paper mache
Look for sources of less expensive supplies (clearance sales, wholesalers, trades, online stores) and try to use leftovers from one project in future projects to cut your costs. When you’re just starting out, buy the cheapest materials you can get so you don’t waste money on your “learner” projects. You can also find instructional books at the library and free/low cost classes at craft stores or community schools.
Whether it’s poetry, fiction, or just journaling, writing is basically free. You don’t have to write to publish if you don’t want to. If you find enough enjoyment in the process, you can do it just for yourself.
These things can keep you busy for a while for little cost:
- Jigsaw puzzles
- Cards (Get a copy of Hoyle’s Rules of Games for endless game ideas.)
- Board games
- Crossword puzzles
- Word search puzzles
- Card games (using a game-specific deck like UNO or Rook)
- Chess, Backgammon, Checkers (often available as a 3-in-1 game set)
- Dice games (Get a copy of Hoyle’s Rules of Games for endless game ideas.)
- Find-the-items-in-the-picture puzzles
- Free logic, word, and picture puzzles online
It doesn’t matter if you rent or buy, this is a hobby that can be adjusted to either situation. Seeds are inexpensive. If you start with a small patch of land if you own, or a simple container garden if you rent, you won’t have to invest much money in fertilizer, soil, or water, either. If you can follow the frugal gardening 10 Commandments, this often thought of expensive hobby can be anything but. Even better, if you’re successful, you’ll get your money back by eating your harvest.
When many people think of photography as a hobby, they think of huge SLR cameras and professional editing software, or even a darkroom. But even small point and shoot digital cameras can give good results and GIMP is a free, open source alternative to PhotoShop. Free online photo sharing and blogging lets you post your creations.
The ultimate inexpensive hobby is saving money. Finding new ways to cut costs and use things more wisely and differently can be a great way to spend time. Couponing often becomes a hobby for frugal people.
All you need is some paper and instructions, which are available online or in books you can get at the library. If you get good at it, you can then use your new found skills to leave an original tip whenever you eat out.
Both exercise and a hobby, walking has health benefits as well as being a way to pass some time. Go to a national park, local state park, nature trail, beach, or hiking trail for a change of scenery. Walking with friends is a great way to spend time together it’s a great wau to explore those places both near and far that you have always wanted to see.
There is something serene and relaxing about watching birds go about their business. All you need to start bird watching as a hobby is an inexpensive pair of binoculars, some paper to write down what you see, and a book (obtained from the library or used book store) to identify your finds. Put up a feeder in your yard to attract more species.
See number 11. The idea is the same and this is one that the kids may find a lot more enjoyable than bird watching if you want to include them in the hobby.
Pick something you like and collect it. Maybe you like rocks, bottle caps, sea glass, small figurines, stuffed animals, trading cards, or even sand. Sure, some collections can get expensive if you chase rare items or antiques, but a simple collection can be amassed for little or no money, and you can have a great time putting it together.
Free Online Games
If you like video games but find them too expensive, try some free online offerings. There are a wide variety to choose from and you can play against people from all over the world.
Beginner versions of most instruments can be found used and group classes are usually inexpensive. With the wealth of resources available online today, you can probably even teach yourself.
Teach yourself a foreign language using books and tapes obtained from the library, or software and online resources. You can also learn a lot by watching the subtitles on DVD’s.
Whatever skills or time you have can be put to use in the service of others. Find something you like to do and then find an organization that can use you.
Buy a used or a kids’ telescope and a star map and you’re all set. Go somewhere where there is little light pollution and see what you can find.
A quiet room and maybe a mat is all you need. Yoga DVD’s are available to rent or borrow from libraries and there are many workouts online.
This has the advantage of cutting your eating out budget, too.
Start a blog for free online and blog about whatever interests you. If you get enough traffic, you can run some ads and make a little money.
Listening to Music
You don’t have to buy CD’s to enjoy music. YouTube and Pandora are great places to discover new artists. Amazon and iTunes usually have a free song of the day and may run deep discounts on albums and other songs. And, there’s always the radio.
If your area has a lot of museums, you can make a hobby out of visiting them often. If they’re government funded, they’re probably free and you can do this hobby in any new city you visit.
We sometimes give TV a bad rap, but for many people it’s a hobby and not a source of wasting time. They love watching their favorite actors and seeing what’s new.
If you have a sense of humor and can draw, start creating cartoons.
You don’t have to go to the theater. An inexpensive Netflix subscription can provide you with more than you’ll ever watch. Or, you can borrow DVD’s form some libraries.
Become an Expert
Many people have a topic that they are passionate about. Maybe it’s a sport, a celebrity or otherwise famous person, a historical period, space travel, gardening, or military history. Whatever passion you have, spend your time learning all you can about it. Before you know it, you’ll be an expert.
A department store kite costs a few dollars and can be fun on windy days.
Computer Programming/Website Design
There are plenty of free tutorials available online and in library books. There are many free and open source tools available, too.
Get three balls and use an online tutorial to teach you how.
Organize Old Family Photos
You probably have tons of old photos lying around. Spend time identifying the people and places and writing the information on the back so you’ll always know why these photos were important.
You can use inexpensive silk flowers instead of real blooms to practice your arrangements. They’re reusable so you can try them in all kinds of different arrangements.
Swimming is inexpensive if you have a community pool or a YMCA nearby. Tennis only requires a racket and some balls available at Wal-Mart. Community courts are usually free. Basketball can be played at home on your own driveway with a goal purchased used or from Wal-Mart, or you can play on community courts. The same goes for soccer and baseball.
Rods are inexpensive, bait can be dug out of your own yard or bought inexpensively at a tackle shop. Even the required licenses only require a nominal fee. You don’t need expensive flies or rods to just drop a line in your local lake.
Art from Scavenged Materials
I recently saw someone make a giant Lite-Brite out of old water bottles and a piece of wood. Another person made a large grasshopper out of old garden hose. If you’re creative and can make things from the discards of others, there’s your hobby.
Group instruction in most forms of dance is relatively inexpensive. Or you can just watch videos and model what you see in your own home. You’ll get your exercise, if nothing else.
Tents and other equipment are relatively inexpensive and widely available used. Camping can allow you to travel and spend time with loved ones for a fraction of a the cost of a “real” vacation.
All you need is a knife and a block of wood to create whatever you imagine.
Online resources abound to help you in your search for your family history. Librarians and other family members can also help you.
While running just to run can be a hobby unto itself, it gets more fun if you enter races. Local 5K’s, marathons, triathlons, and half marathons have reasonable entry fees and you usually get a lot of fun and camaraderie for your money. You can either race to win or just for the fun of entering.
You can either hand-draw your animations in a “flip book” style, or use free, open source computer software like Blender to create computer animations.
You can sing in the privacy of your own home or, if you have talent, sing in a church choir, perform the national anthem at local sporting events, or go to local karaoke nights. But if you feel like your singing could use some improvement so you can actual perform somewhere besides a karaoke bar or your shower, you can always take lessons on singing for beginners.
You can make clothes, bags, or other household items, or sew “artsy” projects. Scavenge fabric from old clothes or clearance racks and buy your machine used or get a hand-me-down from a family member. Even a new, entry-level machine is relatively inexpensive.
You don’t have to build complicated projects. Simple shelves, birdhouses, and other small projects can be a good way to start and can be built from left over materials.
Take nature hikes and identify the plants and flowers that you see using books borrowed from the library.
Coloring books and crayons are cheap and it’s a great stress reliever and something you can do with the kids.
Enough said. In fact, great sex can save you money. Just be careful to take the proper precautions to avoid any “unintended consequences” that would definitely add considerably to your financial outlay.
Join a fantasy sports league and build your teams, track stats, and have fun all season.
If you have the acting bug, visit your local theater and see if you can audition for any roles.
Many cell phones and digital cameras have video capability, or you could pop for an inexpensive video camera. Document your family life, vacations, or pets and edit the movies in a program like iMovie.
You can get the special pens at the craft store and practice using online tutorials or library books and some paper. If you get good, you could make money doing wedding and party invitations for friends and family.
Don’t get the specialized sets ($$$), but instead opt for the big box of bricks and your own imagination.
Go where there is activity and just see what people do. Human behavior is really strange sometimes.
Some people find a job that they love, but which does not pay enough to make a full time living, to be a good hobby. If you hate your day job, do what you like to do on a part time basis.
A board and darts can usually be found cheap at yard sales or thrift stores. Just be sure to set up somewhere where you don’t mind dart holes in the wall.
Simple tricks can be learned from books or online tutorials and most use household items.
Supplies are surprisingly cheap at craft stores and you can make your own shapes and scents.
Practice at home with family, or join Toastmaster International for a small fee to practice with others.
If you can learn to do this well, you can make some side money doing cakes for friends and family.
Some people make a hobby out of just taking classes through their local community college or library system. Usually inexpensive, you can take a class every term in whatever interests you at the time.
Learn Sign Language
You can learn the basics from books and online tutorials.
Take up Parkour
Sometimes hobbies don’t cost a lot of money to do, but can end up costing a lot of money if you aren’t careful when you are doing them. Parkour is a good example of this. Go for it if it’s something you think you would enjoy — just don’t hurt yourself or do anything illegal.
There are some strange hobbies that take off for unknown reasons. Planking is one of these. Again, don’t do anything illegal or get hurt.
Geocaching or Letterboxing
If you already have a GPS capbable device, you can get into geocaching for little money. If not, try letterboxing which is much the same but uses old school supplies like a compass and paper. You’ll defintely get to know some out of the way places even in areas that you thought you knew well.
Please, don’t get killed. Seriously.
If storm chasing isn’t your thing, you can still follow the weather with your own wind gauge, thermometer and barometer. Learn about clouds, storms, and get better at reading changing weather patterns.
If painting with actual paint’s not your thing, you can try graphic design. There are a lot of free software programs available online.
Hobbies are limited by your imagination. For more ideas, visit your local community college or look at some community bulletin boards to see what kinds of activities are being taught or offered. You’ll likely find that many of these offerings are free or low cost and may become your next hobby. Just be sure that you don’t get so involved in the hobby that is ends up being a cause of unemployment — or if you do love it so much, make sure that you take the steps to make your hobby a money earner.
(Photo courtesy of Repoort)