February 15, 2022
There’s a common misconception out there that having fun has to be expensive. That anything enjoyable comes with an associated price-tag.
Or worse, the more expensive an activity is, the better it must be!
But this is our mind playing tricks on us. We’re always drawn to things which seem out of reach. They must be better, more enjoyable, more meaningful. Intuitively, we know this probably isn’t the case.
A day where we spend $1,000 is not 100 times more enjoyable than when we spend $10. The enjoyment and meaning we derive from something depends on what we’re doing (and who with), not how much it costs.
In that spirit, I created a list of 50 ways we can have a good time without lighting our money on fire. Depending on our personality type, we’ll be more attracted to some than others.
So it’s up to you to choose which options you like best. I’d love it if you can also share your own favourites in the comments for the benefit of your fellow readers.
Our leisure time activities will naturally sit somewhere on a scale. From expensive options like hotel stays, shopping sprees and visiting the hot new high-priced-tiny-portioned restaurant that just opened.
To the other end where your leisure time actually costs very little or even earns you money doing things you enjoy like walking people’s dogs, building or making things, art and photography, writing, growing plants, on and on.
You know, the stuff where getting paid feels like a bonus. If you don’t have any activities like that in your life, it’s worth thinking about and experimenting in this area.
The idea here is not that you have to do these activities and nothing else. It’s simply to show how many ways we can spend our time which don’t cost a lot of money. Alright, let’s get into it!
We all love food and eating. Try making something you’ve never cooked before. Maybe replicating your favourite restaurant dish, or baking something delicious.
Most of us probably don’t spend enough time outside, even though we know we should! Head out for a stroll, and take time to notice everything around you. Or crank it up a notch and make it a powerwalk!
If the weather isn’t walk-friendly, get comfy inside and read a book. If you’re like me, you’ve probably got a list of books you’ve been meaning to read but haven’t yet. Take advantage of ‘indoor weather’ and make the most of it. If you need ideas, check out my recommended books here under the Books tab.
There’s fewer things more enjoyable than catching up with a friend, sharing a laugh, and chatting about things you’re interested in. Grabbing a coffee, beer, or a bite to eat is a high-value, relatively low-cost activity.
It’s easy to make mundane tasks more enjoyable these days. Wash the dishes, sweep the floor, or just kick back while you’re entertained or enlightened by one of your favourite podcasts (ahem, FIRE & Chill perhaps?) 😉
Possibly the single best use of spare time for our physical and mental health is doings some strenuous activity which challenges our body. Whether it’s lifting weights, yoga or any countless variation of exercise. Boost your mood while keeping your cash.
For couples, simply spending time talking with each other is a valuable and enjoyable use of time in itself. Ask them their thoughts on certain topics, and plan things you’d like to do together in the future. Whether it’s a date next week, a trip later in the year, or big-picture stuff like where you’d like to be in 5 or 10 years.
Invite some friends over and cook them a lovely dinner while you enjoy great conversation and all-round good times. And if each person brings a little something, there’ll be more than enough food, nibbles and drinks to go around without it breaking the bank for anyone.
Whether you’re parent to a human or an animal, spending quality time playing and enjoying each other’s company is a beautiful way to spend your time. In fact, this is probably one of the highest satisfaction activities you can do and it doesn’t have to cost a cent.
Regardless of the music you’re into, many of us like to drift away as we listen to some of our favourite tunes. You can also combine this one with other stuff on the list, like 2) walking, 6) working out, 27) decluttering for extra productivity and mood-enhancement.
If you have friends and loved ones that live within an hour of you, organise to pop in for an afternoon and see how they’re doing. Older family members will especially appreciate this. If you’re family lives elsewhere, maybe pick up the phone and do the same!
If you have farms within driving distance, some will let people come and pick fruit for free or very little cost (google it). Not only will this be a fun and novel activity, it’s a great excuse to spend a few extra hours outdoors and then gorge yourself on fresh fruit.
Bust out the classic board games and dust off the old card pack that may be hiding in your house somewhere. While this may not sound exciting at first, when you’re playing with others it always ends up being more fun than you thought. Well, unless someone is a sore loser (guilty!).
These days you can pull up your favourite comedians on YouTube and check out their best material for free. You might also like to binge an epic series or re-watch your favourite movie. Or maybe you prefer sports or documentaries. Either way, we’re literally drowning in content these days.
Even better than the above is actually playing some sport yourself. Whether it’s kicking a ball around on the oval or shooting hoops at the local court, plenty of healthy fun can be had with just a ball/bat/racket/take your pick.
Now, shopping isn’t usually a recommendation of mine. But you could actually look for free or undervalued items on Gumtree or Facebook groups. People often give away decent stuff if they’re moving house or simply can’t be bothered selling it. Things you can either flip to make cash, or trade-in your own stuff for.
One of the best things about Australia is most of us live reasonably close to amazing beaches. Every time I go, I’m glad I did. Head out for a swim, or just walk along the shoreline and breathe in the fresh air, listen to the waves. Or just sit and stare in amazement at the ocean’s majestic movements (as many do).
Pack up a nice spread of snacks and easy-to-make food, take a blanket and some drinks, and set up a pretty picnic at your destination of choice. My choice would be in a lovely park with big shady trees. Wherever you do it, it’s a fun activity because you’re turning lunch into a special occasion.
Mediation is one of those things that, to many people, can seem boring or intimidating. But sitting still, focusing on our breath, and observing our thoughts is a very centering and calming experience. It will help you think more clearly and elevate your mood for the rest of the day.
Almost nobody spends enough time appreciating nature, myself included. Imagine a world of just pavement, buildings, and man-made structures. How disgusting! So, go bushwalking, birdwatching, and find any other number of ways to truly relish each bit of nature all around you. National/Regional Parks are especially great.
Compiling your thoughts and jotting them down is a therapeutic exercise in itself. It helps you flesh out what you’re feeling, unpack ideas, and uncover realisations you wouldn’t have had otherwise. You can do this via private journaling or starting your own blog.
Browse over your spending, see if you can nail down any better deals on your insurances, mortgage, phone, internet, etc. Nothing better than getting the same thing for a lower price! Alternatively, brainstorm ways you can increase your income this year, through a new job, or other strategies.
We’ve all got our favourite websites and content creators. It’s great to go back and re-read some articles you remember enjoying, or videos you found engaging. You often get more out of it the second time round as you notice different things. Two of my favourite writers are Mark Manson and Morgan Housel.
Growing something from a seed or a small plant into a larger productive tree is a rewarding activity. Getting your hands a little dirty is also a great way to connect to the Earth and life itself. Doubly satisfying if you’re growing your own food to eat. It also teaches patience!
If you’re a gamer, or used to be, enjoy some time immersed in your favourite game, re-visiting an old classic, or finding something completely new (and free) to play online. There’s no shortage of choice, so everyone could find something fun they like.
Granted, you can’t do this one any time you like. But stopping for a moment to notice these things is a simple way to bring more wonder into your day. As you gaze, think about how incomprehensibly tiny and unimportant you are and how enormous the universe is. I’ve heard it’s pretty big.
Now, this may not sound fun at first. But like many rewarding activities, the enjoyment comes afterwards. In this case, a clean and decluttered home which brings more peace and ease to your living space. You’ll even find things to sell or give away as an added bonus, so you may even make some cash out of it!
Many of us love catching up on rest, especially with a draining full-time work schedule. Even if you don’t actually sleep, laying down and shutting your eyes for a while is a good way to reset and calm your mind. When you get up you’ll feel re-focused and ready for the rest of the day.
Tons of interesting and varied things to check out at places like these. All open to the public at no or very little cost. Especially if you have kids (and even if you don’t), you’ll find hours of engaging stuff to see and do.
Just about anything you can imagine is being taught by someone online these days completely for free. Whether it’s lengthy how-to guides on websites and blogs, or detailed instructional YouTube videos, learning is an excellent way to spend your spare time.
See what’s on in your local area. The local council usually have upcoming community events listed on their website. It might be guided walks of the bush/city/attractions, heritage tours, tree planting days, food/music festivals, guest speakers at the library, and various kids activities.
Bring back memories by browsing through some old happy snaps. Re-live your favourite holiday or other good times in detail. Looking through the photos, it’ll all flood back to you, even things you completely forgot about. This basically always brings a smile to your face!
See if you can capture some cool things nearby in a new light. Local birds nestled in a tree. A tiny lizard on the rocks in your garden. The unusual shape of the clouds or an interesting streetscape. Find ways to look at your surroundings from a different angle. Hone in on the details. You’ll probably notice more than you expect.
Take a moment, stop, and decompress. Maybe even pour yourself a drink! In a moment of relaxation and non-thought, your mind will begin to wander and come up with random ideas and creative thoughts which may help you in what you’re working on, whether it’s goal-related or other pursuits. It’s like fresh air for the mind.
One of the most rewarding things you can do, period. Find a way to give back in a way that suits you. Whether it’s a beach or park cleanup, planting trees, spending time with the elderly, helping at a Food Bank, and so on. If you can’t donate time or money right now, at least make a short-list of causes you’d like to support later when you’re able to.
Delve into some book-style crossword puzzles, classic jigsaw puzzle or any variation of online puzzles and word-games. Once you give the brain a challenge, it’s actually hard to stop – your brain wants to finish it! Memory games are a great activity too.
Drive down the coast, walk through the city, or just head to a new area stopping at the places you’ve never been before. Most of us spend our time in the same handful of places and haven’t seen many parts of the city/state we live in. Pick somewhere new and go check it out!
Make your spare time profitable by creating your own side gig doing something you like. Landscaping, making fancy cakes, woodworking, walking dogs, fixing cars, etc. Flesh out a small business idea you’ve had for a while. See if it’s workable and how you can fit it into your schedule.
For some reason, a barbeque seems to feel like a special event, almost a mini-celebration. I guess it’s like a dinner party in a way. Crank up the BBQ at home, crack open a cold drink, or head to a local park/beach to use one there.
Go to your nearest coffee shop and pay for someone’s coffee or lunch. Buy or make something thoughtful to give to a loved one. Think of who you can give a genuine and unexpected compliment. They’ll be pleasantly surprised at the kindness and you’ll feel great about it too.
If it’s been a while since you spoke, call an old friend or send them a message. See how they’ve been and find out what’s happening in their life . Maybe you even arrange to meet in person and catch up properly. Either way, you’ll enjoy the nostalgia and be happy you made the effort.
Learn more about the companies inside the funds you own. If you own an Aussie index fund like VAS for example, you own every single one of the largest 300 businesses listed in Australia. Scour a list like this, google some of the companies and read about what they do. It’s an interesting exercise.
Shuffle furniture around and find new layouts that feel more spacious. Find a couple of nice decorative pillows and rugs second-hand, a nice picture and some indoor plants. The house will feel beautiful, new, and it won’t cost much at all.
Pack up the car and pick a great camping spot for the weekend. Go hiking, explore the surrounds, maybe even do a little fishing. Trade in the noise of traffic for the sound of bird calls, and swap the smell of exhaust fumes for fresh forest scents. Kids will love this one too.
You might be surprised to learn there are often free exercise classes being offered nearby, as well as running groups and walking clubs. If you could do with more socialising, this is a great way to mix exercise with meeting new people and enjoying a shared interest.
Spend time designing your future life. Where would you like to be in 3, 5, 10 years? What would you like to be doing? And most importantly, how are you going to make it happen? Strategise how you can reach your goals faster or bring the benefits forward in some way.
Sometimes it’s nice to wander around and people-watch. What are people buying? What are they getting excited about? Do they look happy, sad, or indifferent? Why is that couple arguing? Why is that shop so busy? It all becomes pretty amusing when you stand back and just observe. Besides, you can also enjoy the free air-con if it’s a really hot day!
Have you ever wanted to know more about a certain country, a time in history, how our brains work? How many times have you thought, “I must look that up”, and then didn’t? Now’s your chance. Let your mind wander and find the answers to those questions and anything else you want to know.
Up your qualifications with a professionalised online course on a topic of your choice. Many are relatively affordable and can be done from anywhere. You might enjoy the content so much you end up following a new career path which changes your life trajectory altogether.
Take a moment to think about everything you can be grateful for. Write it down. In how many ways could things actually be worse? If you live in Australia and you’re reading this, probably a lot! Close your eyes and actively feel thankful for all the little things that are good about your life, no matter how small. Do this for a few minutes and you’ll feel amazing afterwards.
We can do any number of these activities instead of other boredom-curing nonsense like scrolling mindlessly on our phones and buying shit we don’t need. Please let me know if you have a few ideas I can add to this list.
Again, the point isn’t to do these things because they don’t cost much. It’s about recognising the opportunities we have to enjoy our free time, doing healthy, engaging, and meaningful things without lighting our money on fire.
To outsiders, Financial independence in 10 years looks like some type of sneaky witchcraft. But once you wipe the consumer-fog from your eyes, you see the magic in questioning the revolving door of bullshit spewing forth from the marketing machines of the world.
And once we build that particular superpower, we can build a satisfying life which happens to not consume all of our money, making it easy to save, invest, and reach that glorious state of freedom faster than most people can imagine.
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