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Free and Inexpensive Fun for Frugal Living
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.
Luckily, there are many free or inexpensive activities that can be very enjoyable and satisfying. While any hobby can become expensive if you buy fancy equipment or clothing, the following activities can be performed very cheaply or for no cost at all.
Books are a uniquely portable magic.— Stephen King
Reading Books and Periodicals for Free
Don’t buy books; borrow from a library instead. If you have a library near your home, you have access to a huge source of free entertainment and education. If the nearest public library is not so easy to visit, borrow as many books as you can to last you between trips. Libraries also have newspapers and magazines that you can read. You can often borrow CDs and DVDs as well.
A nearby college or university library can be a fantastic resource, 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 cheap books that interest you. Libraries occasionally have book sales where they sell older books or books that aren't in great condition for a cheap price.
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 often contain crossword or sudoku puzzles to solve as well as information to read. In some cities the newspapers are published every weekday. You may be able to pick up free magazines in your neighbourhood as well.
Reading Ebooks and Online Periodicals
Computers with Internet access are often available at public libraries. Your library may subscribe to sites that provide current online newspapers from around the world as well as magazines and encyclopedias. These resources can be read for free on the library computers. If you have a computer at home and you belong to the library, you may be able to access the library website and their subscriptions from your home.
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.
There are many sources of free ebooks on the Internet. Some 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 is an easy, fun and free activity. The only equipment you need are things that you probably already have – comfortable shoes, cool clothes for hot weather, warm clothes for cold weather and an umbrella or rain clothes for the rain.
Walking lets you explore places and look at interesting things. It's more than a physical activity. Observing nature, looking at buildings, people-watching and walking to free events can all be fun activities. Walking has mental benefits too. Many people find that it helps them to think and to solve problems. It can also improve creativity.
Brisk walking improves mood and provides many health benefits, including helping people to maintain a healthy weight, boosting the activity of the immune system and reducing the risk of many diseases.
Walking is a very versatile activity. A walk can be slow and relaxed or fast and energetic. It can be a solitary activity (make sure that you walk in safe places if you walk alone) or an activity shared with a friend or a group of friends.
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, fare saver tickets can be purchased. These are less expensive than cash fares.
All you need is paper and a pen and you’re ready to write stories, poems, essays 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 diary or a journal containing observations from your walks. You could also record reviews of books that you have read, make notes describing what you have learned when exploring the Internet or record a description of specific experiences that you are having, such as losing weight.
Some Internet sites let you set up free blogs. Google’s Blogger is one of these sites. 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. If you have a library within easy reach, you may be in luck. Libraries often have computers that you can use for free if you belong to the library. There’s sometimes a time limit for computer use, so compose your blog entry or article on paper before you get to the library to save time. If you want to illustrate your blog posts or your articles, there are a number of Internet sites that supply free photos that you can use. You can socialize on some writing sites, which can add to your enjoyment. It's fun to read articles created by other people.
Drawing, Art and Sculpture
Drawing is another activity which 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 or helpful articles can be read on the Internet. Once you’ve mastered basic drawing 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 become even more satisfying.
You can create art or sculptures from natural materials like pressed leaves and flowers, seeds, fallen branches, logs, driftwood and empty shells found on a beach. If you explore nature, you'll be surprised at how many free art supplies you can find.
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 indoors or on a balcony or patio. Your library and the Internet will give you some ideas.
Exploring plants in nature can also be very satisfying. Walking through parks and looking at cultivated plants are enjoyable activities, too. Like a library, a park can be a pleasurable and entertaining place to visit.
Some Advantages of a Permanently Frugal Lifestyle
If you are able to access the Internet on a computer, 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.
- 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 online tv shows or movies
- 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
- Communicating with friends, relatives and the world using email and programs like Facebook and Twitter
- Listening to music and radio programs from around the world. Many radio stations let you listen to programs on their websites. Programs like iTunes offer Internet radio stations that you can listen to for free.
You can also download freeware or free open source software to your computer as well as use free programs online. Word processors, spreadsheet programs, database programs, budgeting software and art programs are all available.
Listening to a Radio
You don't need a computer to listen to free music. Radios can be bought very cheaply. A radio lets you listen to the latest news and learn about topics that interest you as well as listen to 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.
If you have free time but can't work, perhaps you can volunteer. Volunteering is a good way to meet people, help others and 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.
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. Sometimes there are free music performances which you and your friends can attend. Play inexpensive games with your friends, 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 which would fit in perfectly with a frugal lifestyle.
Following a Minimalist Lifestyle Without Extremism
By sowing frugality we reap liberty, a golden harvest.— Attributed to Agesilaus
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 event or purchase or to help others. Whatever the reason for living frugally, it's definitely possible to have fun while saving money.
© 2011 Linda Crampton