10 Super Fun, Cheap Hobbies You Should Start Today
I love me some cheap ass entertainment. When I was in college, I spent a lot of time wandering around the mall for entertainment. I bought nothing because I had no money, but sometimes I’d see people I knew, and I always got to see whatever was “in” at the time. This was the early 2000s, so things that were in style were whatever the hell Spencer’s Gifts had gotten new that month and pleather pants for da club and plastic inflatable furniture. I also spent hours upon hours reading for free at Barnes & Noble.
I’m no stranger to killing time on the cheap. And now inflation has diverted much of people’s discretionary income to other avenues, but we still need hobbies to keep us happy and sane. Here are some of my and my husband’s favorite inexpensive hobbies.
#1 Sewing with thrifted fabric
I’ll start you right off with a winner. This is my favorite thing to do besides reading library books. I have been sewing for a very long time, and I recently became interested in sewing doll clothes. I thought it would be a fun and less wasteful way to learn how to sew clothes.
Rather than buying fabric new from Hobby Lobby or JoAnn, I began looking for my doll clothing inspiration at the thrift store. If I see a fabric that sparks an idea or looks like it will work to recreate a doll version of a human-sized outfit that I already own, I’ll pick it up at the thrift store in the form of a shirt or skirt for a fraction of what it would cost if it had been cut from a bolt at the store.
Using secondhand materials to make something new not only diverts potential landfill waste but also saves a ton of money. I have made more doll clothes than human clothes in my own closet, and it all cost very little because most of the fabric used cost a few bucks at the thrift store.
When we lived in the Midwest, Mr. Green and I loved hiking. We haven’t really tried it out here yet. Too many rattlesnakes. Hiking is one of those hobbies that can cost a fortune depending on how you do it. I’m not talking about thru hiking here, which is when you hike a very long trail for several days or months at a time. That hobby can set you back several hundred dollars or more.
The kind of hiking we do is a few miles in one day. I don’t need any special shoes besides my Nikes, and we use backpacks we have at home (or nothing) and wear a hat and carry a water bottle, maybe some snacks if we’re going more than five miles.
Short distance hiking gets you out in fresh air and nature. You have the opportunity to see lots of plants and animals you might not otherwise, especially if you live in an urban or suburban area. And short distance hiking doesn’t have to cost you a damn thing. Depending on where you go, there might be a fee to park a vehicle, but there are lots of places you can walk without paying a cent.
Some parks have very long pedestrian trails. A rural or wooded area you are free to access can give you the same hiking benefits without the fee. On our honeymoon, we even drove into a Canadian town right across the border and hiked on a paved path near a pond for a couple of miles, just to say we’d been to Canada. It was very relaxing, and we saw lots of turtles and waterfowl.
Hiking doesn’t have to be elaborate or expensive, and depending on how long you want to be out, you might spend as many hours on the trail as you would have spent watching a professional sports event for $100 per ticket.
#3 Volunteering at an animal shelter
Volunteering is free, and it’s one of those things people don’t consider when they think of their hobbies. Certainly, depending on how involved you are with the charity, volunteering might be more of a heartache than a hobby. We have all heard sad stories of shelter pets, and that damn Sarah McLachlan song still moves us to tears. You know the one.
Over the long term, volunteering at an animal shelter or other cause close to your heart can be very fulfilling and won’t cost you a thing. You’ll be cleaning cages or socializing with animals or helping an underserved community. An added benefit of this hobby is that it’s an easy way to make friends as an adult. You’ll meet people who share your interests and ideologies. And seeing the same people on a regular basis is the easiest method for making friends.
#4 Membership passes to museums and zoos
Some large employers offer membership discounts for other businesses to their employees. Mr. Green works for a large university system here, and he has access to a few zoo and museum discounts. Even without this employee benefit, many zoos, museums, and aquariums offer member discounts.
Depending on the size of your family and how often you plan to visit an establishment, a membership may be a cheaper form of entertainment than buying tickets per visit. We’ve calculated that with a membership pass for our local zoo, a two-person family could gain free access to the zoo three times a year or more in order for the membership to pay for itself.
I’m the kind of person who has to get my money’s worth from something prepaid. So, whether it’s a weekly dance class or a zoo membership, if I paid for a certain number of experiences, I am going to make sure I fulfill all of them to save the most money.
#5 Scoping out garage sales and estate sales
When my mom visits us, she likes to go to estate sales. As far as I know, this isn’t something she does when she’s hanging out in her hometown on the weekends. She just does it when she travels. Going to garage sales or estate sales aren’t just a way to score on inexpensive household items.
Visiting garage sales or estate sales doesn’t have to cost you anything if you’re careful with your money. Typically, when we go, we find things that have an historical interest to us, or we see something nostalgic that reminds us of fun memories.
You don’t have to spend money to have fun at a garage sale, but if you do, chances are it’ll cost you less than it would have at a store or on Ebay.
I started doing yoga around the same time the pandemic started. I remember going to my yoga studio one day and being met with a locked door. No sign. Students weren’t notified of the closure. It was before all non-essential businesses were required to close, and we were still being told we only needed to be six feet away from everyone, unmasked, so I didn’t think there was any danger in taking a class in person. I guess the yoga studio assumed their students would feel differently and decided not to notify them of the closure.
That ended up saving me a ton of money because I began watching yoga videos on Youtube instead. Yoga is one of those activities that I’d rather not do in public anyway because falling out of difficult balance poses is embarrassing, and no one can hold in their farts terribly well doing yoga either.
Youtube yoga is fucking free! I follow a few channels including Boho Beautiful Yoga, Yoga with Adrienne, and Yoga with Kassandra. The first channel typically offers more intermediate or advanced flows compared to the other two.
Doing yoga at home means you can participate anytime you want, in any clothes you want, for any length of time that you want, and it’s all free. You’ll have the opportunity to advance your practice at your own speed, and it won’t cost anything.
#7 Martial arts
My husband used to train in Japanese swordsmanship called mugai ruy iaido. He did this for probably close to 20 years now. I know he had been doing it for a long time before we met, and we have been together almost seven years. He used to train in iaido (pronounced like ee-eye-doh) at his local dojo twice a week with his sensei.
The cost for this was only $75 per month. That’s less than $10 per class. You will need proper gi, but depending on the popularity of the style of martial arts you choose, you may be able to find this secondhand.
If you have enjoyed martial arts in the past, you’re not too old to take it up again. A sensei can also establish a class within a dojo that primarily trains in a different field. Mr. Green’s dojo was mostly used for aikido. If you know a sensei or are a sensei and would like to look into furthering your training, get in touch with some local dojos for potential schedules and rates.
#8 Indoor archery
Mr. Green is also a skilled archer. In Chicago, the only archery range available to him was outdoors, so he didn’t participate in the winter. He paid $75 per year for this membership. Here in Arizona, there are indoor archery ranges, and the one closest to us costs $50 per year.
Granted, archery isn’t a cheap hobby to start if you buy your own bows and arrows, but unlike with firearms’ ammunition, you aren’t paying each time you engage the weapon. The indoor archery range near us also has bows and arrows available for free to members, so it could essentially cost you less than $5 per month to try this hobby out and see if you like it before spending more on the equipment.
#9 Knot tying
When I asked Mr. Green for guy-type hobbies for this article, he replied, “Guys love knot tying.” Okay, fellas, this one’s for you.
I had to use Google to assist me with this hobby because I know nothing about it, and the first autofill option was “is knot tying a hobby?” Google says it is. Knot tying is becoming the go-to activity for anyone who has tried meditating and failed. It is a hobby synonymous with mindfulness and slow living.
A 1973 New York Times article about knot tying has made its way to the first page of Google. It’s so popular, people are reading the classics.
Knot tying can be as cheap or expensive as you want it. The website Animated Knots advises that rope around ¼” or ½” thick be used so you can examine the knot’s shape. Thicker rope also makes it easy to untie, which helps reduce waste and cost. The fibers you use are up to you, but natural ones that aren’t shiny or slippery are recommended.
#10 Making booze at home
This last recommendation is the most expensive, but it might actually save you a lot of money. Remember when people were into home brewing? Well, now’s the time to get into it again. If you enjoy buying beer and drinking regularly, then making your own beer at home could save half of your average booze budget.
It shouldn’t be any secret, but making food at home is almost always cheaper than buying it premade. The same goes true for booze. The startup costs can range from $50–200, but once you’ve got the equipment needed, you’d only need to purchase new ingredients when you run out.
When you become a home brewer, you’ll be able to throw your own house parties without having to swing by the liquor store to spend an obscene amount on libations. House parties are a great way to spend time with your friends at a discount. Not only is everyone saving money over going to a bar or nightclub, but you’re also in charge of the guest list and can exclude anyone who isn’t vaccinated, ensuring a safer socializing experience for everyone.
By many accounts, making beer at home can even be as rewarding an experience as giving birth.
What are some of your favorite hobbies that don’t cost your firstborn? Let me know!