It’s easy to jump into the car and head to the movies if you want something to do this weekend, but it’s mighty expensive when tickets are $9-$10 and gas is $4 a gallon. However, it costs far less if you visit your local library and borrow a movie and watch it at home. It costs far less if you borrow a book or volunteer or do any of the ten hobbies I’ve listed below.
So, this weekend, instead of going for the easier, more expensive, option, try one of these.
Reading is my wife’s favorite hobby and, best of all, it can be one that cost very very little if you have a library nearby (if you prefer to buy books, reading is a very expensive hobby). We were lucky to find a home that is actually right next to the library, a mere three minute walk, so we essentially have a bookshelf of thousands of books, movies, magazines, and newspapers at our disposal. Even if you don’t have one within walking distance, you can easily pick up a month’s worth of books in one trip and then renew them online if your library offers it. Reading is perhaps one of the most frugal hobbies you could have (if you borrow the books!).
Community Center Classes
Our local community center shares the same building as the library and so we often check the schedule for any interesting classes. The courses are often quite reasonably priced but the downside is that many of them occur during the workday (it doubles as a senior center too). For a few dollars a class ($5-20), you can learn all sorts of cool hobbies.
When I was younger, I volunteered at the children’s center of the local hospital. The children’s center was a large room filled with toys and our responsibility was to play games with the children who had been admitted. My friend Raymond and I had a great time playing board games with the kids and learning all about them and their conditions. It was amazing how resilient and fearless they were given their medical conditions, but it was a great way to spend a few hours on the weekend (plus they gave us lunch vouchers!). Consider volunteering to a local organization such as a hospital, soup kitchen, or something of that nature – they will greatly appreciate it (and you can deduct the driving).
Heading over to your local park is a great way to spend a leisurely afternoon enjoying the sights and sounds of the wilderness without spending a lot of cash. If you have some spare change, you could always pick up a pair of cheap binoculars from your local sporting goods store or a thrift shop. If not, you certainly don’t need one to enjoy the birds. Visit the local Department of Natural Resources (DNR), or their website, for your county and see if they have any recommendations.
While you’re at the local DNR, look for a pamphlet or brochure on good hiking trails in your area. You can often hike regular trails with little more than a pair of sneakers and you might want to spring a little extra for sunscreen and bug spray, depending on where you live.
Think of geocaching  like hiking, except the purpose isn’t necessarily to reach a summit or a great view, but to find a little hidden package in the ground. It’s like a walk in the park but with a defined purpose. This is probably one of the more expensive of the hobbies on this list because you’ll need a GPS unit (~$100) but I wanted to bring it up because it sounded so interesting. There are hundreds in my zip code alone… now I just need a GPS unit. 🙂
Golf is expensive. Disc golf … practically free (you’ll need a frisbee though). Disc golf is like golf except you throw a frisbee-like disc and try to get it into a basket or hit a post of some kind. Another huge difference is that you don’t have to spend thousands on clubs and hundreds on green’s fees because discs are inexpensive and the “courses” are often on public parks (PDGA’s course search tool ). Enjoy the outdoors and consider this burgeoning sport! (they have a tour and championships!)
All it takes is a pack of cards, some friends, and you have yourself a card game. Learn classics like Gin, Rummy, Bridge, Hearts, Spades, or even Go Fish. Avoid games like poker, as they can expensive if you’re bad. 🙂
A pair of sneakers and a $20 basketball (and at least one friend, preferably in even numbers) is all you need for a game of pickup basketball. You can usually find a court outside near your local high school and it’s a great workout.
How could I not list blogging as a frugal hobby? It’s like scrapbooking but for all the Internets to see and you can do it absolutely free. There are plenty of services like Google’s Blogger  and WordPress.com  where you can start one up for free. And who knows, maybe you can learn to become a problogger  and earn a little money off it!
(Photo by cuellar )