13 Hobbies That Are Both Cheap and Fun

These activities are only as expensive as you make them

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Image by Evan Polenghi © The Balance 2019

Whether you're trying to save money or just trying to get out of the same old rut, it can be fun to find new and interesting ways to enjoy your downtime. The first step to getting out of the same boring routine is exploring all of the options available. The process of trying out some hobbies you might not otherwise have considered can be an enjoyable experience by itself.

Say goodbye to watching TV like a zombie day in and day out, and say hello to having more fun, creativity, and wellness in your life. Consider 13 ideas to help get you started.

01
Hiking, Walking, or Biking

You don’t need to go to a gym to remain active. Instead, take a walk around your neighborhood or apartment complex. Seek out local trails that are for beginners and reconnect with nature.

If walking isn’t your speed, buy a cheap bike (new or used) for less than $100 and bike around your city. Better yet, if you’re in a major city, rent a bike for a day or two and see if it’s worth investing in the hobby.

Hiking and walking require only decent shoes—which you probably already have—and comfortable clothes. Having a backpack and water bottle is useful for hiking, but they're not essential if you’re doing a mile loop or something similar.

This is a great activity for the family, for a couple, or even for friends. Going for a late-night bike ride or walk around town and then having a bonfire is a great way to end a night.

02
Reading

Reading is a super cheap hobby that has a lot of benefits. It forces you to focus on something meaningful, can serve as an escape, and can spark creativity or inspiration. If you’re reading nonfiction, you probably will learn something new.

If you’re not the page-flipping type, try audiobooks. They’re like podcasts and you can take them anywhere and listen to them on a walk.

Instead of buying books, try borrowing them from the library. Many libraries continue to expand their digital selections, so the chance of being able to borrow an audiobook or ebook is greater than ever. You also can find many websites that offer free ebooks, though they tend to be older.

03
Writing

You write and write and write all throughout school and college, and when you graduate, it’s the last thing you want to do. Unless your job involves writing reports, you probably don’t think of it as a hobby.

Keeping a journal can be good for the soul, though. If you find it hard to vent to people, or if it’s difficult for you to work through things out loud, writing down your thoughts can help you make sense of it.

Beyond that, writing poetry, a short story, or even a novel can be an amazing creative journey to undertake. All it takes is a pen and paper, or software like Microsoft Word or Google Docs.

Do you have a specific message you want to spread to the world? Blogging can be a great way to get it out there, and many free blogging sites are available on the internet.

04
Cooking and Baking

Spending time in the kitchen can make some people miserable, but others thrive when they’re experimenting with different ingredients to make the perfect dish.

The best part about cooking or baking is that so many recipes are available online you don’t need a cookbook at all. You can choose to follow recipes or adapt ones to make them your own. The price is whatever you pay for the ingredients. If gardening is a hobby you enjoy, you can source your own ingredients.

05
Playing Games

Some board games might seem expensive up front, but the cost of games isn’t that bad when you think about the use you get out of them.

For example, if you buy a board game for $30 and play it with your friends five times, that’s $6 of entertainment for one night—and the cost keeps going down the more you play it. Most board games are timeless, so it’s just a matter of finding one everyone can enjoy.

Alternatively, many classic board games have online versions available free or for very little money that allows ​you to play with friends or family in other locations. This can be a great way to stay in touch with loved ones who live in other cities or states.

06
Volunteering

Some might not consider volunteering a hobby, but it’s certainly an activity people can enjoy in their spare time.

It has a lot of benefits, too. You feel good when you’re able to give back, especially to a cause that matters to you. You also may get involved in a friendly community of volunteers and make new friends.

Plus, you might be able to volunteer at a place where you’d love to work that’s specifically run by volunteers. It’s the next best thing to being employed there.

On the other hand, volunteering at an organization also can help you develop new skills you can use to boost your resume.

07
Get Artsy

Depending on the medium, most artistic hobbies can be done on the cheap—especially when you consider one-time investments pay off in the future.

For example, you might need to buy some brushes, pencils, paper, and paint, but the equipment and materials should last for a few months.

You also could design graphics on the computer. There are a number of programs available for free, and Photoshop can be had for as little as $10 a month, as of August 2019.

You even could go back to basics and use adult coloring books to pass the time, or you can attend a free class at a craft store.

08
Learning

You might not think of learning as a hobby, but the possibilities are endless here. You can choose to learn a new language or a new skill that you can put to use at work. Or maybe there is a topic specific to you that you've always wanted to research. None of this has to involve formal study; you can follow your own path at your own pace.

The pursuit of knowledge is a worthy one, and there are tons of free resources online and at local libraries that you can use to learn more.

09
Camping

Camping is a great hobby to pair with hiking, and it's fairly inexpensive. 

For complete beginners, a tent, sleeping bag, firewood, and fire-starting materials are the basics to purchase. A small tent can be bought for around $25-$35, and basic sleeping bags are around the same price. 

To start a fire, all you really need are twigs and branches around the campsite, and a lighter to start the fire.

Of course, you'll need to bring food unless you're fishing or hunting, but simple recipes often are all you need.

If there are any avid campers in your family or circle of friends, ask them if you can come with them on a trip. This way, you don't need to invest much, and you can see if you like it before dropping more money on quality materials that will last for decades.

10
Playing Music

Have you ever wanted to learn how to play the piano? Guitar? Violin? Just because band class is over doesn’t mean you can’t pick up an instrument and learn. You don’t need a private tutor, either, unless you learn better from having a mentor. Many tutorials for beginners are available online.

Instead, try and shop for an instrument or see if you can borrow one from a friend until you can decide how committed you are.

11
Exercising

Exercising is a great hobby—and habit—to have. It will get you into better physical and mental shape than by sinking into the couch while snacking.

You don’t need a gym membership, but if you choose to get one, many offer low-cost packages that range from $10-$30 per month.

Get your own weights or learn how to do bodyweight exercises. Or do yoga—you just need a mat. Again, there are plenty of free workouts on YouTube, and your phone probably has a few free fitness apps as well.

12
Fostering Animals

If you’re not in the best financial position to adopt an animal, or if you don’t want a super long-term commitment to one, fostering can be a good way to indulge in your love for all things furry.

You’re helping to make space in a shelter, to socialize an animal, and to give the animal a break from the stressful environment of a shelter. Plus, most foster agreements stipulate that the shelter or organization is responsible for medical care, and they may be nice enough to supply you with essentials as well.

It’s basically the same cost as having a pet, without the adoption or medical fees.

If you can't help but get attached, pet-sitting is a good alternative.

13
Decluttering

This is another one that might sound strange, but believe it or not, decluttering can become pretty addicting once you get into it. Some people have even created businesses around helping people declutter!

As a bonus, this is actually a hobby that might pay you, since you may decide to get rid of some things that others will pay for.

Another added bonus? This creates space in your house, so if you've been thinking of buying a storage garage or upgrading your house, you might not need to do so once you declutter.

Finding Inspiration

If none of these hobbies speak to you, look to your friends and family for ideas. Do any of them have interesting hobbies you want to learn more about? Ask them about it, and they might help you bring down the cost by letting you borrow certain things or letting you partake in their hobbies with them.