15 Frugal Ways to Battle Boredom


If I have a free day with absolutely nothing to do, my first impulse is often to go shopping. I could just take a walk, window shop, and peruse my favorite stores without feeling the need to buy a thing. Unfortunately, my wallet is no shrinking violet.

The good news is that there are a lot of great ways to battle boredom and keep your spending under wraps. And you don’t even have to resort to doing laundry or balancing your checkbook (although that’s not a bad idea either). Here are a few of my frugal (and 100% fun) favorites. (See also: Mommy, I'm Bored: 25 Frugal Things to Do With Kids)

1. Find Friends

If you have good company, you’ll never be bored. Seek out a good friend and spend some time catching up.

2. Make a Theme

I’ve held a few parties, and the best ones always have a theme. So pick a theme you think you and your friends can get into, and invite a crowd over to celebrate the 80s, ugly Christmas sweaters, or any other theme that makes you smile. If it goes over well, make it an annual function. Better still, make it BYOB (bring your own beer). Check out some unique party ideas.

3. Cook a Feast

Have you ever cracked open Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking? Many of those recipes take hours to prepare, but if you have time on your hands it’s a great opportunity to put together the kind of meal you’d find at a fancy restaurant — for less than you’d pay at a greasy spoon.

4. Take a Nap

I can’t say there’s anything that makes me happier than taking a nap on a Sunday afternoon. Studies suggest that many people don’t get enough sleep. This is your chance to catch up! Plus, a short nap is one of life’s great (and free) luxuries, and it can do wonders to reduce stress and increase alertness.

5. Take a Short Trip 

I’m often amazed by how many parts of my city I rarely visit or have never even seen. If you have time to kill and feel like getting out, go for a drive or ride your bike to an area you’re unfamiliar with. If you’re lucky, you’ll find a new store, park, or coffee shop you can make plans to visit again.

6. Read a Book

A good book — or even a trashy magazine — can transport you anywhere you want to go. Pick out a few good volumes at the library, then spend an hour or two curled up in your favorite chair.

7. Do Something You’ve Always Meant to Do

Many people have a “bucket list,” but it often consists of big-ticket items such as traveling, running a marathon, or learning a language. You may be able to begin to tackle some of these in your down time, but if not, consider having a mini bucket list of simple activities you’re always meaning to do, but haven’t gotten around to.

8. Write a Story

More than a 100,000 people run a Google search on how to become a writer each month. If you’re harboring a desire to put pen to paper, skip the search and start putting your thoughts on paper.

9. Visit an Ethnic Food Store

Visiting a local ethnic food store will introduce you to a whole new world of foods you may never have even heard of and provide you with key ingredients to cook some authentic cuisine from another part of the world. It’s way cheaper — and way more fun — than takeout.

10. Call Your Mother (Father, Grandmother, Great Aunt)

A busy day-to-day life can often get in the way of relationships. If you’ve been thinking of someone, give that person a call and find out how they’re doing.

11. Play at the Park

I’m about 20 years past my prime park-playing days, but I don’t let that stop me from taking a ride on the swings now and then. If you think you’re too old for the park, bring some kids — they’ll provide encouragement.

12. Indulge Your Dog

The dog park is one of my favorite places in the world. Give a dog some space to run, and it will respond with pure, unadulterated, tongue-lolling joy. Sometimes, it does the same for me (minus the tongue).

13. Learn an Old-Time Skill

It’s getting increasingly hard for many people to imagine, but there was a time before TV, which can often become crutch we use to make time pass rather than spend it doing something we enjoy. Consider taking up an old-time hobby such as knitting, collage, listening to music, or playing cards. Some of these activities involve an initial investment, so start small to see how you like it.

14. Start Up an Old Hobby

The older I get, the more I feel like doing the things I loved when I was a kid. Maybe you collected stamps, built model airplanes, or played guitar. Whatever it was, think about some of the hobbies that made you happy in the days when you had nothing but time.

15. Play a Board Game

If you haven’t played a board game lately, you might think they’re a thing of the past. No so. In fact, manufacturers are coming up with new games all the time, and you’ll find that most of your old favorites are still available too. Check out the list of best-selling board games in 2011 for some ideas. These games can be pricey, but they last for years. Choose one you love, and invite your friends to play rather than going for dinner. It’ll pay for itself in no time.

The opposite of earning money doesn’t have to be spending it. The next time you’re feeling bored, look for a way a valuable way to spend your time, rather than spending your money. And, if I’ve missed your favorite cure for boredom, send it my way — I’d love to hear them!

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Guest's picture

I appreciate articles like this because as a college student it seems that everyone's budget is perpetually tight and on the verge of collapsing altogether. In this modern world it's all to easy to get swept away by luxury and materialism and forget the simpler enjoyments in life. Many of the suggestions above resonate with me, in particular the reality that engaging friends and family is not only free, but deeply rewarding. Perfecting skills, enhancing knowledge, and unleashing creativity tends to lead to a sense of contentment that makes the need for constant stimulation far less urgent. Often we spend so much time looking outside ourselves for excitement that we forget the more fulfilling, and invariably less expensive, art of finding it within.

Tara Struyk's picture

So well said. Thank you!

Guest's picture

This is a great go-to post. I am going to bookmark it so that I have it right there the next time boredom strikes! Number 1 is exactly where it should be. The most enriching thing in life is the people you surround yourself with, and good quality time together spent talking is not only free, but it feeds the soul! A great and funny thing to do with friends is draw each other, even if you aren't an artist. I had a party recently and the theme was portrait making. Every time a new guest arrived, the person to arrive just before them had to make their portrait. Some of them were really great, and it gave us a lot to talk about the whole evening.

Guest's picture
Domonkos Molnar

Hello everyone!

My favorite is to roam the streets with a notebook and a pencil. Every time I see something special, interesting etc. I draw some sketches for later... It is good to actually see what is happening around me! :)

Guest's picture

Exercise! Get out and go for a run, or do some pushups and situps right at home - find some way to make good use of your time! You only get so much!

Good suggestion with the cards - there are so many games you can play with just one deck.

Guest's picture

A really easy way to erase boredom is to start a website or blog. It can be a fun way to express your opinions and be creative. You can keep it private or make it really social. You can connect with old friends or remain anonymous. Plus with powerful vehicles like Wordpress it is really easy to design for young and old. For me the hobby has expanded into a business and I do not regret it one bit. I am no longer bored and always learning something interesting. Maybe one day I'll start making money too.

Guest's picture

Read a book or browse the internet. When you have free time, might as well make use of it for additional learning, so you don't spend money, you only gain knowledge.

Guest's picture

I like to take photos of the flowers in the garden or do some vegetable planting. It keeps me busy and after few months, I would be able to harvest and eat fresh.

Tara Struyk's picture

Thanks for all the ideas everyone. Keep them coming!

Guest's picture
Hannah M

If you live nearby the library, head up there. My library is very similar to my local Barnes and Noble. It's large, has a massive selection of books and I can just lounge around in a comfy chair. Better yet, I can even take the book home if I like it for free! I know most people may not live close, but when I find myself bored, I will simply just ride my bike up to the library and spend a few hours there for the afternoon.

Guest's picture

My hobbies are really cheap - wish I could say the same for my partner's! I love to read, run, bake, play guitar and play around with my camera. (Guitar and photography granted take an initial investment but once that's done, it's done.)

Guest's picture

There are so many ways to beat boredom and this article gives some amazing suggestions! I hate when people use the word bored because I believe that there are so many things they can get out there and do. I don't want to spend money just entertain myself during free time. I love exploring and being a tourist in my own town or reading a good book. Also, no one is ever too old for the park!! Thanks for all the ideas

Tara Struyk's picture

The library is a great suggestion. Why buy a book when you can read it for free?

Guest's picture

Nagging friends, start a hobby, and indulging a pet are my favorites from your list (with my own little twist of course). Seriously, this downtime should be used to get rid of stress that can eventually cause health issues. Do-it-yourself spa day at home!

Guest's picture

Always nice articles coming from this place. I see play a board game on here but nothing about video games. There are some very nice games out there these days and some are starting to be much more movement oriented. WII Sports I think it is, is one example, the boxing one on there is great, not exactly accurate to every degree but it gets you moving and is pretty fun. They also have the WII fit game which is pretty fun for parents and kids.

Guest's picture

A bucket list is a great idea - I love the film, but I think everyone needs a bucket list. It's about making the most of life and not looking back with regrets.. live life to the max..... I also agree that having good friends can be a a great way to reduce boredom. I love food and I love cooking and having friends round for an inexpensive dinner great entertainment - especially if you then get a reciprocal invite!

Guest's picture

I live in Florida where the weather is usually really nice, so when I'm bored during the weekends I always try to just get outside. I usually call up a friend and see if they want to go for a walk or take their dog to the park. It can be frustrating trying to find things to do when your bored on a budget because nearly everything costs money, but these are some good ideas!

Tara Struyk's picture

Thanks! Glad you liked it. And getting outside is a great idea. We could probably all use a little more of that:-)