Eight Frugal Ways to Ward Off Cabin Fever

Snowmen and hot cocoa are nice and all, but for many of us the novelty of the cold and snow begins to wear off shortly after Christmas and New Year’s Day. By the doldrums of mid-February, the cold, dreary weather takes its toll, isolating many of us in our own homes. And when it feels like you hardly see anyone or do anything, it’s easy to get depressed.

Sometimes it’s Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a real medical condition, that has us down. Other times, we’re just sick and tired of the sky getting dark before dinner and feeling trapped indoors — and “cabin fever” can easily cause a case of the winter blues.

Eight Cheap Ways to Stay Active This Winter

Many of us are still in the thick of winter. Fortunately, the days will only get longer – and hopefully sunnier – from here on out.

Better yet, there are many ways to keep yourself and the kids busy if you’re open to trying something new. Once you’re ready to break out of your winter slump, climb out from under your favorite blanket and try one of these activities:

#1: Take the kids out for indoor rock climbing, bounce houses, or other active fun.

Sometimes it’s the cold weather that causes cabin fever to set in. Other times, it’s a general lack of physical activity that makes us feel lethargic. If the latter is your problem, find an indoor spot where everyone can get some exercise.

Pack the entire family up and take everyone to the gym. Play basketball indoors, or run laps. Or, take the family out for an afternoon of ice skating, rollerblading, rock climbing, or bounce house fun.

Whatever you pick, getting everyone in the family active is bound to improve the collective mood.

#2: Bundle up and exercise outdoors.

If the weather is okay enough to actually be outdoors, you can opt to bundle up and get physical outside. Not only will an outdoor walk, run, or hike help you get some much-needed Vitamin D from the sun, but it will boost your serotonin levels, too.

Serotonin has long been considered the human body’s mood-booster, and one of the best ways to release it is through exercise. The optimal amount of exercise needed to enhance serotonin synthesis in the brain is 30 minutes most days – or around three hours a week.

Once you get outdoors and get moving, your mood is bound to improve.

#3: Entertain friends.

If you’re getting enough exercise and still feeling the effects of cabin fever, hooking up with some friends might help. A good laugh and some fun with neighbors or acquaintances can help elevate your mood and keep you busy. Best of all, most home-based get-togethers are cheap to plan.

Make a few appetizers to share with everyone, then ask each of your guests to bring a dish. Plan a fun night of cards or another game that will keep everyone entertained.

#4: Spring clean early.

With spring on its way, you might as well start clearing out the house early. You may not be able to do all of your spring cleaning, but you can get at least a few of your tasks out of the way. It’ll keep you busy now, and once the warm weather hits, you’ll have more time to enjoy the sun.

Go through the kids’ closets and remove clothes they’ve outgrown or no longer wear. From there, you can start a collection of unwanted stuff for your spring garage sale.

Also gather unwanted household items, discarded toys, and clutter accumulated from the holidays. Once spring arrives, you’ll have at least some of your chores squared away.

#5: Plan your spring and summer travels.

Even if you’re not traveling this winter, you can interrupt the monotony of cold gray days by fantasizing about where you’ll go next. If you have a spring or summer vacation coming up, spend the winter figuring out where you should go and planning the details of your itinerary.

Research cheap or free things to do, restaurants to try, and sights to see. Imagining yourself on a beach or in the mountains may not feel like the real thing, but it can at least give you something to look forward to. And savoring the anticipation of an exciting experience can help you squeeze more value out of it.

#6: Watch your favorite TV or movie series.

Winter is the perfect time to catch up on your favorite movie series or seasons of television shows. You don’t always have time to watch a nine-hour epic like the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy when it’s nice out, so why not do it now?

If you have Netflix, this is easy. Simply pick your favorite series and start from the beginning. Whether you opt for a period drama like “The Tudors” or a Netflix original series like “Orange is the New Black,” you can easily consume a week or longer reliving a show you already loved.

#7: Plan a board game extravaganza.

Maybe it’s too cold to play outside, but you probably have a stack of neglected board games, don’t you? Winter is the perfect time to break into one of those five-hour games of monopoly, have a family-themed Yahtzee tournament, or try a crazy new game that gets everyone involved.

If your kids aren’t into board games yet, now’s the ideal time to teach them, too. Showing your kids how to play Life, Chutes and Ladders, or any of your other childhood favorites is fun — and trust me, it will take forever and keep you busy for hours.

#8: Batch cook meals for warmer weather.

Here’s another way to stay busy this winter – batch cook a ton of healthy meals. Not only can this easily keep you occupied (and warm, if you get the oven going) on a few cold and miserable days, but it can free up time when spring rolls around, too.

We’ve written about batch cooking plenty of times before. The strategy involves finding simple recipes that freeze well, such as lasagna, and doing the prep work ahead of time. When you’re ready for a quick, homemade dinner a few weeks later, pull it out of the freezer and heat it up.

By filling your freezer now, you’ll have a bundle of prepared meals you can heat up once it starts getting nice outside – giving you more time to enjoy that spring sunshine.

To Kick Cabin Fever, Stay Busy

No matter what option you choose, it’s important to stay busy this winter. The cold air and short days may make you want to curl up in a ball in front of the TV, but you can’t do that all winter.

By staying busy, you’ll keep your mind off the changing seasons and have some fun, too. And by the time spring finally gets here, you’ll be ready to get outdoors and live again.

Holly Johnson is an award-winning personal finance writer and the author of Zero Down Your Debt. Johnson shares her obsession with frugality, budgeting, and travel at ClubThrifty.com.

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How are you staying busy this winter?

Holly Johnson
Contributing Writer

Holly Johnson is a frugality expert and award-winning writer who is obsessed with personal finance and getting the most out of life. A lifelong resident of Indiana, she enjoys gardening, reading, and traveling the world with her husband and two children. In addition to The Simple Dollar, Holly writes for well-known publications such as U.S. News & World Report Travel, PolicyGenius, Travel Pulse, and Frugal Travel Guy. Holly also owns Club Thrifty.

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