The Only Thing You’ll Need To Spend Is Time: Ten Great, Free Hobbies

After my recent post on my quest to reduce spending on hobbies, a reader dropped me a line with the following query:

All of my hobbies are really expensive and so I’m trying to find something cheaper to fill my time. Could you write a post listing some interesting free hobbies?

As per request, here are ten great hobbies that are basically free (a few require internet access, but if you’re reading this, you already have that). I personally know someone who is involved in each of these as a hobby and in almost every case they’re quite happy filling hours doing these things.

Head outdoors. If you’re bored, walk out your front door and just start wandering. It doesn’t take much effort at all to simply wander and see what’s interesting out there.

Collect something natural. My aunt spent most of her adult life collecting geodes; an uncle of mine used to collect rocks and seashells to line the shelves of his home. In both cases, the hobby cost nothing but time, and it gave them the opportunity to wander around outside in the fresh air. If you don’t know how or where to look for a particular thing, dig around on the ‘net and you’ll find tons of help. Myself, I love hunting in the woods for mushrooms in the spring, something I plan on posting a photo diary about in April or so.

Start a blog. You can get a free blog at Blogger or WordPress. Just write about whatever interests you (your favorite television show, the books you read, your politics), but stick generally to that topic. If you have a lot of topics you think about, start a few of them. It’s a great way to find people with similar interests, dig deeper into your own interests, and practice your writing skills without the pressure of being judged (much). Even better, you can use a blog to record your growth in one of the other hobbies listed below. In fact, this is exactly how The Simple Dollar got started.

Clean up your area. Is your neighborhood sometimes trashier than you would like it to be? Spend some time walking around collecting trash on the street and making your neighborhood a cleaner place. Quite often, one person doing this on a regular basis will spur others to join you and you can really spruce up a neighborhood. You can also informally adopt a piece of highway and do the same thing.

Join a community group. There are tons of interesting civic groups out there, even in small towns. Start attending city council meetings and asking questions about what’s happening. Attend school board meetings. This is a great way to get started in local politics and start changing things at the neighborhood and town level – remember, all politics is local. If that’s not your cup of tea, look for other civic-minded groups, like the Lion’s Club.

Practice self-improvement. Find areas of yourself that are weak and look for ways to improve them. For example, if you’re weak on public speaking, look for a local Toastmasters group. If you’re weak on your reading skills or don’t know much about a particular topic, start reading more by visiting your local library and checking out simple books. If you’re out of shape, start a simple exercise plan.

Do puzzles. If you like to exercise your brain, try doing the hordes of free puzzles available online. Why ever buy a sudoku book when there’s, for example (it’s the only place I ever do sudoku, and I usually do one hard one a week or so). If you like crosswords, hit These are great ways to stretch your mind a bit and learn new things.

Start a garden. This has a tiny startup cost in seeds, but tending a garden can provide almost endless entertainment for the studious type. This is the preferred hobby of my retired father, who keeps an immaculate garden almost an acre in size.

Volunteer. Look for community organizations that you can volunteer for. Spend some time working in a soup kitchen or at an after-school program. Not only will you feel really good about the use of your time, it will probably change your perspectives on the world a little bit.

Master something interesting. Figure out something simple and interesting and master it. I know one person who is utterly amazing at solving a Rubik’s Cube. She can do it in about fifteen seconds (after examining it) and is working on mastering it blindfolded. It turns out that this is a great party trick. Another friend of mine is incredibly good at playing a guitar, but he can’t read sheet music to save his life; he just toyed with it until he mastered it.

Did none of these sound interesting? Here’s an enormous list of hobbies, most of which are free or nearly free.

The key thing is to find something that gets your juices flowing; if it doesn’t cost anything (or doesn’t cost much), that’s great. If you can produce things that earn money, that’s even better.

Trent Hamm
Trent Hamm
Founder of The Simple Dollar

Trent Hamm founded The Simple Dollar in 2006 after developing innovative financial strategies to get out of debt. Since then, he’s written three books (published by Simon & Schuster and Financial Times Press), contributed to Business Insider, US News & World Report, Yahoo Finance, and Lifehacker, and been featured in The New York Times, TIME, Forbes, The Guardian, and elsewhere.

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