Too often, free time winds up costing us money, whether that means going to the movies, hitting the mall, or paying for an in-demand yoga class. But the truth is, passing time outside of work doesn’t have to be expensive.
Having hobbies can be a smart, creative, and moneywise way to fill your free time. The best endeavors are those that ignite a real passion and that we can’t wait to pursue.
Think that taking up a new hobby will break your budget? Not necessarily. You don’t necessarily have to pay high fees or purchase pricey equipment.
Here, we have compiled 19 fun, fulfilling pursuits that are also typically very affordable.There’s every chance that you will find at least a couple of these inexpensive hobbies to pique your interest.
Questions to Ask Before Starting a Hobby
Before you begin a new hobby, you may want to ask yourself the following questions.
What Is the Cost of the Hobby?
Even though there are a ton of inexpensive hobbies to choose from, start by making a list of the hobbies you know you are most interested in. From there, you can do some research to determine what the cost of the hobby is and if it fits into your budget (or if you need to pursue a less expensive pastime for now). Something with very specialized instruction, like making gold jewelry or blowing glass, is likely to push your budget limits. You might want to aim for more accessible pursuits to start.
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Is This Hobby Worth It?
No matter what the price tag of the hobby is, it can be helpful to think about whether or not the costs associated with the hobby are worth the enrichment and enjoyment the pursuit can bring to your life. Some hobbies may cost more, but may also give a higher return on investment if they offer an incredible experience and turbocharge your mood.
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What Are the Benefits?
While most hobbies are fun, they can also bring a lot more to the table than just a good time. When evaluating hobbies, it can be helpful to think of what other benefits are associated with them. For example, a fitness-based pursuit is good for health. Gardening can be a terrific way to connect with nature and clear your head. And a creative endeavor, like painting or photography, can wind up turning into a part-time job and money-maker (which is a nice benefit of a side hustle like these).
Could This Hobby Be Cheaper?
If you are considering a hobby and are concerned about cost, you don’t need to limit yourself only to what would be classified as a cheap pastime. You might instead dive into what speaks to you but find a way to make it less costly.
For example, if someone wants to ride horses (which can be a very expensive hobby), they could pay to ride a horse by the hour at a local stable instead of buying a horse and paying for all of its care, food, and housing. Or they might find that volunteering at a local stable occasionally earns them some free time on horseback.
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Will This Hobby Hurt Future Finances?
Take into account the average cost of hobbies per month of any pastime that seems interesting. For instance, if you want to take up skiing, consider how it might affect future finances:
• What equipment would you need?
• How much would lessons cost and how many would you likely need?
• What kind of transportation costs would be involved in pursuing skiing?
If a hobby is likely to drain your emergency savings or cause you to take on credit card debt, then it may be too expensive to pursue. Instead, do a little research and find options for hobbies that are cheap; there are plenty to choose from, as you will learn below.
19 Hobbies That Are Fun and Inexpensive
A cheap hobby can be just as fun and rewarding as an expensive hobby. Let’s take a look at some inexpensive, totally enjoyable pastimes.
Spending time outdoors feels good; research has shown it can improve your mood, putting you in a more positive, peaceful frame of mind. Gardening is also a great way to make your home more enjoyable and better-looking. Try planting flower seeds in window boxes or creating a windowsill herb garden to start.
Travel can be an expensive hobby, but camping can be done on a budget and scratch that travel itch. After all, renting a campsite for a night is a lot cheaper than booking a hotel. Plus the sound of the birds and the view of the constellations at night can be priceless.
3. Discovering New Music
Instead of going to see only famous musicians play at large stadiums (ka-ching), try a creative way to save some money and check out some more affordable and unique local musicians. You’ll support the local musician scene, get out of the house, and enjoy live entertainment in one fell swoop. What’s more, many towns have totally free concerts in warmer weather.
Learning to cook well is not only an affordable hobby, it’s also a great way to save money on food by not being as tempted to dine out. There are many ways to do this: Local extension courses, free videos on YouTube or public broadcasting shows, or simply by looking up recipes online and teaching yourself some new skills.
There’s no reason we need to leave arts and crafts behind once we finish elementary school. Spending some quiet time with a paintbrush in hand can be very relaxing. Whether you use oils, acrylics, or watercolors is totally up to you, as is the subject matter, from a self-portrait to a landscape to an abstract canvas. Again, you can find videos online, inexpensive books, and local classes that will teach you how to use basic materials in new ways.
Like painting, drawing is a way to tap into your artistic side, and only requires paper and a pencil. Or buy a basic set of pastels or charcoal sticks (a dozen will set you back just a few dollars; perfect for trying out new shading techniques). And, if you are a student, you might benefit in other ways: There are scholarships for hobbies and extracurriculars available, including art.
7. Working Out and Exercising
Walking, swimming in a lake, or playing pickleball are all fun, inexpensive hobbies that can help keep you fit and healthy. Yes, you can spend a lot of money on private Pilates lessons, but you have plenty of other options that are absolutely free. (But if Pilates calls to you, check out free online videos first.)
8. Starting a Podcast
Are you passionate about a topic, whether it’s local politics, fiction, or travel? Start a podcast, and find a community that shares similar interests. This can be a very low-cost project; if you have a computer, you can get started experimenting, and see if you’d like a microphone, editing software, and then a podcast host. Your total investment can come in under $200.
9. Learning Smartphone Photography
Photography was once an expensive hobby, but you can skip all the pricey equipment and learn to get really good at smartphone photography. You may find that local nature centers offer free classes in photographing nature or wildlife. Simply shooting local architecture, bicycle races, and other areas of interest and playing with cropping and filtering can unleash your creativity.
10. Learning an Instrument
Another creative outlet is learning to play a musical instrument. If you have an instrument gathering dust, brush it off. Or check local Facebook groups, Craigslist, and freecycle sites to find one cheap.
Giving to the community may not feel like a hobby, but choosing a cause that matters to you — such as volunteering with animals or tutoring school-age kids — can be completely engaging.
12. Visiting a Museum
Become an art connoisseur: Museums change their exhibits all the time. Consider signing up for a membership to get exclusive invites to new exhibits and special events. Or scope out which nights or days offer free admission; many museums offer this kind of perk. Local gallery openings are another option that’s free and fun and can elevate your knowledge of and interest in the arts.
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13. Learning to Dance
You know what the song says about “the rhythm’s gonna get you.” Why not indulge or jump-start your love of dance? Whether it’s at home or in a dance club, hit the floor. Or many Y’s and other local centers offer inexpensive classes in ballroom, ballet, tango, and other styles of dance.
Another peaceful way to connect with nature is to head out to the water and fish. Saving on groceries is a fun bonus of this hobby. Few things can beat a fresh-caught trout dinner.
15. Learning a Language
Get ready for that international vacation you’re saving for by learning a new language. Even if you don’t have a trip planned, building your foreign language skills can help boost your brain power by creating new neural pathways. And there are a host of apps (whether free or for a low fee) that can make this pursuit easy and fun.
16. Learning How to Sew
It takes time to master sewing, but doing so can be an almost meditative practice. Plus there are cool new trends to try, like sashiko, a beautiful form of Japanese mending. What’s more, building your skills with a needle and thread could save you pricey trips to the tailor.
17. Doing Calligraphy
Calligraphy is a pretty and very practical hobby to pursue. Wow your next dinner party guests with handmade name cards. Or offer to do the invitations for your best friend’s engagement party. All you need is pen, ink, and paper.
18. DIY Projects
Save money and upgrade your home at the same time by mastering DIY projects. Books and online tutorials can teach you how to build shelving, retile a backsplash, and more. Also, if you are a homeowner and you have set up money goals to include selling your home at a profit, this can be a terrific path forward.
19. Joining a Club
There’s no shortage of local clubs you can join thanks to online meetup sites. Whether you’re looking for a hiking buddy or a group to practice a language with, you can likely find a group to suit your needs. All kinds of options are available. You might also find a coffee-lovers’ group that gathers on weekends to test-drive new cafes; it could be a fun, frugal way to caffeinate and expand your social circle.
20. Starting a YouTube Channel
If video appeals to you, starting a YouTube channel can also be a great way to make friends and a little extra money online. Whether you want to create videos of your unboxing and reviewing products or sharing your knowledge of pro sports, go for it.
21. Starting a Blog
Or lean into the written word with a blog on any topic that appeals. It’s a great, no- or low-cost creative outlet that can connect you to others with similar interests. You might share poetry you write, chronicle your family history, or share your adventures training your new pup. The choice is yours.
Need more ideas for things to do for fun with no money? Get some fresh air and exercise while enjoying breathtaking views by exploring different hiking trails. As an added bonus, hiking can also be a free hobby. Bonus: Hanging out in nature (what some call forest bathing) can be a great way to decompress and build mindfulness into your daily life.
A fun way to stay active and social is to make a plan with friends to hit the golf course. You may worry that this will be a pricey endeavor, but public courses make it more affordable. What’s more, you may be able to use a local resident’s card (the kind you get at your town office or recreation department) to make it even cheaper. Shop garage sales for used clubs, too.
24. Upcycling Your Clothing
Use those newfound sewing skills to upcycle old clothes that need a little love and attention or transform them into something totally new. Upcycling is part of the reuse, recycle, repurpose movement. You might crop a pair of pants into shorts, or turn a dress into a blouse and/or a skirt. Some creative types save favorite worn-out clothes, and then use the fabrics to create a quilt or pillow cover.
25. Playing Board Games
Board games aren’t just for kids anymore — there are tons of unique options for adults, and they offer a great way to entertain yourself as well as guests. You may also find no-cover game nights at your local pub, which can be a fun and inexpensive way to socialize. Who knows? You might be a Trivial Pursuit champion.
One of the cheapest hobbies out there is running, especially if you already own a pair of athletic shoes. It can be a great way to spend time outdoors and can help improve your health. There are plenty of digital ways to help tap your motivation, like the popular free “Couch to 5K” program for beginners.
27. Learning Photography
After getting good at smartphone photography, consider taking an online class or local community college class on the art of photography. Bargain-priced cameras can often be found online (check eBay) and at local second-hand shops.
28. Flying a Kite
Parents may be looking for a fun activity for the whole family that doesn’t cost much. Why not master the art of flying a kite? And it’s not just for those with kids. Anyone can have a great afternoon watching a kite take flight and stay aloft in a good breeze.
29. Teaching a Pet Tricks
Pet parents can find ways to be entertained and bond with their critter by teaching it new tricks. Of course, dogs can be trained to do a variety of “shake” and “roll over” maneuvers, but pet birds and other animals can also learn new skills.
Geocaching is a fun way to explore the outdoors. It’s a pursuit in which, using an app or GPS, you find hidden “geocaches,” or containers that hold notes and small gifts. These are typically in parks and nature preserves. You can hide your own caches, too. An inexpensive hobby that is akin to a spirited scavenger hunt, geocaching is engrossing for both individuals and families and networks you with a community of fellow adventurers.
The Financial Benefits of a Cheaper Hobby
The financial benefits of having a cheap hobby are two-fold. Not only is having a low-cost hobby an inexpensive way to have fun, but hobbies can keep us busy and distracted which can help us avoid spending temptations.
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Managing Finances With SoFi
There are plenty of affordable hobbies, so take your time and try a few to discover which will keep you feeling fulfilled. Want to save up to invest in a pricier hobby? SoFi can help. When you open an online bank account — namely, our Checking and Savings account — with direct deposit, you’ll enjoy all kinds of best-in-class benefits: a competitive APY, automatic savings features, cash back with debit card purchases, and no account fees. All of these can help you grow your money faster.
What hobby should I pick up?
There’s no right hobby to adopt. Every individual needs to pursue a hobby that excites them. That said, many people enjoy creative endeavors (think photography or painting), athletic pursuits (running, hiking), or pastimes that channel their interests and connect with a larger audience, such as podcasting or blogging.
How can I budget for a hobby?
Budgeting for a hobby can require doing a bit of research first. Only once someone knows what their hobby will cost can they then create a budget for it. When you know the costs, work to keep them as low as possible (say, by buying second-hand equipment, if needed) and then divide the cost by the number of months you are willing to save. Put aside that amount in a high-yield savings account to earn some interest until you have enough saved up.
Can cheap hobbies make me money?
Certain hobbies can make someone money if they turn them into a side hustle. Starting a podcast or YouTube channel, writing, and photography are all great examples of hobbies that can become lucrative.
Photo credit: iStock/South_agency
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