Times are tough but that doesn’t mean you can’t keep busy and have fun too. Happily, some of the most enjoyable hobbies are cheap or free, and can even lead to small business opportunities for those out of work and looking for a new direction.
You don’t have to spend big bucks to have a good time or make a little extra money doing it. You can also save big money by taking up hobbies that provide useful items for your family, keep you healthy and out of the doctor’s office, or create interesting and beautiful decorative items that you can sell from your home.
The following creative hobby ideas are free or almost free, and are fun and useful to boot. One of them is bound to appeal to you in your current situation:
Instead of throwing out old clothing, sheets, and fabric scraps, save them and cut them into squares for quilts. Quilting used to be a common skill, but as women left the home to take jobs outside, quilting fell out of the mainstream and into the realm of crafting and art. Quilting is not difficult but it does take patience and determination. Simply cutting the fabric squares to size can be very relaxing. Quilting can be done as a group activity too. ‘Quilting bees’ used to be the focus of social gatherings of women, and many of the quilts created at these gatherings are now worth thousands of dollars as folk art heirlooms. Well made quilts are incredibly valuable: Give them as wedding or holiday gifts or as family heirlooms, or sell them outright on the internet or at craft fairs.
Sock Dolls and Puppets
Remember those funny monkeys made out of work socks? You can make sock animals, dolls, and puppets yourself in your spare time for almost no investment at all. Save old socks, buttons, yarn, and anything else with a fun texture or color. Stuff the animals with shredded socks and rags that aren’t in proper shape to use for the ‘skin’. Give them as gifts at Christmas or birthdays to someone really special as a token that will never be forgotten.
Another great potential hobby is wood carving. This doesn’t require a lot of tools or materials, although you can certainly spend as much on carving knives and tools as you want once you become proficient. To get started, all you really need is a basic carving knife, which you can pick up for around $30 at any craft store. ‘Whittling’ is easy and relaxing, and once you get the hang of it you can make lots of nifty items by hand (like spoons and bowls) even if you aren’t an artist or an overly creative person.
You will need a decent pair of hiking boots and some good socks, but beyond that, all you really need is the desire to get out and about and use your feet to take you places you’ve never been before. Even big cities are usually close enough to nature preserves and parks so that spending a lot of money on travel isn’t usually necessary. The physical and emotional benefits of getting out in nature and moving your arms and legs are undeniably priceless.
Rag Rug Making
If you don’t feel quite up to learning to quilt, you can still save old clothing and sheets, cut them into long strips of fabric, and when you have enough material, you can braid the fabric into a rag rug.It’s so easy even a child can do it, and it makes good use of materials you might normally discard. Braided rugs are useful and have long lives, and in some parts of the U.S. a handsome handmaid rag rug will fetch a very high price, so if you find you enjoy doing this, you may end up with your own craft side business down the road.
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to spend a lot of money to get started with gardening. All you need is a spade and some elbow grease. Chances are good you already have plant material in your landscape that needs to be divided and replanted elsewhere. If you start with that, you can gradually add other plants as they go on sale, or trade plant starts with neighbors for no cost at all. Seed packets are fairly inexpensive, and once you successfully grow a garden one season, you can collect and save your own seed from the plants you grow. If you grow vegetables or fruit trees, you can eat your hard work during harvest season, and there’s nothing more satisfying than that.
Yoga and Meditation
Yoga is easy to learn and meditation is even easier. Both are good for you and both can be pursued in the privacy of your own home for no money at all. You can check out books and instructional DVDs at the public library, or download free materials at web sites like YogaToday.
All you really need to write is a pad of paper and a pen or pencil and the desire to get started. Many community centers and public libraries have free or very inexpensive writing workshops, and poetry slams (open microphone poetry reading events) are very popular in many parts of the U.S., especially university towns. Writing with others is a great way to meet new people, and there are so many different kinds of writing you don’t have to be Shakespeare to become proficient at some branch of it, you just have to give your work an earnest try.
Most public libraries have book discussion groups. If you have always wanted to read the classics but can’t afford to go back to school, or if you just like to meet new people and discuss books, a reading group is a great way to get out of the house, read some new books, and make some new friends.
Check your local YWCA, senior center, or community center for low cost dance classes. Popular forms of dance that are often taught at such places for low or minimal fees include salsa, belly dancing, square dancing, and ball room dancing. You don’t have to be Fred Astaire or Ginger Rogers to enjoy moving around to music, and what’s more, it’s good for you!
Finding fun and different kinds of hobbies during a recession is not difficult and not expensive. Often, the things you do for fun during hard times turn into the beginnings of a new career or vocation when the economy improves. In the meantime, there’s no reason you shouldn’t have fun just because money is short.
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