In the midst of a recession, many people have more free time… and less to do with it. Restaurants, shops, museums, libraries, gyms and even parks and hiking trails are currently too expensive in many places. Even just spending a day with friends costs a lot.
The silver lining is that there are few things to do when you are bored and broke as everything is expensive. It’s like the No Spend November Challenge, except it’s mandatory for you.
Take up the challenge and still have fun at home with these free/cheap entertainment ideas. Some are even productive, and you might come out on the other side of that experience with a new skill, habit, or hobby to show for it.
8 fun and cheap things to do when you’re bored at home
These have been some of my cheapest favorite things to do lately, although my work schedule is still normal. Whether you’re on a break, working from home, or looking for weekend plans, these are all cheap and economical.
Learn to cook new recipes
While you’re staying home and striving to shop less frequently, it’s a great time to use up some of the pantry and freezer items that have been around for a while.
Websites or apps like MyFridgeFood and Supercook make it easy to find recipes using foods you already have. Just put in your ingredients and they’ll do the work to provide a list for you to use.
You can also try cooking some more complicated things from scratch that you’ve never tried before – I just made fresh pasta for the first time with nothing but flour, olive oil and water (recipe here). Baking fresh bread is also cheap and fills you up.
Become an at-home bartender
We’ve all seen the memes about people’s recycling bins being full of liquor bottles, so you might be working on this one already! Learning how to mix your own drinks can definitely save you money in the long run instead of paying a premium at bars.
Depending on what you have in your stash, try to get fancier in your mixology than with rum & coke or vodka soda. Check out this list of 10 cheap drink recipes and their variations. If you really want to get professional with this, you can buy a cocktail mix kit online pretty cheaply.
Try your hand at warehouse buying with free apps
Disclaimer: treat this idea with caution… and maybe don’t combine it with the one above 😉
While the stock market is experiencing massive disruption and constant volatility (as it is at the time of writing due to current events in Spring 2022), many investors are understandably feeling a little scatterbrained. However, there is money to be made here if you are willing to take risks.
The easiest way to buy stocks is to use a free stock trading app that doesn’t charge any fees to trade. I even have two and can recommend them both:
Robinhood – Simple free stock trading app with a very simple interface. Ideal for beginners. Sign up here and get a free Robinhood share. Sign up here and receive two free Webull shares.
What I’ve been doing throughout all of this turmoil is looking for stocks that have already taken a massive hit, but are strong companies that are likely to bounce back.
As a personal example, I had Boeing in mind. They’re best known for their production of commercial aircraft, so it made sense to me that the stock would plummet as air travel ground to a halt. But the company also makes a lot of military and telecommunications equipment, so I thought it was unlikely that the company would actually go under from this crisis.
Within a few weeks of March 2020, Boeing shares plummeted from around $350 to $100. That’s where I bought it with a limit order on Webull (just two stocks – I’m more of a frugal farmer than a high roller).
A week later it bounced off. I figured it could go higher, so I hedged my bets and sold just one of my shares for $184.
Spoiler alert: it couldn’t get any higher. Here is the Webull stock chart as I write this in November 2022:
As of now, I’m sticking with this other stock and am willing to hold it for a while (or even buy more) rather than sell it low. I’m not a regular day trader at all (let’s face it, it’s basically gambling) and I prefer index funds for long-term investing to individual stocks… but making $84 in a week from a stock felt good, I won’t lie. Paying short-term capital gains tax on it won’t feel as good, but hey, profit is profit.
Please only do this if you have a well-stocked emergency fund and don’t go all out on anything. It’s risky because of course nobody knows what the market will do next. Your stock values could skyrocket like mine, or they could fall further and take years to recover. It can be fun to research, speculate, and predict which industries will come out on top, but they won’t all be winners.
If you want to try this, give yourself a certain amount of “fun money” to trade with and call it cheap entertainment that might make you a profit! Maybe it’s $1,000 for you, or maybe it’s $20; Just make sure it’s money you can live without. Better than Vegas without leaving your home.
Make jigsaw puzzles and board games
I’m a board game nerd, even though there’s no pandemic going on, but when you’re stuck at home it’s a great way to engage your brain and spend some quality time with your household chores. In fact, there’s a board game called Pandemic that feels very relevant right now! Other accessible board games are Settlers of Catan, Karuba, and Splendor, which are easy to learn and quick to play.
If you don’t have a lot of games at home (or not enough people to play them), you can play a game of your favorites online with friends at Tabletopia. You can also dig up puzzles to do with any number of people or chill out on your own, or find a deck of cards and learn a few two-player games with a lockdown buddy.
Stream free TV shows and movies
They don’t need an article to tell you to watch more Netflix… but what if you don’t have Netflix (or someone to steal it from)? Read my article on 12 Free Netflix Alternatives here. You can find a ton of classic movies, documentaries, and TV shows on free, legal streaming websites.
The caveat is that you won’t always find the most popular and newest shows on these sites… but I mean, am I the only one who doesn’t really want to see methheads abusing tigers? (Hashtag #TigerKing.)
Read a new book
Personally, I feel like I read so many books through high school and college, and it’s steadily decreased since then. When so many other things need attention, it’s hard to just stop and focus for an hour or two.
But recreating that habit is well worth the effort. The benefits of reading include better cognitive function, improved sleep, reduced stress and depression, and even longer lifespans.
For events like this, which cause a lot of stress for most people, perhaps swap an hour watching the (usually negative) news for an hour reading a book. It could be fiction in your favorite genre or a non-fiction book to help you learn something new. Check out five of my best personal finance books here.
Thoroughly clean your house with music
When was the last time you really got into the corners of your cabinets and closets, your HVAC vent covers, your oven racks, and other areas that are often skipped in a regular cleaning day? Good Housekeeping’s Ultimate Spring Cleaning Guide has tips on everything to consider for a big cleaning project. Since it’s spring, it couldn’t be more timely to be stuck at home anyway.
Granted, scrubbing grout isn’t the funniest idea for entertaining at home, so I recommend cranking up your favorite high-energy tune while you’re at it. My favorite genre to stay motivated is German Metal because it’s like being yelled at by a German but in a catchy way. Thank you Rammstein. (Caution: If you share a wall with neighbors, wear headphones or beam at a considerate volume. We’ve all been neighbors before.)
Make a bunch of things to sell and donate
I know Marie Kondo was like that last year. But why not spend a few extra minutes taking inventory while you clean your house? Psychologists tell us that clutter leads to more stress and poorer mental (and even physical) health.
If you stumble upon things you can’t even remember, you probably don’t need them. Turn the clutter back into cash by listing things for sale on platforms like Poshmark, eBay, Offerup, and Facebook Marketplace, as long as you make sure delivery is arranged in a CDC-approved manner. If some items like used clothing are hard to sell, wrap them up and wait until you can donate them.
As long as safety and self-isolation are a priority, let’s all do what we can to get to the other side of this experience without going insane. If you can make it with a cleaner house and some new free entertainment ideas, that’s just a bonus!
What are some of your best frugal home entertainment ideas? Let us know in the comments below.
Kate is a writer and editor who runs her content and editing businesses remotely while traveling the world as a digital nomad. So far, her laptop has taken her to New Zealand, Asia and across the US (mainly thanks to credit card points). Years of research and ghostwriting on personal finance led her to the FI community and co-founder of DollarSanity. In addition to travel and outdoor adventures, Kate is passionate about finance, compound interest and impeccable grammar.