In my very first HotFrugal post, I calculated that I earn only $6.45 per hour in true discretionary income. That’s not a lot, so I want to be sure I stretch my entertainment dollar as far as possible. There are quite a few frugal activities I enjoy that keep me entertained and on budget.
Frugal doesn’t necessarily mean cheap; an activity may be expensive, but if it provides a high level of enjoyment over a long period of time relative to its cost, it gets the HotFrugal seal of approval. Naturally, everyone’s lists of high value experiences will be different. For example, someone else might gain a lot of satisfaction and value from $200 tickets to a World Cup soccer game. I, on the other hand, would probably fall asleep immediately due to the sheer boredom that is soccer, and $200 seems like a high price to pay for a nap. You know a sport is boring when a field full of hot guys can’t hold my interest.
Anyway, here is a list of my favorite frugal activities. Are there any others that I should add to my list? What are some things you enjoy doing that provide a good bang for your buck?
Playing tennis: I absolutely love playing tennis. Getting started in the sport wasn’t cheap. New shoes, two good rackets (on sale), and new clothes ran about $500. I also spent about $300 on lessons. But after this initial expense, the sport has been very affordable. There are free public courts in the towns where I live and work. I’m planning to join a league and to take more lessons, but these costs will be worth it. I mean, I’m not quite ready for my Wimbledon debut, but another lesson or two should do it.
Unsolicited interior design: If I had it to do all over again, I would have studied interior design in college. Instead, I have to settle for being an HGTV addict who gives people unsolicited interior design advice. For example, my mom recently made the mistake of telling me that she would like to update the look of her guest bedroom. I don’t think that this is something she plans to tackle anytime soon as she and my dad already have a number of home improvement projects in the works. But I wasted no time in creating a totally new design for the bedroom, complete with a shopping list of all the items I had picked out. I scoured the internet for new furniture, bed linens, artwork, etc. I put pictures of all of the items I selected into a spreadsheet and printed it out for my mom.
This little project took about five hours to complete and it was totally free for me, although it will not be so free for my mom if she decides to move forward with the design. I enjoyed working on this so much that I may start designing rooms for other hapless friends and family members. So don’t tell me if you have any impending redecorating plans, or I might just show up at your door with a shopping list. Shopping by proxy is frugal fun for me, but it could be hazardous to your wallet!
Watching movies & TV shows from Netflix: As an avid reader of other personal finance blogs, I have seen many writers advise people to cancel their Netflix memberships as a way to save money. I totally disagree! At $14.95 per month, I definitely feel that I get my money’s worth. In my current living situation, I don’t have to pay for cable. But if I did, I wouldn’t. Netflix gives me access to all the TV and movies I need at a fraction of the cost of cable. Sure, I’m always a season behind on my favorite shows, which does have some disadvantages. A friend who watches Showtime in real time accidentally blurted out a major spoiler for my very, very, very, most favorite show, Dexter. That sucks, but the savings I get from watching through Netflix and not having to pay for cable makes it well worth it. The only real downside of Netflix in lieu of cable: Netflix can’t feed my HGTV addiction. But maybe that’s a good thing.
Reading blogs and online articles: Another free activity! I recently discovered Google Reader, which allows you to subscribe to blogs and online editions of newspapers and magazines in one place (including HotFrugal). Anytime there is a new post on one of the sites you subscribe to, it will show up on your Reader homepage. This is a great way to stay current on topics you care about. It’s also a great way to stay current on delightfully snarky and shallow topics like celebrity fashion disasters.
Managing my money: Yes, I do consider this a hobby. And yes, I really do enjoy it. Tracking expenses and paying bills are not particularly fun activities, but tracking the progress I’m making toward a major financial goal is fun. Imagining a financially secure future in which I’m free to pursue my interests is fun. Heck, even budgeting is fun. There’s something very satisfying about taking control of your financial life and seeing how it contributes to a better all-around life.
Weekend getaways: I love a mini-vaca! Going away for the weekend provides a much needed break from reality. If you have a great time, being away for two days can have the restorative effects of a much longer vacation at a fraction of the cost. I haven’t done this yet, but I’ve always wanted to pick a weekend and leave the destination open so that I can take advantage of last minute deals. Maybe this will be the topic of a future post… Yes! I will do this for my dear readers! I will take a mini vacation because I care so much about all of you! I shall do it for research! (Rationalizing is really not supposed to be part of the HotFrugal philosophy, but we all slip occasionally…)
Dancing: Going out dancing is a great time, although it can be expensive. But turning up the speakers and dancing around the house in your pajamas is free. It’s also private, which means you can dance like a COMPLETE fool. It’s even more fun when you sing along into your microphone/hairbrush (and how frugal to have a hairbrush that doubles as a microphone!).
Viva la frugal!