15 awesome things to do when you’re strapped for cash

I quit my job last week. I was being paid less than the minimum wage and when I asked to be put on the books and paid the award, my employer refused. And then said I was backstabbing them. Say what?

So I’m glad I left. But now I need to find a new job. Because I have zero savings and well, a girl’s gotta eat!

And you know what else we gotta do? Apart from breathe, drink water, pay bills and call back our Mum… we really need to prioritise chill out time. Zoning out in front of a screen doesn’t count. We need to do things that fill up our soul with joy and create memories that we can draw on when we’re having a crappy day.

I truly believe that our main purpose in life is to desire and seek quenching, life giving joy, because chasing this feeling leads us down the knobbly trail of our passions and dreams. And when we seek joy through following our passions and dreams, that is when we are of the highest service to others.

Also, doing fun things is, well, fun. Joy makes you joyful. And that feels good. Profound, huh?

The problem is, when we work and study and have bills and rent or mortgages to pay, sometimes getting out and enjoying life seems a bit too expensive. So today I’ve come to your rescue. I’m well acquainted with the art of enjoying life on a tight budget so I’ve prepared for you a list of 15 things to do that will make you feel great without costing much, if any, of those hard earned dollars of yours.

Without further ado, and in no particular order:

1. Hiking- What walking trails, mountains, nature reserves and national parks are near you? Can you walk to them? Drive? Is there a train or bus that will get you there? Pull on some shoes, grab your water bottle, something to protect you from the weather and get out the door! Once you’re walking, out amongst the sounds and smells of nature, you’ll thank yourself for it. So grounding.

2. Picnic- On at least one day each weekend, I love having a late, slow breakfast. Unfortunately however, cafe food is expensive and often underwhelming. So instead I usually whip up some pancakes and have a home picnic outside. If you don’t have a backyard, is there a park nearby that you could go to? Take a book, some food and lay about in the warming winter sun!

3. Self pamper- This one may be more appealing to the ladies than the men folk, but self pampering is a great way to relax and it feels oh so indulgent, without the price tag of a spa. My favourite things to do are dry body brushing, giving myself an oil massage, doing a mini facial and then sitting down with a hot drink and a magazine. Sometimes I’ll stretch and do some yoga as well.

4. Gardening- Do you like gardening? It seems to have a reputation for being a vocation of the elderly who potter around amongst their roses and gardenias. Don’t be fooled. Gardening is the coolest hobby around. Just ask Costa! Personally, I love veggie gardening. If you’re super cash poor, and like flowers, make like my dad’s wife and walk around the neighbourhood, secateurs in hand to knab some cuttings. If you can spare a few bucks, head to your nursery and pick up some seeds. Instead of buying expensive pots, get creative with old containers. Check out the soil in your yard and see if you can start a compost and worm farm before going out and buying fertiliser.

5. Culinary experimentation- Making food is a really satisfying activity. It doesn’t matter what it is. Cakes and sweets or a hearty soup or stew. Fried, baked, slow-cooked, blended or brewed. I love trying new recipes or making them up. At the moment, Sarah Wilson’s paleo inside-out bread is up there with my favourites. 🙂

6. Get creative- build something, draw something, mosaic something (you can find cheap and free tiles at the tip or by asking tile shops for their broken ones), write poetry, pull out your camera and take some pretty shots around your neighbourhood.

7. Play music- did you learn an instrument as a kid? Or do you have a guitar lying around that you bought at a garage sale, with the intention of teaching yourself? Pull it out. Look up lessons on youtube, search for free sheet music through google. If you know other musicians (or maybe-one-time-in-high-school musicians), call them up and organise a jam sesh.

8. Pot luck dinner with friends- Like I said in suggestion 2, eating out is expensive and usually overrated. I love getting together with friends at someone’s house and everyone bringing a plate to share. It takes the pressure and expense out of hosting. Another (even cheaper) take on this, is that everyone brings some saggy sad veggies from the bottom of their fridge and other ingredients and leftovers they have and then you cook up something together.

9. Bike riding- No lycra necessary. Bike riding is such a great Sunday arvo activity. You can combine it with a picnic, or going to a friends house. Whatever. Just pull out your wheels and roll!

10. Reading- Reading is the best way to escape reality. I know kindles and e-books are the thing right now, but personally I love the feeling and smell of a real book. Reacquaint yourself with your local library and transport yourself to another world!

11. Impromptu at home dance party- Music. Must be loud. Sway. Jump. Move.

12. Volunteer somewhere- When I was a teenager I volunteered on Sundays at the local Nippers Club, helping kids gain confidence in the surf, learn surf safety and survival skills, how to catch waves and swim long distances. Those Sunday mornings were some of the best I can remember. I also volunteered for a while at the local nursing home. That was a really rewarding experience as well. Many of the elderly folk living there didn’t receive visits very often, if ever, and young, vibrant faces were very welcome about the place. If you are thinking about volunteering somewhere, consider whether you can make it a regular or longer term commitment. Turning up to volunteer just once is usually unappreciated by organisations, but the reward for your time is well worth the effort.

13. Write a letter to someone- It could be a family member or a friend. Someone you haven’t connected with in a while or someone you saw last week. Tell them how you feel about them, how much you appreciate them, what you really admire about them. You could go all out and hand write it, put on a postage stamp and send it via snail mail!

14. Research a holiday- This one bends my screen-time-doesn’t-count-rule, but when I’m feeling cash poor and stuck, one of the things that makes me feel better is getting on the net and researching a place I want to travel to. Right now I’m planning a cycling trip in New Zealand. You can scan pictures of potential places to visit, research accommodation options and transport (in my case, super cool touring bikes!). It gives you something to aim for and look forward to.

15. And finally…Sex- No further explanation needed!

Can you add to this? What fun things do you do that don’t cost much dosh? And, if you liked this post, why not share it with your friends?