41 Things You Can Do for Free
A big part of America’s debt problem is systemic – we live in an economic system that exploits people and takes from the poor to give to the rich. However, that’s at the “macro” level. At the individual level, one part of the problem is that we are taught that the only way to be fulfilled or feel valuable is to consume things. To spend. And many people find it difficult to pass a day without spending a lot of money. They can’t think of things to do, and if they do, it may leave them feeling unfulfilled.
Even if you have it to spend, it can be liberating not to do that. It’s important to break that cycle.
Below is a list of things, almost all of which are almost free. Nothing, in a sense, is actually free, since as long as you’re alive you’re burning calories and needing a place to live, and for many, those things cannot be taken for granted. Likewise, electricity and internet bandwidth are negligible for most people these days, but they’re not completely free. But once those things are covered, most of the things below are actually free – or very nearly so – with the one spectacular exception of Six Flags.
I explain the reason for its inclusion below, and that reasoning would also perhaps apply to many types of memberships. I would caution you against too many things like that, though, because they do imply an expense that can be quite substantial. Six Flags, as I point out, is NOT free even in the scenario I posit. We do like to keep the expense of any one trip to a minimum, however, and that can be basically free.
My list does not include some items many people’s lists do include, things like watching television in your man-cave or window-shopping at Saks Fifth Avenue or the like. That’s because these things are first cousins to expense, and they are indulgences that will likely eventually lead to your feeling the need to buy stuff. They’re a part of our consumption-based culture, and they imply the previous purchase of expensive things, or the envy or admiration of others who have expensive things. My list is designed to take you out of the consumption-oriented world and to a simpler, truly less expensive place.
- Spend time with your children. They only stay young for a while – heck, YOU only stay young for a while. Enjoy the time you have with the ones most precious to you.
- Spend time with other children. See the above. Children have such an amazing gift to give. Did you know that most adults don’t ever really look at children? I mean, as in, seriously paying attention to them. If you do, it’s like shining a bright light into their life – they instantly notice and almost always reward you spectacularly. Look at them in the eyes and hold the look when they notice. Do something funny and see what happens.
- We have a free zoo, and it’s hard to beat that for both animal and people-watching.
- Walk down train tracks. Don’t you think there’s something really romantic about trains? Maybe it’s the thunder, maybe the rhythm, but for me, watching a moving train is exciting. Walking along the tracks makes me think of all the places I’ve been or could go.
- Go to the gym. It’s a nice way to spend a couple of hours, and then you get the endorphin rush and long-term health benefits, too. My gym costs me $150 for two years, so – not free, but pretty inexpensive.
- Paint a picture, or draw one. If you try to draw something and get it right, you will notice how much you have to focus in order to do it. It’s pleasing, you forget yourself, and actually – anybody can do it.
- Write a story. Kind of like painting a picture. You might think it takes talent to do this, and to some extent you might be right – but maybe you have the talent, and even if you don’t, it can be fun.
- Have a campfire. If you’re near a place where you can do that, it’s hard to beat, sometimes.
- Go for a long walk. Everybody thinks of this, but you could actually do it.
- Create a page on Pinterest and start pinning things you like.
- Make a list of things you like that are free. It doesn’t cost anything, and it reminds you of things that make you feel better.
- Pet your dog or cat. They love it – as much as you can stand. And that’s why you have them.
- Call your mom or dad. Talk to them and tell you how you’re really doing. Ask them how they are.
- Write an old-fashioned snail mail letter. Technically not free if you send it, but very, very inexpensive! And people love to get personal mail.
- Write an email. Free, but not as special in my opinion. On the other hand, it is instant gratification and is more likely to stimulate a quick response.
- Google something freaky and read all about it.
- Bring up the latest freaky thing you googled in a conversation and impress your friends.
- Start a blog. You can write about the freaky things you google. That would probably gain you a cult following.
- Do a Youtube video. It isn’t hard. You can do a video with your phone, edit it on your computer, and upload to a free Youtube site.
- Get up really early. Other people like to mention naps, and I considered them and including going to bed early in this list, and those things have their place, but what about getting up early and watching the sunrise? That’s pretty cool. If you get up early enough, you can hear the birds start to sing. Do you know that birds either are dinosaurs or closely related to them? They’ve been around a very, very long time!
- Make some art out of stuff you found.
- Teach a child to read. There’s nothing in the world like opening up someone else’s world. Or you could teach them other stuff.
- Enjoy a cup of tea in silence. Technically not free, but again, very, very inexpensive! And it’s one of the great simple pleasures. There is joy in silence. You DON’T always have to be hooked in.
- Organize something that needs organization. For me, there are always a lot of things I could do along these lines, but for some it might be harder to find things that need organizing.
- Join a Meet-up group. Do you know that there are people getting together and doing just about anything you can think of? They aren’t free to organize, but they’re usually free to attend.
- Go to a high school football, soccer, basketball, or tennis game. It’s actually fun even if you don’t care who wins. You might see someone you know, and it’s cool to watch people really trying hard to do well.
- Go to a college music recital. My son plays piano, and twice a year all the students of his teacher put on a recital as part of their musical development. It is amazing. First, it’s incredible to watch people trying hard to do anything, and second, the level of talent that’s all around us is one of those miracles we don’t pay much attention to. But we should. And the music is beautiful and probably not what you listen to most of the time. Music recitals are different than art openings or shows, by the way. Something about performance.
- Do something that you do really well. A lot of times we learn how to do stuff and then we move on. But whatever you’re good at, do more.
- Do something you’re really bad at. Give yourself permission to try something new. You know, with practice you could probably do it really well. Give yourself the freedom to consider that.
- Get a library card and use it. Libraries have so much stuff! We had to make more use of libraries because my son can read so fast – he reads five times as fast as I do, and there’s no way to buy him books. He’s done by the time we get out of the bookstore half of the time. But he can check out ten books at a time if he wants, and that will keep him busy for a week. I might even get one myself. Plus there are movies there, too, sometimes.
- Play a card game or board game. Don’t gamble because that involves money. Enjoy the game itself.
- Read a book. This can be free at the library, and there are also a lot of free things on Kindle or the internet more generally. At the library, you can walk around and look at dozens of books before you choose one. It’s amazing how big the world is. And then you choose one, and you will spend hours doing something that’s good for you, pleasurable, and free. Even if you went to a bookstore and bought one, it would still be very inexpensive per hour of enjoyment.
- Get a season pass to Six Flags. This is not free, not even close, really, except for this: if you buy it at the right time, you can get a whole season pass, plus parking for the season, for the same or even less than you’d spend on a single day pass. If you do it that way, it’s a great bargain, and by the time you’ve been there three or four times, it starts to feel free. Riding a roller coaster is one of the great thrills of our childhood. I’ve discovered that they’re still a lot of fun.
- Spend all morning in bed with your sweetheart. It’s almost too obvious to mention, isn’t it? But they’re our lovers for a reason. Taking the time with them is one of the great things we can forget about in all the hustle and bustle of life.
- Walk in the park on a summer evening. Listen to the sounds. Or walk in the winter and listen – really listen – to the silence. With many billion people on the planet, how can things feel so quiet an alone? Amazing.
- Make popcorn. Technically, not free, but you’re rarely going to create debt problems based on a popcorn habit. If you control the amount of salt and oil, it isn’t bad for you at all.
- Plant a garden. Watch the expenses on this! But if you stay moderate, this is mostly free and eventually pays off. I like herbs like basil, peppermint and rosemary, all of which are easy to grow, and tomatoes and beans, which are both cheap and pretty easy.
- Publish a story on Kindle. I’m not saying it’s important to publish or sell anything. I’m saying you could, and it’s free. It can open up a whole new can of worms for you.
- Volunteer to help with old people. People in nursing homes can get so lonely, and spending time at an old folk’s home can be humbling and invigorating at the same time. It will make you think twice about a lot of things.
- Learn your rights. This is not a product promotion, but you are invited to watch videos and read articles on my site. If you have debt problems at all, you will find interesting reading. If you don’t have debt problems but are interested in the legal system, you will also find interesting reading. And if you’re interested in something else, just do a search and find a site with info that will be interesting to you. Go there.
- Listen to an old time radio show. Do you know that there are thousands of old-time radio shows free to be had in the form of mp3 downloads? Back in the 1920s through 40s, before television really got big, radio shows were a major form of entertainment, and a lot of them were pretty great. Our favorite is the Adventures of Sam Spade, Detective. These shows were always witty and had great action and drama. My mother loved them as a child, and it was a nightly ritual for me as a kid to listen to radio theater too (already old and mostly gone then). Now my son listens to a show almost every night, too.