30 Free Things to do Instead of Spending Money When You’re Bored

by | Jul 5, 2024 | Culture

When boredom strikes, it’s easy to find ways to spend money to keep you occupied: a meal out, shopping for something new around the home, or admission tickets to an activity. For a whole family, this cost multiplies. Working in some free activities can be a meaningful way to stay within your entertainment spending limits outlined in your budget, so you can meet your financial goals.

You don’t have to turn to watching TV or scrolling on your phone to pass the time. Get creative and embrace some new activities to help you save money, cure boredom, and explore something new!

You can also use this list as an opportunity to take on a self-directed savings challenge. Create a Jar in Milli and every time you skip a purchase or activity that would cost money in favor of something free, deposit the equivalent amount of what you would have spent into your Jar. Then, you can save up for a bigger purchase or activity intentionally. To help keep the free ideas top of mind, use your digital calendar. After you get inspired by some of these ideas, look at your schedule and on future days with nothing planned yet, add a few to your agenda. Coordinate with friends, family, or make it a solo activity.

Over time, you’ll build the habit of starting with no-cost activities to cure (or prevent) boredom rather than defaulting to something that requires spending money. Now, let’s dig into these ideas:

Image of four adults playing pickleball with an icon of a pie chart overlaid to represent free activities someone can do when bored

Free Activities for Entertainment

If you’re bored and feeling the need to spend money, you may just need some novel entertainment to shake up the routine. Here are a few no-cost options for things to do with your downtime:

1. Play outside. Play isn’t just for kids. Most of us could use more outside time in our lives. Find a court or field for basketball, soccer, volleyball, tennis, or pickleball. Fly a kite or toss a baseball or frisbee. Use equipment you already own or coordinate with a friend or neighbor to borrow or play together. You’ll get fresh air and some movement.

2. Take a nature walk or hike. Look up free parks and trails near you and go explore. Know your limits and research any safety considerations before your hike, then bring supplies and a buddy.  Check out the AllTrails app for helpful information about different routes.

3. Swim. If the weather permits and you have access to a pool or swimmable lake or river, take a dip. Don’t be afraid to call up a friend who has a pool (either their own, or perhaps at an apartment or homeowner’s association) and ask if they can bring a guest.

4. Read.  Explore your local library, reread a favorite from your own collection, or read a book you have sitting on your shelf you have not yet cracked open. If you have an e-reader, check out Libby to find free e-books or audiobooks from your library.

5. Check out free museums. See which museums near you are free to visit and check out your library for museum passes to get free admission to museums that usually charge. Some museums offer free entry days either weekly or monthly and you can plan for a future outing.

6. Play a computer or video game. Enjoy a game from your collection or check out a free one. Steam has a selection of free to play games. The App Store and Google Play also have free options for phones and tablets. Just watch out for games with microtransactions along the way to encourage you to end up spending more than if you paid for the app.

7. Puzzles and tabletop games. Bust out a puzzle, deck of cards, or board game. If you have a printer, you can print out the cards and rules for some new games – check out this list from Board Game Geek.

8. Live out your artist dreams. Use whatever you have around your house to make some art, such as coloring, watercolor paints, or turning old magazines or junk mail into collages. Or go digital and edit photos or draw on a tablet.

9. Explore and take photos. Check out some videos on smartphone photography, or dig up an old camera. Then, go explore a local spot with interesting subjects like a downtown street or a park, and see what kind of moments you can capture.

10. Call or video chat. Connect with a friend or family member you haven’t spoken to in a while. It could really make someone’s day that you thought of them and wanted to catch up.

11. Check out free events in your area. This one requires some advance planning, but often libraries, your town/city, county, or local faith centers will host free community events. Check out these organizations on social media and their websites to see what might be coming up on their calendar.

12. Host a casual potluck. A potluck can be a great way to get a group together for a meal without needing to spend anything. Be sure to communicate that this is not a fancy affair, and everyone can keep their contribution low-key with ingredients they already have on hand. You can host at your home or go to a park and make it picnic style. If you need to make a trip to the store for some ingredients, you can still choose something simple and budget friendly.

Stay Productive Instead of Spending

Another great way to keep your mind off the urge to spend is to make use of your time in a productive way. You may want to pair one of these options with an activity from the entertainment section to give yourself something to look forward to.

Image of hands frosting a two layer cake on a stand with bowls of ingredients around, with an icon of a calculator overlaid representing staying productive instead of spending money

13. Exercise. Move your body. Go for a walk or run, use a fitness facility you have access to, use at-home exercise equipment, or follow along with an equipment-free fitness video online. There are tons of free workout videos on YouTube, or if you already have a subscription to a workout app, make use of that.

14. Learning something new. Dig into a new subject, hobby, or learn a language. You could learn more about a niche topic or build skills in new software to advance your career.

15. Make a more elaborate meal or dessert. Cook or bake a new recipe or use a more involved cooking technique to prepare something more elevated than you might normally make. Not sure what to make? Check out Supercook, a helpful website that allows you to enter in all the ingredients you have on hand and suggests recipes with those ingredients. You could meal prep for the week ahead for an extra productivity boost. When you’re cooking or baking for fun, it’s a great excuse to pull out some kitchen equipment that doesn’t get as much use.

16. Journal. Free write or follow guided journal prompts. You can find some great journal prompts on Pinterest for whatever has been on your mind. You could also reflect on how your family has impacted your relationship with money.

17. Organize or declutter. Take the time to declutter and/or organize a space in your home that needs some attention. It’s okay to get rid of things that aren’t serving you. You may be able to repurpose or upcycle those items into something new or donate to someone else in your community.

18. Deep clean. Whether it’s the baseboards, floors, upholstery, or something else, it seems like there’s always something around the home that could use a deep clean. (Hint: pair this with some music, podcast, or audiobook to make the task more enjoyable.)

19. Tackle a home project. Look around for a feasible home maintenance or improvement DIY project you could accomplish. Something may need a repair or a refresh, and you can save yourself additional money in the long run by dedicating time to upkeep.

20. Garden. For no-cost gardening, start by clearing or pruning your garden, propagating existing plants you have, or starting seeds from produce in your home. You can also learn about your USDA zone and native plants for your area. When you’re ready to spend on any supplies you don’t already have on hand, consider plants that support pollinators. If you have an area on your property that floods, look into building a rain garden to mitigate flooding.

21. DIY beauty care. Whatever grooming you like to do, take time to do that now. Use what you have on hand for things like skincare, haircare, or a DIY mani or pedi. You may have unearthed some unfinished or even unopened beauty products while organizing and decluttering.

22. Do a finance check-in. Come on – you had to expect this one from a bank blog! Get familiar with your account balances, review your recent spending and subscriptions, see how you’re pacing toward finance goals, and review if your insurance policies are the appropriate amounts for your current needs. Also check any benefits at your work or health insurance that you may be able to maximize.

Unexpected Free Things to Do

If you’re still looking for more options after the 22 ideas above, keep going. Here, we’ll dig into a few more outside-the-box and unexpected things you can do to fill your time:  

23. Write to your elected officials. Make your voice heard by writing to your elected officials about an issue that is important to you or a change you want to see in your community. On this website you can enter your address and it will find your officials at the city, county, state, and federal level and provide easy links to contact them.

24. Digitize old photos or documents. Take the time to make digital records of physical files so you can either back them up or declutter paper from your home. If you don’t have a scanner of your own, the local library might – just be sure to see if you need to bring in your own USB drive.

25. Get a head start on celebration cards. Whether for birthdays, milestones, or the holidays, you can design or write cards ahead of time. Use cards you already have at home or check out Canva to design free digital cards (or print them for an additional cost). Get a calendar with all the upcoming events you want to acknowledge, write your cards, and set a digital reminder of when you need to drop the card in the mail or bring it to an occasion. 

26. Volunteer. Connect with a local organization for ways to give back or do something informal like helping a friend or neighbor with a project.

27. Build a blanket fort. Make a movie night or TV show marathon more intentional and fun by building a fort with sheets and blankets. Cuddle up with loved ones (pets count too) and some fun movie snacks.

28. Geocaching. It’s like a digital treasure hunt. Explore an area aided by GPS or a specialized app to hide and seek containers.

29. Create a time capsule. Assemble items, photos, and news articles that represent the current year, and write a letter to the future recipients who will open the capsule. Label it, store it away somewhere secure, and set a reminder for yourself and anyone involved in creating the time capsule.

And we saved what might be the best for last:

30. Plan a future low-budget vacation. If you decided to start a spending challenge with these free activities, you could use the money in your Jar to pay for the trip.  Challenge yourself to a tighter dollar amount and get creative with how you can maximize your trip. Create different spreadsheet pages to compare how much it would cost to visit different destinations based on transportation, lodging, dining, and activities. Plan out when would be the most affordable times to travel based on what works with your schedule. Bookmark links to revisit later when you’re ready to book the trip. If you’re tempted to spend money when you’re bored, this is a particularly great way to satisfy that need.

Conclusion

Break the cycle of spending out of boredom! It doesn’t have to cost you any money to have a fulfilling weekend or day off work. Incorporating these free activities into your routine can turn boredom into a gateway for creativity and exploration. Whether it’s learning a new skill, embarking on a nature adventure, or attending a community event, these options offer enriching ways to pass the time without falling back to sitting on the couch mindlessly watching TV or scrolling on social media. Embrace these opportunities to expand your horizons and you may learn something new – maybe about yourself. So next time boredom strikes, refer back to this list and choose an activity that excites you, inspires you, and makes the most of your time.

If you’re looking for a tool to help you spend and save intentionally, check out Milli. Our customizable spending and savings features (like Jars) will help you on the path to reaching your financial goals. Download Milli from the App Store or Google Play today.

Keep reading on the Milli blog:

Reflecting on How Your Family Impacts Your Relationship with Money
How to do a Mid-Year Money Review 
Invest in Yourself: Cost-Effective Ways to Advance Your Career