When you finally have some free time after hours of hard work, it can be tempting not to spend all your hard-earned cash. It seems like just about everything enjoyable costs money. Want to see a movie? That will run you about $20. Dinner and drinks? $40. Concerts, unless you find a free one, can run you over a hundred dollars. Finding an affordable activity to do with your friends in the wintertime is even more of a challenge, because you’re cooped up inside most of the time where you always seem to fall into the same routine and getting outside to do something tends to cost money (skiing, snowboarding, tubing, a spa retreat…they’ll all cost you). As a college student, I understand the paradoxical need to save money while wanting to have a good time as well.
So what are you supposed to do to avoid feeling bored and restless, or worse yet, overwhelmed, from all the work you have to do for school or your job? Believe it or not, scrolling through your social media profiles on your phone or parking yourself in front of the tv are not the only options. There are plenty of free and affordable activities that will offer you a fun outlet without breaking the bank! Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Get crafty: There are no limits to exercising your creativity, so try out a craft or DIY project if you feel like your creative bug has been in hiding for too long. The materials you’ll need to work from home, such as paint brushes, pencils, markers, paper, and paint will cost you if you don’t already own them, but if you buy good quality materials, they should last you awhile. You could even just get a coloring book and colored pencils- adult coloring has been scientifically proven to reduce stress. Or if you’d rather ease into an artsy activity or would prefer to get out of the house, check out a paint and wine class with your friends. They usually run around $35 a seat, but you’ll get to take a beautiful painting home with you! Plus, some craft stores offer free classes and events. If you’re feeling extra ambitious, try taking on a DIY project in your home, such as painting or redecorating a room.
- Go rock climbing: Rock climbing is a great indoor winter activity, and for the price of a movie and snacks, you can get a day pass to spend all day honing your climbing skills. Do a search of rock gyms in your area to find one close to you! You’ll learn trust and responsibility as you learn how to belay your friends as they climb and trust them to do the same for you. Plus, rock climbing is a great workout. You can develop some serious arm and leg muscles from all that climbing.
Give snowshoeing or ice skating a try: Some winter activities, such as skiing and snowboarding (especially if you plan a whole vacation around them!) can be pricy, but there are other activities you can enjoy for free or very little money right in your own backyard! Okay, maybe not literally in your backyard, but you can probably find a local indoor or outdoor skating rink, which shouldn’t cost you more than $10 for admission and skate rental, or you could skate on a frozen pond or lake if you check that it’s safe. Another idea is snowshoeing, which can look a little like skiing, except instead of coasting downhill, you are gliding over the snow as you walk through it instead of sinking into it. It’s a form of hiking.
Take a winter hike: Along those lines, take a winter hike! Hiking isn’t just an activity reserved for the warmer months. Find a local trail for something convenient and affordable, or if you happen to be located within a reasonable distance of a national park, you can enjoy the tranquility of exploring their plethora of trails in the off-season.
Take a swim: I don’t mean a polar bear plunge into frigid water! But if that’s what you’re into, go for it. Luckily, if you’re a swimmer like me, you don’t have to give up your swim game in the winter. Fit in some practice sessions at your local gym’s indoor pool and reward yourself afterwards with a dip in the hot tub. If you live near one of the United States’ 1,661 natural hot springs, even better!
Bake or cook something: The best kinds of activities are the ones that involve food you get to eat! You don’t have to be a good cook or baker to enjoy spending some time in the kitchen- cooking/baking is made easy with the abundance of recipes available online and through sites like Pinterest. Find a recipe with a few simple ingredients and give it a whirl! You’ll probably surprise yourself with what you can make.
Play it old school with a board game: Video games, unless you already have a collection, can be expensive! Not to mention, you don’t need me to tell you (I’m sure your mom already has) that it’s not good to stare at a tv screen all day. Plus, video games (unless they’re mmos) can be kind of isolating. So put on your social skills and your thinking cap, and have a game night with friends or family! There are so many great games out there. Looking for something challenging? Check out The Settlers of Catan or Risk. Something humorous? Can’t go wrong with Cards Against Humanity or Rotten Apples. The years of enjoyment you can get out of a board game or card game are well worth the down payment.
Explore your area as a tourist would: Even if you’ve lived in your hometown (or wherever you currently reside) for several years, there are probably still some local attractions you haven’t gotten around to checking out. Even if they’re kitschy tourist traps, it can be fun to approach your town from a new perspective. Check out museums, parks, galleries, or attractions that you’ve never been to and you could be in for a pleasant surprise. Groupon and LivingSocial are great resources to find fun activities in your area at a bargain price.
Bonus idea: Volunteer! Volunteering can be hard work, so you may not necessarily think of it as fun, but the fulfillment you get from helping others will stay with you and is more worthwhile than the transient fun any other activity can provide. Check out VolunteerMatch.org to find causes you care about in your area, and reap the benefits that volunteer work provides! As much of a service as you may provide to someone else through volunteering, you’ll also be doing a service to yourself as you gain valuable experience in your field of interest, and it looks great on a resume!