By Stephanie Rogers
You've got the day off, but your spending money is low and there's only so much time you can spend sitting in front of the television. Well, get up and do something different. There are literally dozens of fun things you can do without spending any money at all. Drink some wine and look at some art. Bake some bread. Invite some friends over to watch a goofy movie. Here are 20 (more) ideas for totally free activities that will expand your mind, make you feel better about yourself and give you a break from stress-inducing responsibilities.
Attend a Gallery Opening
Two words: free wine. Art gallery openings for new exhibits will not only give you a close look at some of your community's top artistic talents, but also access to free snacks and beverages. Plus, there are bound to be some pretty interesting people milling about, so it's a great chance to make a few new acquaintances. But if you're going to show up and drink the wine, be sure to display interest in the work and say a few kind words to the artist. Just saying...
Check Out Your Community Calendar
How many fun, practical and occasionally strange events are you missing because you don't check your community calendar? Often published in free weeklies or in the local newspaper, these calendars can be a treasure trove of free activities. You could be learning how to assemble bouquets, taking walking tours of local historical sites, attending outdoor festivals or watching beefy young men wrestle in church basements. It's a source of virtually endless entertainment.
At first, this doesn't sound like fun. It sounds like cleaning, which is work. But that's before you get addicted to the post-organization high of "Oh wow, my house looks amazing and I actually know where things are located." Pinterest is a great source of inspiration and ideas for organization that often use items you already have on hand rather than requiring an expensive trip to the store.
Play a Challenging Word Game
Break out the Scrabble board, some tough crossword puzzles, or even Words with Friends. Games don't have to be time-wasters; many of them can help you increase your vocabulary so you can sound smarter when you're angling for a promotion or chatting up that Ph.D. down the hall. Being highly literate is sexy.
Bake a Loaf of Bread
If you've got flour and some yeast, you can bake a loaf of bread - even if you've never baked anything in your life. It may seem like some kind of magical alchemy to people who aren't accustomed to baking, and it sort of is. But it's magic that is totally manageable. Baking a loaf of bread will force you to slow down for an afternoon, giving you opportunities to fit in other activities as the dough rises.
Learn About a New Topic
Maybe you're interested in the cannibalistic rituals of ancient cultures, or just want to learn how to apply 1960s-style eyeliner. You can find information on just about anything on the internet, so there are no excuses for not learning more about topics that interest you. Read up on something you've always wanted to know, or watch a few YouTube videos that will teach you how to do some kind of new hair braid.
Host a Movie Marathon
Ask your friends to bring their favorite movies, or choose a series from your own collection. There's always the library, too, which usually offers free or very cheap DVD rentals. Whether it's a guilty pleasure like Twilight or Mystery Science Theater, movie marathons are one of the most fun ways to forget about your worries for a few hours.
Learn a New Skill
Break out that musical instrument that's been hanging on your wall like an art piece rather than serving its true purpose. Open the Beginner's Knitting Pack that you got for your birthday that one year and haven't looked at since. Or just identify something that you've always wanted to learn how to do, and commit to giving it at least a few hours of your time. Maybe it's learning a new language, or maybe it's just changing the oil in your car. Again, YouTube is full of videos that will guide you through all manner of tasks, making new skills more easily acquired than ever.
Call an Old Friend
We all have friendships that have fallen by the wayside because we just can't seem to find the time to make a phone call. Now's the time. You're bored, you're low on cash and cell phones have made long distance calls cheaper than ever. Take an hour or two to catch up. If you can't seem to work out a time when you're both available, write a letter, record a video greeting or start an email correspondence. If you both live in the same city, take the time to meet up! Friendships make our lives so much richer. They're worth taking the time out of your schedule, however busy you may be.
Scan Your Old Photos
Most of us have boxes full of old film photos that we haven't looked at in ages. Scanning them definitely takes a bit of work and a good chunk of time, but it'll ensure that these memories are preserved in case of fire or flood. Plus, taking the time to organize and digitize them is a fun way to reminisce about the past.
Clean Up Your Neighborhood
You don't have to join a local group or organize some kind of official outing. Just go out into your neighborhood with a pair of gloves and a trash bag and start picking up. Even an hour of effort can make a big difference, and it'll make you feel better about where you live.
Take a Mental Vacation
Download a guided meditation app for your smartphone, or simply head out to a place where you won't be disturbed and give yourself permission to let go of all your stress and worries. Wish. Imagine. Daydream. Let your mind go wherever it wants to go, as long as it's not a negative place. Fall into the kind of relaxed mental state that can spark creativity and a sense of peaceful healing. Even if you only have five minutes, it'll make you feel mentally refreshed so you can get back to your tasks with sharpened acuity.
Tackle a DIY Project
You know all those cutesy DIY projects that you've been collecting on Pinterest or bookmarking at Design Sponge, imagining that you'll get to 'someday?' Someday is today. Many such projects make use of what you already have or reclaim free or discarded items, so it doesn't have to cost any money. Spray paint some old mason jars into pretty vases, turn a men's button-down shirt into a skirt or make a new coffee table out of wood pallets.
Push Yourself Harder
There's some task or skill that you've taken up, but haven't quite mastered just yet. Take the time to get that much better at it. Push yourself to the next level, whether it's eking out an extra 10 sit-ups, playing a more complex song on the piano or trying your hand at some French pastries.
Revisit an Old Favorite
Maybe the movie you were obsessed with when you were a senior in high school, or the album you listened to over and over again to comfort yourself when you moved to a new city isn't to your taste anymore. But it can be fun to revisit those old favorites, and recall what made us love them so much at the time.
Make a Pinhole Camera
The only special equipment you need to capture ghostly, eerie images is some photo paper. A pinhole camera can be made out of virtually anything - from a cardboard box to an entire room. You're simply creating a light-proof box with a small hole in one side. When light from a scene passes through the hole, it projects an inverted image onto the opposite side of the box, where photo paper is taped. If you don't have any photo paper, ask a local photography shop if they have any expired paper that they're about to throw away; it may not be sensitive enough to capture the sharp images required by professionals, but its imperfections will contribute to the dreamy feel of a pinhole image.
Build a Fort
Who says adults can't build forts, too? For many of us, building makeshift forts out of blankets is among our favorite childhood memories. There's something so cozy about curling up with a book in a heap of pillows in what feels like a private little space of your own. It can be as simple as tying a string between a doorknob and a piece of furniture and throwing a sheet over it.
Make a List of Your Goals
It's easy to get so swept up in the rhythms of daily life that you lose your sense of where you want to go. Maybe you've lost sight of what's truly important in your life, or fallen off track in your business goals. Write out what you want, and steps that you can reasonably take to get there - even if they're really small steps.
If you're looking for free things to do, chances are, you're trying to cut costs and be careful with your money. Write out a budget if you haven't already, and identify additional ways to save. There are literally hundreds of money-saving tips available online; start with The Budget Diet's list of ways to cut up to $400 from your budget every month.
Take a Nap
Perhaps making a pinhole camera, thinking about finances or playing the piano is just way too much for you right now, considering you can barely focus on the computer screen. It's okay. Don't feel guilty. Set your alarm, lay your head down and take a nap. You deserve it.
ALSO CHECK OUT:
20 Fun Things to Do With Friends For Free
12 Free Green DIY Projects
23 Fun and Free Date Ideas
Photos: sleepyjeanie, nayukim, surlygirl, katerha, glitter weddings