10 Cheap HobbiesGetting a hobby is a great way to add balance to life, but an expensive pastime can cause more stress than it is intended to erase. After all, how can you relax while blowing through your entire paycheck? Since we’ve already let you know what types of hobbies can get you into serious debt, we thought we’d point out some that don’t cost a fortune. Of course, if these hobby suggestions don’t de-stress you, you can always adopt a puppy. Photo Credit: ddebold
Start an herb gardenGardening has long been a favorite pastime for those seeking balance. Start small by planting a small container garden or keep it extra simple and stick to herbs. You can buy rosemary, basil, parsley or sage seeds for as little as 69 cents. Containers fit for an herb garden will cost about $1.27 to $19.98. The upside of a garden is that not only is it a cheap hobby, it could actually save you money since you’re growing your own food and won’t have to buy the packaged herbs, which can cost you $8 to $15 for two jars. Check out this article to get your garden started.
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Crochet/KnittingCrocheting requires yarn (not yards and yards of expensive fabric) and a single crochet hook (no sewing machine necessary), so frugal fashion designers should start making sweaters. DiscountYarnSale.com sells spools of the stuff for as little as $20. You can also get a hook set for $37.50.
Freecrochet.com offers free patterns, product ideas and a guide for beginners. Those with a particular knack for knitting can sell their wares at local craft fairs or on sites like Etsy.com. Those who want to crochet recreationally will at least save money on Christmas presents.
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Wood-carvingThose who like working with their hands can keep this hobby affordable by sticking to the basics. Purchase a wood-carving kit from Amazon (the retailer is currently selling this 18-piece set for $36) and get some wood at a nearby Home Depot (you can get some suitable planks for under $5.) You can use reclaimed wood for some of your carvings, however, The Sculpture Studio advises from uses tree logs since it is hard to find ones with the proper moisture content. The Sculpture Studio has an online tutorial to help you select the right wood. For example, small hand-held craft objects, such as duck or shorebird decoys, require basswood. The web site also reviews the basics on how to carve.
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BakingCooking is a favorite pastime of many hobby seekers, but making desserts instead of entrees won’t slim your wallet as quickly since most baking recipes call for some mix of the following ingredients: flour, sugar, eggs, butter and vanilla extract (plus a chocolate chip or two). Buying these staples outright might run up your grocery bill, but they go a long way. A 5lb bag of flour, for example, costs around $20. This could make you around 7 batches of sugar cookies (most basic recipes call for 3 cups of flour a piece.) Restaurant Supplies and Equipment sells basic baking pans for as little as $3.60. You can also get some fancier products, such as a baker’s scale or flour sieve, for affordable prices.
Get a recipe book for as little as $20 or, simply find free recipes online from the Food Network, Allrecipes.com or various bakers who blog on the Internet.
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HikingHiking is an inexpensive way to take a break from the real world … and get some exercise. According to Livestrong.com, the average person burns 400 calories per hour while trekking through the great outdoors. You can visit Trails.com to find some free hiking grounds in your area. Most basic trails won’t require you wear fancy gear (sneakers, cargo shorts and a T-shirt will suffice) so most weekend trips won’t cost you more than the gas needed to drive out there. Just make sure to bring a few snacks and plenty of water.
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Become a yogiInstitute a lifestyle change (or mix up your stress-reducing workout) by taking a yoga class. The therapeutic exercise and subsequent meditation has become so popular these days that you don’t have to shell out the big bucks for a little deep breathing. Many local YMCAs offer all types of yoga classes (ashtanga, iyengar or bikram) for around $30 a month. You can also check out yelp.com to find an affordable guru near you. Just make sure you skip buying $108 yoga pants. Yoga To the People, which has studios in New York City, San Francisco and Berkeley, Ca., offers technically offers classes for free as, according the their web site, “Yoga is meant to help strengthen and stretch your arms and legs, not cost you one!” They do, however, you suggest you give a $10 donation per class. And you may want to consider buying your own yoga mat, which costs as little as $15. Photo Credit: The U.S. Army
PuzzlesPuzzles provide a less stressful opportunity to challenge and stimulate your brain. After all, a crossword puzzle doesn’t have you on a deadline. Additionally, puzzles are affordable. You can buy crossword or Sudoku books at a local convenience store for as little as $3 (or sometimes less). However, those who really want to develop this hobby should purchase a giant jigsaw puzzle. Simplepasttimes.com sells 3,000-piece puzzles for as little as $20.95, though experienced puzzle players (or art fanatics) may want to buy their 13,200-piece Michelangelo’s The Creation of Man puzzle for $129.95. After all, that puzzle, once completed and framed, will look nice hanging up in your basement.
Photo Credit: brad montgomery
Bird-watchingAccording to a survey by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 51.3 million Americans report that they watch birds … and, no, they don’t mean they chase pigeons off their front lawns. Bird-watchers observe the birds in their natural habitat and learn how to identify the animals by their physical characteristics. It’s easy to keep this hobby cost effective as part of its appeal is finding out what species you can discover in your own neighborhood.
Birdwatching.com has free online field guides available that will point out popular birds in your region. The site also teaches you how to attract birds to your own backyard so you can minimize travel. You can also buy a cheap portable bird-watcher’s guide from Amazon.com for less than $15. The online retailer sells other supplies at affordable prices. For example, you can score a pair of binoculars for $70 or a spotting scope for $40.
Technically, bird-watchers don’t need a camera, but if you want a photo of the animal, Amazon also has digital cameras for less than $100.Photo Credit: yashima
Coach Little League or be an umpire.If you love sports or your child is in Little League, you could consider coaching or umpiring for your local organization in your spare time. In general, Little League coaches and umpires aren’t paid, though some do get small stipends. According to the Little League Organization, virtually anyone can volunteer. There is no experience required and local leagues will provide any training they deem necessary. Supplies for the games are also provided.
You’ll pay more in time than you do in dollars. Little League coaches don’t just show up to games. They have to teach players basic skills, run fundraisers and attend promotional events. Those not interested in a such a time commitment can check out the Little League organization website for less involved volunteer opportunities. Photo Credit: Jerome T
Start a blogA study done by the University of California in 2009 found that putting your feelings into words can significantly reduce stress levels. Another incentive for becoming a wordsmith? Starting a blog is essentially free (provided you own a computer with an Internet connection.) Blogging platforms like Tumblr and Blogger give you access to their templates and an audience of fellow bloggers at no charge.
Many people have parlayed their online share-fests into a full-time profession so you could make a few bucks if you play your blogs right. (Consider celebrity blogger Perez Hilton, aka Mario Lavandeira … wonder what he does in his spare time.)
Photo Credit: richardmasoner