13 Cheap and Fun Hobbies To Pick Up

Examples of Affordable Hobbies

Cheap and fun alternatives to watching TV

The Balance / Evan Polenghi

If you're looking for new ways to relax and have fun that don't break the bank, cultivating a few hobbies is a great way to do so. Whether you're trying to save money or are just feeling tired of your current routine, discovering new ways to enjoy your downtime will benefit your wallet as well as your general health and well-being.

The hobbies listed below are either free or inexpensive and can help you save money while also teaching you something. These hobbies aren't dependent on your location or your income level and offer a great alternative to streaming Netflix.

  • There are many ways to enjoy your downtime that will help you save money and contribute to your general health and well-being including reading, writing, hiking, playing an instrument, fostering a pet, and more.
  • Various forms of writing, including keeping a diary or gratitude journal, writing letters to friends, and working on a poem, story, or memoir is a great hobby that you can do anywhere and costs nothing.
  • Hiking, walking, and biking are all cheap ways to stay active. It's likely your area has a bike or hiking path you haven't explored yet.

Hiking, Walking, or Biking Hobbies

You don’t need to go to a gym to remain active. Instead, take a walk around your neighborhood or apartment complex. Seek out local trails that are for beginners, and reconnect with nature.

If walking isn’t your speed, buy a cheap bike (new or used) for less than $100, and bike around your city. Better yet, if you’re in a major city, rent a bike for a day or two, and see whether it’s worth investing in the hobby.

Hiking and walking require only decent shoes—which you probably already have—and comfortable clothes. Having a backpack and water bottle can be useful for hiking, but they may not be essential for very short hikes.

These are great activities for families, couples, or friends. Going for a late-night walk around town and then having a bonfire is a great way to end a night.

Cost: Free or less than $100 for a used bike.

Reading Hobbies

Reading is a cheap hobby that has a lot of benefits. It forces you to focus on something meaningful, can serve as an escape, and can spark creativity or inspiration. If you’re reading nonfiction books, you will probably learn something new.

If you’re not the page-flipping type, try audiobooks. They’re like podcasts, and you can take them anywhere and listen to them on a walk.

Instead of buying books, borrow them from the library. Many libraries have extensive digital selections, so the chance of being able to borrow an audiobook or ebook is greater than ever. You also can find many websites—such as Open Library—offer free ebooks.

Cost: Free at your local library, or $15-20 for a new book.

Writing Hobbies

During school, you write constantly, and when you graduate, it might be the last thing you want to do. However, spending some of your free time engaging in any form of writing has many benefits. Keeping a journal can help keep your mind sharp and stay in control of your emotions. Many find keeping a gratitude journal an especially helpful practice.

Writing poetry, a short story or even a novel can be an amazing creative journey to undertake. All it takes is a pen and paper, or software like Microsoft Word or Google Docs.

If you're looking for something simpler, spending an afternoon writing a letter to someone close to you can be a fun way to develop your relationship.

Do you have a specific message you want to spread to the world? Blogging can be a great way to get it out there, and you can find plenty of free blogging sites online.

Cost: Free.

Cooking and Baking Hobbies

Spending time in the kitchen can make some people miserable, but others thrive when they’re experimenting with different ingredients to make the perfect dish. The cost is whatever you pay for ingredients, and eating at home is usually cheaper than dining out.

One of the best parts about cooking and baking is that so many recipes are available online, you don’t need a cookbook at all. You can choose to follow recipes or adapt them to make them your own. If you have your own garden, you can even source your very own ingredients for free.

Cost: Varies (but eating in is always significantly cheaper than ordering take-out).

Game Hobbies

Some board games may seem expensive, but the cost of games isn’t that bad when you think about how much use you'll get out of them.

For example, if you buy a board game for $30 and play it with your friends five times, that’s $6 of entertainment for one night—and the cost keeps going down the more you play it. Most board games are timeless, so it’s just a matter of finding one that everyone can enjoy. Consider how much it would cost to meet up with friends for a couple of hours at a bar or restaurant. That $30 board game doesn't sound so bad.

Alternatively, many classic board games have online versions available for free or very little money that allow ​you to play with friends or family in other locations. This can be a great way to stay in touch with loved ones who live in other cities or states.

Cost: $30-$40 (one-time fee).

Volunteering Hobbies

Some might not consider volunteering to be a hobby, but it’s certainly an activity you can enjoy in your spare time.

Volunteering has a lot of benefits, too. You feel good when you’re able to give back, especially to a cause that matters to you. You also may get involved in a friendly community of volunteers and make new friends.

You might be able to volunteer at a place where you’d love to work that’s specifically run by volunteers. It’s the next best thing to being employed there. Volunteering can also help you develop new skills you can use to boost your resume.

Cost: Free.

Artsy Hobbies

Depending on the medium, most artistic hobbies can be done on the cheap—especially when you consider that one-time investments often pay off in the future.

You might need to buy some brushes, pencils, paper, and paint, but the equipment and materials should last for a few months at least.

You also could design graphics on your computer. There are a number of programs available for free, and you can get Photoshop for as little as $10 per month.

You even could go back to basics and use adult coloring books to pass the time, or you can attend a free class at a craft store.

Cost: $10-20.

Educational Hobbies

You might not think of learning as a hobby, but the possibilities are endless.

You can choose to learn a new language or a new skill that you can put to use at work. Maybe there's a specific topic you've always wanted to research. None of this has to involve formal study; you can follow your own path at your own pace.

The pursuit of knowledge is a worthy one, and there are tons of free resources online and at local libraries that you can use to learn more.

For example, sites like MIT and Coursera offer free or low-cost classes on anything from statistics to psychology to the History of African Art.

Cost: Free.

Camping Hobbies

Camping is a great hobby to pair with hiking, and it's fairly inexpensive when compared with other vacations.

For complete beginners, a tent, sleeping bag, firewood, and fire-starting materials are the basics to purchase. You can buy a small tent for around $25 to $35, and basic sleeping bags are around the same price. 

To start a fire, all you really need are twigs and branches around the campsite, and a lighter to start the fire.

Of course, you'll need to bring food unless you're fishing or hunting, but simple recipes are often all you need.

If there are any avid campers in your family or circle of friends, ask them whether you can go with them on a trip. That way, you don't need to invest much, and you can see whether you like it before dropping more money on quality materials that will last for decades.

Cost: $70-$100.

Musical Hobbies

Have you ever wanted to learn how to play the piano? Guitar? Violin? Just because band class is over, that doesn’t mean you can’t pick up an instrument and learn. You don’t need a private tutor, either, unless you learn better from having a mentor. Many tutorials for beginners are available online.

Shop around for an instrument, or see whether you can borrow one from a friend so you can decide how committed you are.

Cost: $200-$300.

Fitness Hobbies

Exercising is a great hobby—and habit—to have. It will get you into good physical and mental shape, which can provide a variety of benefits.

You don’t need a gym membership, but if you choose to get one, many offer low-cost packages that range from $10 to $30 per month.

You can also get your own weights or learn how to do bodyweight exercises. To do yoga, you just need a mat. There are plenty of free workouts on YouTube, and your phone probably has a few free fitness apps as well.

Cost: Free or $10-$30 per month for gym membership.

Animal and Pet Hobbies

If you’re not in the best financial position to adopt a pet, or if you don’t want a long-term commitment to one, fostering can be a good way to indulge your love for furry creatures.

You’re helping to make space in a shelter, socialize someone's future pet, and give it a break from the stressful environment of a shelter. Most foster agreements stipulate that the shelter or organization is responsible for medical care, and they may be nice enough to supply you with essentials as well.

It’s basically the same cost as having a pet, without the adoption or medical fees.

If you can't help but get attached, pet-sitting is a good alternative.

Cost: Free at your local library or $15-20 (new book).

Organizational Hobbies

It may sound strange, but believe it or not, decluttering can become addicting once you get into it. Some people have even created businesses around helping people declutter!

Consider listing some of your things on an online marketplace or having a garage sale.

Another added bonus? Decluttering creates space in your house. If you've been thinking of buying a storage garage or upgrading your house, you may not need to do so once you declutter.

Cost: Free.

Finding Inspiration

If none of these hobbies speaks to you, look to your friends and family for ideas. Does any of them have interesting hobbies you want to learn more about? Ask them, and they may be able to help you bring down the cost by letting you borrow certain things or letting you partake in their hobbies with them.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What are hobbies?

A hobby can be anything you enjoy doing regularly. If you do something often, and you find it fun, relaxing, or otherwise enjoyable, that's an example of a hobby. Some hobbies many people enjoy that are cheap and easily accessible include hiking, biking, reading, art, and writing.

What are fun hobbies you can do at your desk job?

Many of the hobbies discussed above could be done at a desk job. Reading and writing are easy to do at a desk, but you have other options, as well. Small board games and modest art supplies could fit at a work desk, and a small keyboard could let you practice music on your breaks.

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  1. Adobe.com. "Adobe Photoshop."

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