Afternoon Inquisition 4.7

Over the weekend I found out friends of mine are short-selling their house and on the firing line for layoffs.  Instead of being maudlin about it, we spent some time brain-storming inexpensive ways to keep oneself occupied and invested in the outside world. I thought you guys might be able to help with creative ways to get this done:

What’s your favorite low-cost or no-cost way to have fun these days?
(yes, yes:  I mean other than sex or related events.)


A B Kovacs is the Director of Døøm at Empty Set Entertainment, a publishing company she co-founded with critical thinker and fiction author Scott Sigler. She considers herself a “Creative Adjacent” — helping creative people be more productive and prolific by managing the logistics of Making for the masses. She's a science nerd, a rabid movie geek, and an unrepentantly voracious reader. She doesn't like chocolate all that much.

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  1. Other than sex related? Boo! Well…

    • Watch movies on Hulu.
    • Reread your favorite books.
    • Steal WiFi from the local coffee shop (or your neighbors).
    • Card & board games.
    • Invent drink recipes (from stuff you already have).
    • Cook/Bake.

    To be honest, I really don’t do anything during the week besides studying and Interneting. Aside from weekend drinking excursions, which can be cheap, the rest of my fun activities are pretty much listed above.

  2. I’m a civ freak, so I spend a lot of time waging endless war on neighboring states. I’m looking forward to building The Bomb and dropping it on every muthatrucka out there!

  3. Many zoos and museums are free or have only nominal fees for entry; check local events calendars and such for information.

    Also, game gatherings are extremely cost-effective and fun, whether it’s a gathering of people playing various boardgames, or playing tabletop roleplaying games such as Dungeons & Dragons, or even a LAN party (if one has access to that sort of equipment already).

    Whether any of these options appeals depends on personal entertainment tastes, of course.

    ~David D.G.

  4. Back when I spent six months underemployed (I was temping, but on nowhere close to a full-time basis), I spent a lot of time checking things out of the library. Show your local library some love and keep up to date on your reading! It’s a win/win!

    Here’s an anti-recommendation: comics. I know it’s kind of the in thing these days, and there’s definitely a lot of good stuff out there. But, well… there’s a lot of good stuff out there, and $3 an issue adds up hella fast once you start following multiple series…

    On the other hand, a lot of libraries stock trade paperbacks of comics these days. =)

  5. People-Watching is fun; going to your local library and reading all day, going for walks or bike rides when it’s nice out, having conversations, star-gazing on a clear night, and writing songs are all possibilities, too. As of late, I personally enjoy working out math problems that I don’t fully understand. It’s kind of a fun way to learn.

  6. Fortunately one of my favorite things to do is hiking. I really only need some water and maybe a snack. And it’s good for you.

  7. – Birdwatching: as all mature, classy people do.
    – Read a book. In my daily grind this usually gets lost.
    – Photography. This is now nearly free after you own the camera.
    – Sewing. It’s fun and saves a ton of money.

    And now for the cool stuff:

    – Bus riding. Take the bus, train, whatever to some place you have never been before and spend at least an hour at your destination walking around. Combines nicely with photography.

    – Cart wrangling: Ride your bike out to your local megamart or what have you, find the most far flung carts in the parking lot, and bring them to where they belong. Extra points for never touching the ground with your feet.

    – Lying to strangers. Find someone in a socially acceptable setting like a coffee shop or bar and see how far you can suck them into an outrageous lie. I once had someone convinced I worked for ICE and we were rounding up people whose great-grandparents were suspected of entering country illegally. This is doubly fun to do with an accomplice. You can work with or against each other. Extra points for catching your partner in a contradiction.

  8. @jabell2r: Agreed, lost of good hiking trails I can get to from my house with no car use.

    Also reading books borrowed from friends or the library, trying to make foodie gourmet meals while spending as little as possible and drinking ‘take a chance’ $3.00 bottles of wine from the Grocery Outlet store. (And if the wine’s good run back and buy every bottle in stock)

  9. Sex – although as a community activity can be inopportune

    Community reporting for local blogs or newspapers allows investment into the community,and provides a needed function.

    Activism in food banks, homeless shelters, and the Humane society provides a sense of self worth.

    Using the time to get into better physical shape – eating healthier, and exercise – so when the opportunity is discovered one is in better shape

  10. Read a book. Libraries are cool places.

    Hiking, walking, running, bike riding. Exercising in the outdoors.

    Gardening. Plant your own carrots and onions. You really don’t need much for that, and you get to grow your own food.

  11. Cheap fun can be had! For example here is what the boyfriend and I did last weekend. (partial list for obvious reasons)

    Went to a local college for a free talk… given by Hemet from Friendly Atheist
    Went to a downtown area where they were featuring several outside bands playing really great blues music.
    Went to the beach
    Went hiking in the woods
    Watched old episodes of LOST
    Read, wrote, blogged,
    Hung out at a local coffee shop (more free indi music)

    Money spent on “entertainment”? Not a whole heck of a lot.

  12. Last weekend, as some of you probably witnessed, a group of tweeting skeptics got together and played Mario Karti Wii online against each other.

    And we’re playing again this Friday.

    If you already have a Wii + Mario Kart, the only expense is booze and Tang.

    It was unbelievable how much fun we had .

    My husband and I commit one weekend night every week to have a date night. I cook up something delicious and we split an inexpensive bottle of wine. After dinner we either play Wii, watch Hulu or a movie, or we play Scrabble.

  13. Parkour!

    Also trail running, bouldering, audiobooks, and looking at awesome artwork online.

  14. Solo and with my cycling club, I take long bike rides along the lakefront in Chicago. With my wife I enjoy long walks. We also play the games on Tivo and Wii sports.
    Yes, we are that exciting.

  15. Library + Hulu and you’ll never be bored. Hulu has Cosmos up right now, so you could (re)watch that. Libraries are kind of getting into the cds and dvds, go listen to something you haven’t before, go watch something new.
    Board games are fun. Truth or dare too. Drunk makes said games much more fun.

  16. Astronomy. A surprising amount of object and details can be seen with just the naked eye, if you know where to look. Even if you don’t know where to look, I’ve always found it fun to speculate on what a grouping of stars might be (and later to find that it’s an already-named constellation).

    With the naked eye, you can see the Andromeda Galaxy, the Pleiades, the double-cluster, the coma-cluster, countless double-stars….not to mention the galactic arm of the Milky Way. And all this is aside from the meteor-streaks and satellites in orbit.

    If you have even a modest pair of binoculars or even a child’s telescope, you can see even more, such as the nebulosity of the Orion Nebula (but just barely).

    There’s a lot to see, and it’s remarkably rewarding (and peacefull….I’m 90% certain that this hobby of mine has lowered my blood pressure).

  17. My friends and I have been having dinner parties instead of going out to restaurants and bars. We also make our own wine which has cut our alcohol cost significantly. It’s fun to make, bottle and come up with names and labels. But mostly it’s fun to drink :)

    I also take my dogs for walks or go for a bike ride. It’s still a bit cold for the bike rides now but soon I’ll be out there everyday.

  18. Libraries-Not just a place to check out best sellers, recent DVD releases or the latest science magazines or download books or music for your MP3 players.

    They are hosting lots of free community events:
    I am hosting a star watching part at my library as I type in conjunction with the local astronomy club.

    My other branches are hosting popular movies in the evening and matinees.

    One library in the area hosted the science of the parnormal with a skeptical bent.

    Another library in the area is doing a civic salon with a variety of hot topics to discuss.

    Volunteer and help somebody learn to read and learn to use the computer.

    Google your local library and check out their website.

  19. @Elyse:

    Cheap wine and Scrabble? Sounds like my kind of date! I especially love Scrabble smack-talk, “I’ve got some tiles that could kick your tiles asses in any language you care to name.”

  20. Sitting on my park bench/bed. Making shoes out of discarded news papers. Building better pigeon traps from cans from the dumpster. Bathing in the park sprinkler system. Using the library’s internet. Standing on the street corner preaching the gosple of the fsm. You know, just stuff.

  21. Libraries are wonderful!
    Videos and books.
    Plus our local library has speakers, and the local college also has great movies and speakers.

    There is a lovely local theatre in town. It’s one of those big old 1920’s movie palaces that has been lovingly restored. If you volunteer to usher, you can get to see any show for free. A little volunteering for any group can result in a lot of cool free things. Check out the local paper or online.

    Photography is a fun hobby. I took up photography when I found it was too expensive to do much shopping while travelling. What I enjoy doing is giving myself little “jobs” with the camera. Last time I was in Paris (I get to fly free, but can’t afford anything once there) I decided to photograph the numbers 1-100. I think I spent a couple of days on 3 elusive numbers. I walked MILES, and had a great time. People even stopped to ask me what I was doing (as I was writing in a little notebook). I ended up with a fun “book” and had a blast without spending much money at all (don’t we love digital?)

    My friend photographs small houses. Her collection is pretty cool. Another fried photographs cats where ever she is, and my boss has a huge collection of bikes he’s photographed all over the world. When they aren’t out photographing, they are editing and putting together their collections. Heck, even prints are cheap now.

  22. I used to play a little guitar.

    I have a 1968 Gibson SG, with hand wound Dimarsios (sp? You gotta take them apart to read the name and check the spelling, I’m too lazy…) and a unicorn on the fifth fret.

    It was the cheapest I could find, back in the day, but now it’s some kind of antique (like me).

    I’ve gotten it out lately.

    I’m shocked that I can still play it well enough for people to want to listen. (Then again, if you’ve heard my neighbor’s banal noodling, well, the kid needs the practice, I’m just sayin’…)

    To think I only picked it up because I thought it would help me box. (I still think it did).

    Now that I can’t box, nor afford to go out much, I’ve kind of re-discovered it.

    So, I sit on the front porch, with a 25Watt amp, (that’s pretty small) and play a little guitar.


  23. Folkdancing.

    It’s often available weekly at your friendly, neighborhood university for free or for a low entrance fee.

  24. Video games are great, but they’re only cheap if you have no qualms torrenting computer games. I find them to be a great mental activity for otherwise boring times like riding a bus or sitting on the john (tetris on my DS!)

    You can research just about any imaginable topic online. I love wikipedia-ing anything that comes to mind. As an example, I started with soda, read about its history, then read about its chemistry… which lead me to high-fructose corn syrup, farm subsidies, and then to the digestive system.

    I second exercise. It’s very relaxing once you get into the habit of doing it, and, obviously, very healthy. – I’m a weak computer geek that could do about 5 full pushups a few weeks ago. I can do 25+ now, and am gaining every day.

  25. When I was laid off, I spent most of the 6 months I was at home working on DIY-projects. But then, I’m a crafty person who like to mess around with tools and glue and what not.
    The only downside, raw materials still cost money, as do tools and glue if you don’t have them yet or run out …

    On the other hand, if you’re any good, you can actually make some money that way.
    Incidentally, this is also what I would spend most of my time on if I won the lottery (assuming I actually played the lottery).

  26. I am a giant fan of disc golf, in fact I will be at my weekly league at 5pm tonight @Devens

    Disc golf can be cheap, once you have three discs you can play very inexpensively, cost for discs $25. Many courses have a box of loaners you can take out for free.

    Courses are everywhere you can pop in a zip @ the pdga and get a listing of courses near you

    A couple years ago I was actually happy when my layoff came at the begining of the summer.

  27. We watch a LOT of TV. I’m addicted to the History Channel and National Geographic and PBS… Unfortunately, it looks like Time Warner will be raising their rates yet again, so we may shortly be without cable and since Time Warner also plans to put a cap on customers’ bandwidth, it doesn’t look like Hulu will be an option for us, either. Of course, I am pretty technologically ignorant so I really have no idea how this stuff works or what any of this will actually affect.

    Thank fsm I have a library card. That’s how I spend most of my time, even when the TV is on in the background: reading. My husband has his video games, but I don’t know if Xbox Live will be affected by the bandwidth cap. Sighhh… Candle-lit puzzles and model-gluing seem to be in our future.

    I guess well just have to get off our butts and do active smart stuff together. Weird. I wonder if the divorce rate will go up with couples actually having to interact with each other… ;-) Not that anyone could afford to get divorced, anyway.

    Maybe my house will finally be clean… I suppose I should clean out the basement and go through my closets this summer. That should take up a couple of weeks.

    Seriously, though, I do read a lot (, anyone?) and I garden some, and I like going for walks when I can drag my husband along, and I have my podcasts. As for stuff we can do together, I have a hard time with games because I don’t like to compete (I attend the if-you-don’t-try-you-can-never-fail school) and he doesn’t like culture so that leaves out museums and art and science stuff. At least our couch is big enough for him to play video games while I work through my stacks of books. :-)

  28. We have a piano – and I will set down and my SO and I will sing together. Or – we began cataloging our photographs. Now only is that fun but it really gives you a sense of accomplishment.

  29. Downtown Phoenix is great for free stuff — First Friday is awesome! Just for people watching and stuff and looking at art and hanging out with friends and walking and sneaking in booze.

    Also, every third Wednesday my friend’s girlfriend is part of a FREE comedy show.

    And there are always cheap (like $5 cover to free) shows downtown, too, and I have DJ friends that invite me out all the time…

    And my friend’s husband is in a band and they play at their house all the time and we make nachos (mmm nachos) and drink cheap beer.


    I’d have so much fun if I didn’t enjoy my couch so much.

  30. Oh and dive bars are great for cheapish drinks and fight watching.

    Honestly, for the most part I just hang out with friends at their houses and we BBQ and play drunk Wii.

  31. @Elexina: I don’t pay for cable (rabbit ears!), so as long as it is not windy out, I watch a LOOOOT of PBS. I am going to be that old woman sitting in front of her tv all day watching PBS, with a cat on her lap of course.


  32. @marilove: Don’t worry, you’ll be in good company. That is, if people consider me good company. :-)

    The other night I feel asleep while reading and my husband had to pick up all my books and turn out the light and he couldn’t help but laugh because I was surrounded by a dozen books.

  33. @Elexina: I was cleaning my apartment the other day, and kept finding books. I have books in my car, two in my purse, probably have one in my locker at work, I have 3 in my bathroom, I had to pick some up from under my bed, I have several on the tables on either side of my bed, and of course a book case in the living room, and about a dozen books strewn about my desk and coffee table, etc. It’s hilarious.

  34. I recently started playing Dungeons & Dragons for the first time in about 20 years. Now, to be fair, it can get to be an expensive hobby, but so far I’m getting by on just the Player’s Handbook (about $30), and a new set of dice (about $7). I’m playing every other Saturday evening with a group I found through MeetUp.

    My other favorite hobby these days is teaching myself to play guitar. I picked up a modestly priced acoustic last year, and have fun downloading tabs from the web and teaching myself to play all my favorite songs.

  35. They all sound like fascinating, diverting and worthwhile pursuits, but nothing beats a nice wank.

  36. the economy hasn’t directly effected us that much, but throwing a badass wedding in august sure has! we’re big gamers, so we decided to stop purchasing new video games from now until the wedding, we just use game fly instead. the monthly fee is a lot cheaper than new games!
    Also, a money saving strategy that’s worked wonders for my spending has been trying to defend my thesis. Spending most of your time chained to a desk in an office without windows makes you so happy when you leave for the day, you don’t even realise that you’re not spending money. Fresh air is still free :)

  37. Disc golf is free (once you’ve bought a few discs, and the discs are cheap) and on North Texas’ frequent windy days I fly my Sutton Flowform 16 for some KAP action. Digital Photography is essentially free if you already own the gear.

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