How Free and Frugal Hobbies Benefit Me


You can't go through life without fun!

You can’t go through life without fun!

What do you like to do? The key to finding satisfying frugal hobbies is in the answer to that question. I literally sat down one day to write out a list of what I liked (or would like) to do. Not surprisingly, I saw that doing some things on my list would cost nothing, some a little, some a lot. But what I also saw was that there were ways for me to capture the core enjoyment of a potentially costly activity while avoiding (or reducing) the expense.

Art museum strolling or spendy window shopping at the mall? A nature walk at the park or a golf game at the country club? A chamber group concert at a church or a night at the symphony? Our hobbies and entertainment can cost a little or a lot. And it’s important to think about how those costs are affecting our future financial plans.

To speed up becoming financially free, I needed to boost how much I saved. But I also needed to be able to have fun and enjoy myself. Otherwise, I might have ended up going on a demoralizing spending binge out of frustration, or maybe even suffered a frugality burnout and given up entirely on the idea of earlier retirement. That’s where my free and frugal hobbies have been a huge help to me. I’ve learned how to keep myself happy pursuing activities that cost little or nothing. And I firmly believe that anyone can do the same – because it’s just not that hard to do.


Frugal Fun My Way

Happily for me, my preferred outdoor hobby is hiking, which I do just about every other day. Because I have lifetime passes to my county, state and national parks, aside from shoe leather my only hiking cost is the gasoline I burn to get to the trails. And by finding 3 parks with trails within 10 miles of my house, I keep that cost down to less than $300 a year.

Nature photography is another of my main outdoor hobbies, and one I can piggyback onto my hiking. Thanks to modern digital photography, after my initial cost of less than $200 for an outdoor “nature proof” camera, I can now pursue this as a no-expense hobby.

My indoor hobbies and enjoyments include writing, reading history, taking history courses, playing computer strategy games, listening to classical music, and watching movies. Except for paper and pencils, my writing is cost-free. (Yes, I do my writing longhand.) The history courses are either free online offerings or available on DVDs from the library. The movies I watch either also come from the library or I pick up for a buck a piece at flea markets and thrift shops. Ditto for classical music CDs. And the 4 computer strategy games I love to play originally cost me a total of less than $200 – which I spent over ten years ago. So, after I factor in trading and swapping of DVDs, my ongoing costs for all of this indoor entertainment is way less than $200 a year.

When I add it up, I can actually keep myself busily entertained in a variety of ways for less than ten bucks a week. And having fun that frugal way certainly did speed me on to reach earlier retirement.


Finding Your Frugal Fun

Of course, your interests are not going to be the same as mine. But your approach to finding and adopting frugal hobbies that will cause you little or not cost can be similar.

When I reviewed my original list of things I like to do, I thought about each activity on the list and wrote next to it a way to do it (eat my cake) that would avoid excessive cost (and have my cake too). I identified the major costs in the things I like to do and then looked for ways to contain those costs. So I eliminated course fees by auditing free online courses and viewing DVD courses borrowed from the library. I did away with $8 to $10 movie tickets by viewing movies borrowed from the library or bargain-bought at flea markets. I sidestepped pricey concert tickets and costly travel to attend them by finding open door donation-based chamber concerts performed at nearby churches (of which there are many). I cut out the materials cost of photography by going digital. And so on.

That substitution strategy that lies at the core of practicing frugality without sacrifice can be applied to many activities, but not all. So we must make some judicious choices if we are to prevent our hobbies from undermining our financial freedom plans. So one probably would not want to pursue hobbies such as skydiving, car collecting or horse raising. Not unless one is willing to delay earlier retirement in order to pay for such hobbies.

I chose the path that would take me to financial freedom sooner. And pursuing low cost or free frugal hobbies got me there faster while still keeping me interested and happy.

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image courtesy of Stuart Miles at


  1. I love the idea of ‘finding your frugal fun’! I think low cost hobbies are key. I love hiking, and I think I’m going to get my husband to teach me how to fly fish when we get to that stage of life. Honestly, its the simple things in life that I miss the most with my hectic office job… just making homemade pasta is no longer pleasurable because I’m always in a rush. I guess I’m also looking forward to more cooking from scratch!

    1. Fishing has been on my “future pastime” list for a long time. But I don’t seem to have enough motivation yet to pursue it. I do have a ton of other things I do (including hiking about 3 times a week). So, maybe the fishing will happen sometime.

  2. I’m lucky that one of my favourite hobbies is gardening. Not only is it relaxing (yes, even pulling weeds) but it can add value to my budget through the produce I grow and the plants I’ve begun selling at my garden gate. Can’t get more frugal than that!

    My other hobbies are reading and watching movies. The library is a great source for both plus I have the occasional splurge at the movies.

    No expensive hobbies for me!

    1. I’m with you all the way, Diane! And I LOVE the fact that you are actually getting one of your hobbies to generate cash for you and still remain a hobby.

      1. My wife gets to sell her chicken eggs… right from the front end of the driveway. On weekends, she leaves a big cooler there filled with egg cartons and a “pay box” on top. It’s self-serve and on the honor system. And it works for her.

  3. My hobby is art. Unfortunately, art materials are expensive. These days I shop online to save some costs. I also found that sticking to less expensive media like watercolor helps. Like you, I also enjoy classical music and working around the house. I don’t think I will have any problem staying busy and engaged after I retire. Another factor is moving to a state with lower property taxes. Your situation sounds perfect – a smaller home with a few acres. Currently, my property taxes are $600 per month. Thanks for the insightful article.

    1. You’re welcome, Ed.

      And here’s a hint on the art hobby. My Dad got into that really bigtime for years. But he did the bulk of his creating on his computer using a program called “Paint.” So, no materials costs for him until he was ready to print and produce one of his creations!

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