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Happiness in the Small Things

by Shawanda Greene

I've already taken off my braBefore I began to manage my finances wisely, I used to look for joy in material items.

To curb the onset of boredom, I’d entertain myself with unnecessary shopping trips to Target, Barnes & Noble, and Pier 1 Imports. For fun, I wasted money on stuff I didn’t need. How stupid is that?

Soon, I learned the act of buying a random doodad triggered far more euphoric emotions than owning it. The high I felt in the checkout line disappeared before I even stepped foot back into my apartment.

After bringing my “exciting” new find home, I’d leave it untouched for months–and often, forgot about it completely.

The reason I was able to get out of debt so quickly was because I killed the habit of recreational shopping.

If you want to keep more of your hard-earned dollars, engage in fun activities that are either cheap or free.

I know what you’re hoping for: 100 Free and Family Friendly Forms of Entertainment. Well, keep hoping you lazy bum.

Create your own list of cheap and fun things to do. You know what you like. You don’t need me to tell you.

When you’re bored or feeling a little down, don’t race to the nearest mega mall, whip out your list.

Red roses

But just to give you some ideas, here are a few things I enjoy that cost next to nothing.

  • Awaiting a cool breeze on a hot summer day
  • Watching birds (Not to confuse with bird watching, that’s torture)
  • Sitting on the Potomac River, feeding bread to ducks
  • Sleeping on a soft picnic blanket under this amazing tree at a local park.
  • Reading a short, non-fiction book. (I don’t know what I like more, that I learned something new or that I actually finished a book.)
  • Cooking (and of course, eating) hot dogs and hamburgers on a charcoal grill
  • Watching a relaxing ASMR (autonomous sensory meridian response) or whisper video
  • Lounging around in stretch pants or underwear
  • Living in a clean, fresh smelling, and organized apartment
  • Reading a magazine while taking a hot bubble bath
  • Going for a relaxing stroll on a nearby trail (I’m allergic to nature so I’m miserable afterward.)
  • Stopping to smell the roses, literally
  • Preparing a delicious, home cooked meal for someone I care about
  • Talking trash and whipping butt during a friendly card game

What inexpensive or free activities do you enjoy?

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{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

Pamela June 18, 2012 at 9:00 AM

There is a small pond with a man-made waterfall I pass by when I drive to my parents’ house. No matter what time of year it is or what it’s like outside, I’ll open my car window enough to hear the water as I drive by.
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Shawanda Greene June 21, 2012 at 4:06 PM

Aaah. The sound of water is so relaxing. Well, the natural sound is. I’m not a fan of the electronic waterfalls. Later today, if it’s not still 100 degrees outside, I’m going to take my picnic blanket and notebook over to a creek in my neighborhood. Even though I’ll be working, it makes me feel relaxed.
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Daisy @ Add Vodka June 18, 2012 at 11:18 AM

I love going for a walk with the boy and the dog in the evenings when it cools down, and pointing out houses that we like. I also love cooking when I have time and am not ravenous.
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Shawanda Greene June 21, 2012 at 3:45 PM

When I was in college I’d drive around affluent neighborhoods just to look at the beautiful houses. I think it helped me to stay motivated. But that was back when gas was between a $1 and $2 a gallon. Now, if I wanted to see the pretty houses, I’m going for a walk.
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Kris June 18, 2012 at 11:58 AM

I love taking the dog to the beach, taking his leash off, and throwing the ball for him to swim for it. It makes him SO SO happy to run on the sand and swim (walking can be painful for him) – and there’s very little more joyful than a dripping wet dog with a wagging tail and that big old doggy grin.
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Shawanda Greene June 21, 2012 at 3:49 PM

I LOVE dogs. I had a chihuahua, Missy, when I lived with my mom. Missy is no longer with us, but I remember we took her to the beach once. My mom dipped her in the ocean water without letting her go. When she pulled her out, Missy’s legs were kicking in mid air like she was swimming. It was the cutest thing in the world.
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Crystal @ Prairie Ecothrifter June 18, 2012 at 1:06 PM

I am a huge fan of volunteering, blowing bubbles with the little containers we get at weddings, watching my dogs go ape-sh*t because of the bubbles, and listening to audio books. And my favorite inexpensive thing is to hang out with friends at one of our homes. It doesn’t cost anything to talk, play a game we already own, and it is cheap to watch one of the DVDs or movies off of Netflix that we have around.
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Shawanda Greene June 21, 2012 at 3:51 PM

I think your ability to have a good time depends on the company you keep (and you of course). If your friends are great to hangout with at a bar, then they’re probably great to hang out with at home. You don’t have to spend a ton of money to have fun.
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Anthony Thompson June 18, 2012 at 4:14 PM

Here are mine:

-Doing the mile-long walking trail at one of my favorite parks.
-Sitting on a park bench near a quiet lake.
-Watching small children at play.
-Having my favorite TV program.
-Playing Solitaire on my computer.
-Watching one of my favorite DVDs.

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Shawanda Greene June 21, 2012 at 3:53 PM

I’m behind on a few episodes of The Real Housewives of New Jersey. And I haven’t even started on New York. I think I’ll save those for Friday night. Just thinking about watching the show makes me smile.
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From Shopping to Saving June 19, 2012 at 10:17 AM

I love the reading part – especially when books are free at the library. There’s no need to buy any! I prefer fiction because I like to get away and just read.

Also I love playing games – on my PS3 and also on the computer.

Going for a run or a hike.

I loved all of your ideas!
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Shawanda Greene June 21, 2012 at 3:59 PM

I went to trivia night yesterday evening, and one of the questions was “Who is the author of The Hunger Games?” Too bad I don’t read fiction. However, I’ve heard great things about 50 Shades of Grey. So, there’s probably a 2% chance I’ll pick that one up. Maybe I should put it on hold at the library just in case.

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Dani June 19, 2012 at 12:59 PM

I agree- Target was (and still is) my number one black hole for money and spending. So I had to just cut it out completely. My fave frugal activities are reading (I’m more of a fiction girl myself), working on a new side business, learning how to cook (very slowly), and having game nights with my friends.
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Shawanda Greene June 21, 2012 at 4:01 PM

I used to go to Target so often I’d get in my car to go somewhere else, and find myself in Target’s parking lot. It was like my subconscious mind took me there. That’s when you know you have a problem.

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Carly June 25, 2012 at 5:10 AM

Movie nights with friends is probably my fave .. although I do end up spending a bit on junk food when I do this!

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LittleFrugalista June 29, 2012 at 3:04 PM

Love this topic because I try to not-spend money like it’s my job. Come to think of it, most of the stuff I try to do is free/cheap! I try to do coffee dates instead of dinner because really if I want to catch up, doesn’t matter if I’m having a $20 dinner or a $1 cup of tea. Also hikes, or just walks around the neighbourhood, cooking with a friend, and of course reading!!

Cheers to keepin’ it frugal, one day at a time!
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American Debt Project July 2, 2012 at 7:18 PM

I too love a clean house. I also love going for a run in the park one block from my house and then taking a nap in the grass in the same park. Walking in the neighborhood and looking at all the houses and visualizing them with different landscapes or facades. Picking up books I’ve been in the middle of forever and sitting down to finish them. Applying for little side jobs and getting them. Meeting up with people whose vision and excitement matches mine. Also, finding real comments in my spam folder in Wordpress. Don’t know why, but it just makes me happy.
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