Low to No Cost Hobbies

I have time I would like to fill. How do you fill yours?

Mushroom hunting. For $12 we joined our local mushroom club. I joined a mushroom forum (free) and bought a field guide. Our first large find of Oysters more than paid for our initial investment!

N.B. never eat a mushroom without 100% proper ID, or else save a bit in case he coroner needs it.

Library books are awesome.


Actually the way do it (member of the Barbershop Harmony Society) there are some expenses - membership fees, costume, and travel for those of us who go to competitions. But it’s still not an expensive hobby, and I’m sure there are cheaper (or free) ways so sing in groups.



doing art - can be very low cost: “found” items made into sculpture, scraps made into collage, paint, crayons

bird watching


Some yarns can be expensive, but if you shop around, you can get nice stuff cheap. I’ve found some really nice yarn at Value Village, too.

In the end, you also have something useful and unique.

I spend so much time internet surfing that it’s ridiculous. I watch almost no TV anymore because of it. I read. I game.

There’s a whole industry that’s sprung up around making the outdoorsy hobbies expensive, but they really needn’t be. Assuming you don’t live somewhere that you have to pay $100 in gas to get anywhere, casual day hiking can be virtually free and even stuff like x-country skiing, biking and snowshoeing don’t require the newest and best zillion dollar equipment.

Gardening doesn’t have to be expensive. If you have the patience to wait for seeds to grow, seeds are generally pretty cheap and you can end up with a ton of plants that way.
If you get to know some other gardeners, they usually are very willing to give you their extra seeds or plants in exchange for a trade of something you have or sometimes just for free. Most gardening websites have active trade forums for that reason. When you grow things, eventually it will grow to be more than you need and it is no big deal to give it away to others.
Once you learn how to grow plants from cuttings, that’s a very easy and cheap way to add a lot of plants to your collection. Most people are happy to let you take a cutting from their plant for free if you simply ask.

My favorite past-times that are basically free or low to reasonable cost

Reading - Kindle book store has most books at least 50-60% less than printed books.

World of Warcraft - up front cost is a bit high(under $100), but $15 a month after that, and it is an awesome fun time for me

3D puzzles - a little more expensive than regualr puzzles( from $20-25 or more), but enjoyable all the same and most of them are great to look at afterwards up on the shelf on display.

Walking & biking through the parks and bike trails throughout the state (of course a bike could be a large cost, but walking is free) but I live in a small state so it’s a short ride to get anywhere - YMMV.

Netflix - $16 a months for 1 DVD in the mail and unlimited streaming

And I keep a vegetable garden and plant/flower garden - reasonable cost with high return in investment

Astronomy. You can see a lot just with your naked eyes - and if you do spring for a pair of binoculars or a decent telescope (which has never been more affordable than today), you won’t need to buy any more equipment ever. Good optics last a lifetime.

If you decide to take up singing as a hobby, consider buying yourself an inexpensive ukulele to accompany yourself in simple songs.

Pretty niche idea but:

I have always since I was in my teens had a folder somewhere with my current design of my future dream house. I probably spend an average of 3-4 hours per month updating it with changes based on my current needs or some neat new design or layout I’ve seen.

It used to be pretty expensive, I would buy those $8-10 magazines of home plans and mine those for ideas but now… now, it’s all available online! eplans.com published those magazines and they have thousands of home plans online, searchable by feature and style. Between that and the online MLS listings I’m in heaven. My friends call it my real estate porn addiction but they laugh at first and then they’re sucked in to the addiction :wink:

Only costs now is the pad of graph paper I must always have around to sketch out new ideas on.

I’m the same way, only now I design them in Sims 2. It’s not perfect but I can download all these awesome free furniture sets and paint/tile colors. This is my #1 hobby, especially in the winter. In the summer I love people watching at the “hippie” park. Memphians probably know which one I’m talking about. They have hooping and poi and sometimes they set up the aerial hooping and tightropes. Free and fun.

Two-for-one drink night at the bar; reading; bicycling, assuming you already own a bike; running is always free, even though it sucks; I’m not sure where you live, but I’m pretty sure your local museums have free days, though they’re usually during off times like Tuesdays between 11am and 3:30p, you know, times when most people can’t go; using the crap out of your Netflix subscription; cultivating a good, cheap, used vinyl record collection (all the cool kids are doing it); Sudoku; cheap bourbon.

That’s how I make the time go. And oh dear gods, I forgot all about 3D puzzles. I haven’t done one of those in forever. Thanks, Fool. I’m adding that to my list of things to do for under a jillion dollars when there’s not much else to do.

You could enter sweepstakes online. All of the legitimate ones are free to enter and it never costs anything to receive your prize, so if you already have a computer and pay for internet access, it’s all totally free. There are sites that will teach you how to do it efficiently, and post sweeps for you, broken down into categories like- ones you enter every day, ones you only enter once, Facebook sweeps, etc., and that’s free, too.

In the past two months I have won a Visa gift card with $192 on it, a belt, some mascara, a $300 hunting outfit (that I will sell or give away for Xmas), and a book. In the past I have won a $500 AmEx gift card, a nice espresso maker, a $250 Victoria’s Secret gift card, and many, many other things. You can do it for as little or as long as you like- from 5 minutes a day to 5 hours, or more.

I came here to suggest knitting, too. You don’t need needles in every size, a pair or two will get you started. And cheap yarn works up nicely. (The nice stuff is addictive, though. Watch out.)

Most of the smaller fiber arts are reasonably cheap (less than $20) to get started. Crochet, tatting, and embroidery are all good options. So are temari, especially if you already have worn out socks and scrap yarn to make the cores.

Watch out for any type of beadwork or jewelry making, though. Those get #$(*#@ expensive in a hurry.

Probably not what you would consider “low cost”, depending on your definition, but I spend around $400 a year on my hobby in electronics, which doesn’t include all of the stuff I get from electronics put out by the curb (an average of about one a week), which can easily double the total cost. For example, I don’t buy most of the capacitors and resistors I use, except for commonly used values or when I need a specific part (e.g. 680 uF, 400 V capacitors aren’t common), or any inductors and transformers, unlike many hobbyists; I also use cheap perfboard to build on instead of PCBs, using magnet wire covered with hot-melt glue for most of the connections (for other (non-logic, higher voltage) wire, the cheapest is ribbon cable, separated into separate conductors, or wire scavenged from the stuff I find). I also don’t buy pre-built displays, power supplies or other circuits (most of the cost of what I buy is integrated circuits).

Also, professional test equipment, such as oscilloscopes, doesn’t have to be high-cost either (I use an analog scope I got on eBay for $100 about 10 years ago, even if I had to replace it tomorrow that is only $10 a year); you can even build your own, for example, I made my own resistance/capacitance/frequency meter, plus probes for the oscilloscope (connecting a regular 10:1 probe to a HV switching circuit is a bad idea (probe blows up, if not right away), plus a 100:1 probe enables you to easily measure higher voltages, the scope I have also goes higher than most, up to 10 volts/division (100-1000 with 10:1 and 100:1 probes), which was one of the reasons I got it).

Forget wow, free to play games are popping up like weeds.

Install steam and look for free to play:
Mechwarrior online
star trek online
planetside 2
stronghold kingdoms
SCA is full of broke folks.

Camping is fairly cheap in the grand scheme of things if you are anywhere near national forest, you can go totally free of any charges.

barely used tents turn up at yard sales all the time.

Biggest mistake people seem to make in my opinion is making elaborate meals.

simple roasted meats, chunks of cheese, baked potatos, bacon, and maybe some bell peppers, onions, mushrooms. All makes for some great single pan meals that are easy to transport and prepare with bare minimum utensils.

Cooking! This is especially rewarding when you take take cheap ingredients and turn out something really special. And after all, you gotta eat.

Shortwave radio listening. Hear the world with an inexpensive radio.

Thrift store picking. You can sell your finds on ebay and etsy. I haven’t paid retail for a tshirt in like 20 years.

Photography can start with a camera well under $100.

Take a class at your community college.

Buy a cheap plastic keyboard (craigslist is perfect for this, a ton of 'boards around and they’re annoying to ship) and learn piano.