Living the good life is all too often mistaken for living expensively. While there’s a certain thrill to shelling out money on experiences, there’s plenty of fun to be had for a low cost. Looking to shake up your next date night or expand your personal creativity? We’ve got you covered with a few of our favorite affordable activities.
What's more, sometimes the less expensive outings are actually the best of the bunch. Picnics with friends, walks alone through the park, or even hosting a small party at your house instead of going out to an expensive dinner—you might even find you would choose these activities over other ones anyway.
Whether you prefer to spend your weekends with friends or solo, here are 40 no-fail ways to add some excitement to your life on a budget.
Wherever you live, odds are that there’s someplace nearby—a neighborhood, landmark, or nature preserve—that you haven’t yet discovered. Whether it’s finally visiting the Empire State Building or perusing through a thrift shop, it’ll be worth it.
Regardless of your interests, there’s likely a way to use that passion to give back to your community. Donate your time to a local animal shelter or library—it can be a useful way to pick up a new skill as well.
Take a Drop-In Class
From Bikram yoga to ceramics to sushi-making, there’s a class somewhere nearby with your name on it. You might even want to take one online if you're looking for something that isn't available in your hometown.
Trust us—it’s just as fun as you remember. Grab a group of friends and consider it your workout for the day. No friends interested? Consider taking your puppy out for a stroll on wheels—or, perhaps, it will take you for that stroll instead.
Host a Movie Night
Invite your friends, make some popcorn, and put on your favorite double feature. You might even want to have a total throwback night and play a marathon of your favorite '90s movies.
Be the Bartender
Choose one classic cocktail and learn how to make it to perfection. Needless to say, this one pairs perfectly with our last suggestion. Ask your friends for recommendations and try out drinks you never even knew existed during a dinner party as well.
Cook Something New
Buying ingredients at the local farmers' market or seafood stand will save you plenty of money compared to dining out. You can improve upon recipes you always loved to make growing up, or do some research and find new ones to try online instead.
Take a Hike
Research a local trail and get moving. Whether close to home or a road trip away, it's a great (and affordable!) way to get out into nature with your best friends or family.
Head to a Coffee Shop
Bring your latest read or get to work on a project you’ve been meaning to wrap up. All you have to buy is a cup of coffee and it's an easy way to give yourself a little bit of a change of scenery without breaking the bank.
Orchestrate a Game Night
You can opt for classic games, like Scrabble or Trivial Pursuit, or choose a modern iteration, like Cards Against Humanity. If you get a group of friends together who are all interested as well, consider a rotating tradition where you move from one house to another or everyone has a week where they choose the games.
Go on a Low-Cost Shopping Spree
Grab a couple of friends and hit up your favorite local vintage store. Even if you don't buy a single thing, it's fun to just get out, have a little dressing room fashion show, and pretend you're headed to a wealth of evening events.
Online Shop Like It's a Sport
Set your eBay searches to “Time: Ending Soonest,” then go on a mini treasure hunt. Play games with yourself like only shopping for deals that are less than $5, or engage in affordable bidding wars that last no more than five minutes.
Visit a Museum
Whether your interest is in fine art, ice cream, or just about anything in between, odds are that there’s a museum for it.
Throw a Listening Party
Grab a handful of records (or your phone's playlist) and kick back to give them the attention they deserve.
Attend an Outdoor Concert
As the weather starts to warm up, it’s the perfect time to enjoy a live show outside. Not only are most outdoor concerts totally affordable, but many are even free for a fun day or night of singing and dancing in the open air.
If you live in or around New York City, consider the free summer concert series in Central Park each year.
Have a Picnic
Because owning and using a picnic basket is one of life’s greatest pleasures. It's a great excuse to engage in other affordable activities on this list simultaneously, as well, like bringing some new music along or trying out homemade recipes to pack in your basket for the afternoon.
Bake a Cake
No reason required. (Trust us—your taste buds will thank you.) Even if you live alone, it's not only a fun few hours, but it's something you'll love to keep in your fridge for the rest of the week for a little pick-me-up when you're feeling indulgent.
Write a Letter
Whether it’s to your mom, your college roommate, or the author of your favorite book, it’s well worth rediscovering this lost art. What's more, they'll love receiving something from you that's equally heartfelt and sentimental.
Visit an Art Opening
This cultural pastime is easy and free. The likely promise of free wine doesn’t hurt either. Hit up an exhibit solo that you've had on your list since it was first written up in the newspaper, or invite a friend along for the ride.
Announce a Spur-of-the-Moment Karaoke Outing
Nothing says good, clean fun like a heartfelt rendition of Britney Spears’s “Lucky.” Head out to a karaoke bar and dance on the tables, or host one from the comfort of your own home.
Attend a Lecture
Check your local college or university for interesting upcoming events. If you're looking for a similar experience without taking off your pajamas, there are plenty of online lectures at institutions like the 92Y, even if you live nowhere near New York City.
Go on a Wellness Spree
The best things in life really are free. Practices like meditation, yoga, and simple sunshine are easy to indulge in for little or no cost.
Or football, baseball, or curling—or whatever your local park will allow. Wander on over and see who's already there and ready to engage in an impromptu pick-up game.
Visit an Arcade
A number of cities offer vintage-style arcades (some even have full bars and live DJs) that will allow you to relive your ’80s nostalgia for just a handful of quarters.
Go to an Estate Sale
To be fair, this one is only as cheap as you make it, but there are deals to be had. And, even if you come away empty-handed, sometimes the daily hunt is all the excitement that you needed for the moment.
Be an Artist
Grab your paints, pencils, charcoals, or crayons and go somewhere that inspires you. It's a perfect weekend activity for both the well-accomplished artist and amateur alike.
Visit a Day Spa
Perfect for solo or group outings, many day spas allow you access to pool and sauna areas for around $20 to $30. Besides, you might come in for a massage, but you can stay for the entire day in the sauna for a little bit of decompressing.
Change Your Fitness Regimen
If you normally hike, then go for a bike ride. If you’re a daily runner, try mixing it up with a boxing class. Ask around; your friends likely have new things that they want to try or activities they love that they can introduce you to as well.
Whether salsa, hip-hop, or ballroom is your speed, find a spot and shake it up. Not into the outing? Throw a dance party at home with your best friends on a whim.
Watch the Sunset
If you're looking to relax and unwind and, of course, simultaneously feel as though you're living in a painting, consider watching the sun set—either alone or with friends. All you need is a blanket to lay among the stars.
Visit the Farmer's Market
Not only will you be shopping local, but the fresh produce, flowers, and baked goods you might find will be unlike any others. Freshness awaits. And though it's a shopping activity at its core, a farmer's market won't exactly break the bank—and you'll be shopping for essentials you would be buying anyway!
Host a Potluck
If you want to host a dinner party but don't want to foot the bill, consider throwing a potluck with all of your friends bringing a little something for the meal. Perhaps your bestie makes a mean guacamole, boyfriend is killer on the grill, and sister loves to practice her baking skills—this could be your best meal yet.
Organize a Yard Sale
Not only will it cost you nothing, but you might even make money. The time has come to clean out your closet and let your junk become another person's treasure.
Go for Tea
Instead of heading out for drinks at happy hour, consider a non-alcoholic option and head to a teahouse instead. It's a great activity for morning, noon, and night!
Run a Race
It doesn't have to be a long one—we're not talking about a marathon! Perhaps your city or town has a mile race or a 5K. It's a great way to exercise and have fun at the same time.
Go for a Dog Walk
There's nothing like your pet—or someone else's—to give you an excuse to take a walk outside. Long or short, a walk costs nothing at all, and you might just be able to explore parts of your own neighborhood that you haven't ever before!
Plenty of pet rescues and shelters are constantly on the hunt for willing fosters—especially on weekends, To be able to do good for others is gift enough, but to be able to do so while showing an abandoned pet all the love in the world is priceless.
Seriously. If there's one baking skill that's particularly hard to really master, it is bread baking. Invest in a sourdough starter and perfect that loaf—for breakfast toast and lunch sandwiches alike.
Learn a New Skill
Perhaps you've always wanted to learn Spanish, or maybe juggling is more intriguing than ever. You might just wish that you were a little better at your sport of choice. Now's the time to practice—and YouTube is a great (free) asset!