22 free (or cheap!) things to do when payday is far away

Do you guys have Switzerland-sized bank accounts? Are you always complaining about the extra money that’s stuffed in your pockets, creating unflattering bulges? Do you think “Where can I go that serves $17 cocktails? I can’t think of enough places that overcharge for their drinks!”

No? Weird. Me neither.

Regardless of your income, it’s always fun to enjoy the cheaper things in life, isn’t it?

Here are 22 free* things to do when the bank account is looking a bit lean

* or very cheap

1. Ride a bike/scooter/motorcycle

Nice weather is for bike rides along the river. And then filling your basket with goodies from the farmers market. Or with puppies. If you have a friend with a scooter or motorcycle, ask for a ride. Bonus points for taking it on windy roads!

2. Afternoon movie matinee

Because every movie is better if it costs $4.

3. Tuck notes of encouragement into library books

Find the books about business development and leave a note that says “Your business idea is great!” Find the diet books and leave a note that says “You’re gorgeous just the way you are.”

4. Have a picnic (indoors if necessary)

Food tastes better when it’s eaten outside, on a blanket, in the company of ants. Or in the arboretum. Pack up your favorite snacks and head somewhere lovely and green. Here are some great ideas for easy, delicious picnic food.

5. Host a potluck and games night

If you want to have some friends over, but can’t afford footing the bill for a fancy dinner, invite everyone to bring a dish. Pull out your favorite old board games and play a few rounds of Trivial Pursuit. Or, really, Girl Talk.

6. Host a clothing swap

Invite your favorite people to your place. As them to bring the clothes and accessories that they’re no longer feeling and trade with each other. Borrow a few full length mirrors, put on some RuPaul, and throw together some cheap appetizers. You’ve got the makings of a super cheap, really fun party.

7. Take a public transportation adventure

I have extolled the virtues of bus adventures before, but let’s belabor the point a bit, shall we? Buy a full-day pass on your city’s bus or train line, pack a lunch and your camera and head out to explore the city. Bonus points for getting off at the same time as that looker in the plaid jacket.

8. Volunteer

Improve your karma, meet cool people and do something fun? That’s a win/win/win, y’all! You’ll get the most from a volunteer opportunity that corresponds to your interests, so try volunteermatch.org. I searched ‘writing’ and found 667 volunteer opportunities!

9. Go to a museum’s free day

It’s always fun to ogle dinosaur bones or paintings, but it’s more fun if it’s free. Check out museumfreedays.org for free days in major cities.

10. Go to the library

Why pay $7 for the latest Vogue when you can peruse it for free at your library? Check out DVDs, language-learning CDs, and any ‘guilty pleasure’ books you don’t want to buy!

11. Go to an open mic night

Whether you favor a poetry slam, comedy or some tender-hearted singer/songwriters, there’s an open mic night for you. Sure, you’ll see some stinkers, but you might also spot the next Lily Allen!

12. Karaoke

I looooove karaoke. Largely because I’m (erroneously) convinced that I can rock ‘Heart of Glass’ like no other. If you’re too shy to take part, at least you can be entertained by the group of ladies yelling out ‘I Will Survive.’ Here are 10 karaoke songs for bad singers.

13. Engage in a covert, fitting room photo shoot

Dress up in your most impressive outfit and hit up those crazy expensive boutiques where you can’t even afford the socks. Pull a few great outfits off the racks, try them on in those over sized fitting rooms and document the whole thing on your phone. This girl has some fantastic photos from doing just that! If you can’t own the clothes, at least you can remember how you look in them.

14. Airport people watching

I’ve spent an abnormal amount of time in airports over the last few years. Watching tearful, joyful reunions never, ever gets old.

15. Beauty school spa day

If you’re not afraid to let a supervised student work on you, you can get crazy, crazy cheap salon services. Beauty schools offer discounted services for less than the cost of an entree at Applebys!

16. Real estate open houses

Unless I marry a professional athlete, I will never be able a home in my neighborhood. But! That doesn’t mean that I can’t stop in at the real estate open houses, check how the other 5% lives and eat a lot of free cookies.

17. Utilize some sidewalk chalk

My nine-year old neighbor is always doing this — drawing and labeling robots and, oddly, sprinklers. Draw a hop scotch on the sidewalk in front of your favorite coffee shop and see how many people will hop through it.

18. Photo scavenger hunt

It’s a great way to spend a weekend afternoon and an even better way to bond with a kid you’re getting to know! Here’s a list to get you started.

19. Attend a cultural events

No, not the opera. Does your city have a large immigrant or refugee community? Check out their events calender and you could find yourself at an awesome Day of the Dead party or an “Auspicious Wrist Tying Ceremony” like I attended a few years ago.

20. Watch the Wizard of Oz while listening to The Dark Side of the Moon

Seriously, that business matches up in an uncanny way. Particularly great for a rainy Sunday night.

21. Buy a Sunday paper to split with a friend, and read it while mulling over a coffee

I love doing this. It’s so much more gratifying than checking CNN repeatedly. You can be those people who say “Listen to this!” or “What’s a five letter word for ‘Egyptian king?’”

22. Get a free pass to a swanky gym

Work out, shmurk out. How about swimming a few laps in the pool, doing a bit of rock climbing and then sitting in the sauna? Yes please! Lifetime Fitness offers free 7 day passes.

What fun things do you do when funds are low?

P.S. If this resonates with you, join my free, 5-day More Money, More Happy Bootcamp. It’s a week of helpful emails, an interactive workbook, live classes, even a private Facebook group. For zero dollars! I’d love it if you joined us.