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A Simple Guide to Having Fun

Recently, a reader emailed me and said:

“I love the idea of simple living. But what do you do for fun?”

Leo wrote about this topic, on mnmlist. A portion of article focuses on the purpose of entertainment, so be sure to check it out.

Ahhh but I digress.

Living a simpler life doesn’t mean it has to be austere. For me a simpler life has lead to more joy and happiness. Having fun doesn’t require spending a lot of money or heading to the mall. Instead, I focus on doing things that make me incredibly happy.

For instance, over the weekend, Logan and I took a long hike in Washington Park and snapped photos of spring flowers. A few years ago I would have spent the day at the mall shopping, searching for happiness. Buying extra stuff didn’t make me happy and consuming more hasn’t done much for the planet or overall state of “happiness” in the U.S.

“Even though we’re consuming way more resources like energy, paper and materials and more manufactured Stuff than most other countries, the United States scores lower on many indices of well-being…Out of 143 countries evaluated in the 2009 Happy Planet Index, the United States rates a dismal 114th.” via The Story of Stuff

Thanks to the ideas promoted by simple living and the minimalist movement I’m able to take advantage of beauty in everyday life. I am satisfied with my possessions and I feel like I have enough. We don’t need more stuff to be happy or to be entertained, we need to unplug and connect with friends, family, and neighbors in our community.

Below are a few low to no cost activities that I do on a weekly basis. I hope this list will stimulate the creative side of your brain. You can have fun without spending a lot of money.

1. Go for a walking meditation in the park.

2. Have a cup of coffee with a friend.

3. Take photos to rediscover the beauty and seasonal details of my neighborhood.

4. Go for a bike ride.

5. Cook a yummy dinner for friends or family.

6. Head to the library or Powell’s to check out the latest book selections.

7. Volunteer at a local non-profit doing something I believe in.

8. Write blog posts for RowdyKittens.

9. Help my mom and friends maintain their websites.

10. Go to the farmer’s market, people watch and purchase my weekly groceries.

11. Practice yoga at home.

12. Read 1-2 books a week.

13. Play with my kittens.

14. Bake cookies and bread.

15. Sit still and mediate.

Micro-action: Research entertainment options that don’t cost money. Please leave a comment and tell me about some of the things you do for frugal fun.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Joy Tanksley March 23, 2010, 8:09 am

    Ah, the best things in life truly ARE free. We all know that! Here are a few more ideas:
    1. Dance
    2. Sing
    3. Kiss (and see where it leads…)
    4. Tell stories
    5. Play old-fashioned games (like hide and go seek!)

    • Tammy March 23, 2010, 8:14 am

      @Joy – ohhh I love your additions to the list.

      That reminds me – I should have added letter writing to my post. It’s a lost art form. I love emails, but it’s so fun to receive a letter via snail mail. πŸ™‚

  • Joy Tanksley March 23, 2010, 8:10 am

    By the way, when I said “we all know that” I meant that as in “we all know it in theory but we don’t put it into practice.” It’s so easy to forget!

  • Aaron Malys March 23, 2010, 8:11 am

    Fantastic! I wish these concepts where not so hard for humanity to get.

    I think you should re brand yourself to @therowdyshizzle though : )


    • Tammy March 23, 2010, 8:13 am

      LOL! Aaron, you make me laugh. Pure awesomeness. πŸ™‚

  • Isabel March 23, 2010, 8:16 am

    Some other things I like to do for frugal fun: birdwatching and knitting.

  • Damien Olenslager March 23, 2010, 8:21 am

    Finding happiness in simplicity has been a recent revelation for me. I used to try to find joy in stuff, but it turned out that the hunger was never satisfied. I would buy something, enjoy it briefly, but then feel the desire for the next new thing.

    Now I find enjoyment in writing, yoga, and nature. The happiest tines are when I create and contribute to the world.

    Thanks for the reminder!

  • Shannalee March 23, 2010, 8:21 am


    For me – I spent a year or so just focusing on grad school, no FT job (and no side business or anything, so no major income) and that was when I learned to enjoy just taking in what’s around me, for free and for fun. Whether that means going for a walk or playing with the dog or riding my bike or taking pictures. Also – reading good books to interact with good minds, getting together with people in our homes, baking, cooking, cleaning, working out, organizing (strangely enjoyable), gardening, writing blog posts. Honestly, there’s so much to do for fun!

  • Jen March 23, 2010, 8:26 am

    What a fantastic list Tammy! Includes a lot of my favourite pastimes. You’re so right … there are so many fun things to do that don’t cost money.

  • Dave March 23, 2010, 8:35 am

    We find that as we have become less consumptive, we have become more focused at home, and so we spend a lot more time doing sort of domestic things in our spare time. Making food (and then washing dishes), sewing/knitting/etc, gardening, that kind of thing. When we’re not doing that, we sometimes read or play games (cribbage has become a new favorite), watch a movie, we definitely enjoy a good bike ride, or walk, taking photographs of interesting or beautiful things, sometimes we’ll go out for food or a film at one of the cheap theaters in town. We generally find our time fills up quite easily, and we generally enjoy it as it goes by.

    Sometimes we do get joy from buying things, but most of the time it’s practical things (new cookware, basket or bags for the bikes, crochet hooks or knitting needles, fabric, yarn, shaving stuff, etc), which enable us to do the things we love doing and/or to live the way we want to live.

  • Joe McBee March 23, 2010, 9:00 am

    Great post!
    A few things we (my family and I) do:
    1. Invite friends over for potluck and board games.
    2. Bird watching (this is only me, no one else in my family has caught on to this yet)
    3. Story time. Even though my boys are all teenagers now, we still gather several times a week and I read out loud from a novel doing different voices for all the characters of course. Right now it is Shades of Gray by jasper Fforde.
    4. Coloring. I have my own coloring book and crayons. I find it brings order back to my world when I feel things are a little chaotic.

  • Bill March 23, 2010, 9:07 am

    Hi Tammy – Great post. I found your blog through ‘Far Beyond the Stars’
    2 fun and cheap activities that I’ve recently “rediscovered”:
    Playing Frisbee (actually not a bad form of exercise)
    Flying a Kite (Good way to meditate as you watch it dance on the wind)

  • Lisa March 23, 2010, 9:26 am

    Terrific post, Tammy! All of my fun activities are free or low cost….most have already been mentioned. Here are a few more additions though….camping, fishing, cookouts, journaling, gardening, creating (today’s project is a denim apron), and mainly just soaking in the majestic wonder of the natural world around me. This morning when I let the dog out, the sky was the most amazing blue…just like a robin’s egg! It was awesome!

  • Joy Tanksley March 23, 2010, 9:41 am

    OOH – another great thing I just remembered: there are so many wonderful podcasts and other listening opportunities online. I like http://personallifemedia.com/podcasts and http://www.npr.org/.

  • robyn March 23, 2010, 10:09 am

    knitting! i knit almost all the time, and have been able to find yarn in the most wonderful places! you can unwind old or thrifted sweaters, even find yarn at thrift shops. and there’s always people getting rid of their yarn stashes on Etsy and Ebay and Ravelry (knitting website).

    plus, most of my knitting is for charity, so i love getting random odds and ends and seeing what i can use it for!

  • Gypsy March 23, 2010, 10:11 am

    I think this applies doubly to families with young children … young children love and need simple fun not structured expensive activities! We spend a lot of time hanging out with the kids at home, just following their interests and imaginations. We make huts with furniture and sheets, tell stories, play with blocks and dolls, bake cakes, play in the garden and the sandpit. We don’t have any ‘playsets’ outside but we have an old plank of wood that runs down the stairs for sliding and climbing, and a length of rope tied up in a tree for swinging. We also get out and do community stuff – the playgrounds, the library, some community playgroups. Its all free or very very cheap, and its how we have met a lot of our friends who like the same simple things!

  • Michael Michalowski March 23, 2010, 10:17 am

    being minimalist never means reducing fun. πŸ™‚
    All we do is focusing more on the stuff that brings fun, buying less and spending less time with draining actions.
    That’s a great list you are sharing with us, but I bet anyone of us can write his own list that fits him even better! We just need to start noticing the things in our lifes we enjoy most!

  • Heather March 23, 2010, 10:27 am


    I love this post!

    I think just making stuff is a great way to have frugal fun. I’m trying to make drinking glasses out of old wine bottles right now, and I’m learning how to make “survival bracelets” out of paracord.

    Instructables.com is one of my favorite sites. It’s chock full of cool, frugal, eco-friendly projects. Most of the stuff you have around the house already, so you don’t have to go out and buy stuff. My favorites so far have been using coffee bags as hanging planters and using canvas shoe organizers to grow herbs. πŸ™‚

  • Chris O'Byrne March 23, 2010, 11:44 am

    I just finished with one of my favorite ways to have fun.

    1. Napping in the middle of the day.

    Also, there’s

    2. bird watching
    3. playing bluegrass guitar
    4. playing card and board games
    5. reading
    6. geocaching

    And I’m sure there’s more!

  • Alejandro Reyes March 23, 2010, 1:53 pm

    I think the best moments I have is when I share them with my family or friends. Nothing like playing old Pen and Paper RPG games. Also, a good conversation can be as entertaining as a movie. I love this list and I’ll be sure to try a few of your suggestions!

    • Tammy March 23, 2010, 6:01 pm

      WOW – you all rock! I love all of these comments and ideas. πŸ™‚

      Thank you so much for reading RowdyKittens. I sincerely appreciate it.

  • Frugal Kiwi- Melanie March 23, 2010, 7:23 pm

    We love going on photo safari. Anytime of year there is always something to snap around us.

    On weekends, one of my favorite things to do is go rock pool hopping at low tide. You can find all sorts of interesting creatures that way. We’ve seen an octopus, camouflage crabs, thousands of tiny hermit crabs and starfish, crabs, shrimp, sea slugs and all manner of shells.

    • Tammy March 23, 2010, 8:15 pm

      @Frugal Kiwi – ohhh a photo safari! I love that term. I’m hoping to plan a weekend bike trip out to the Oregon coast this summer. I love the ocean and rock pool hopping. πŸ™‚

  • Lynn March 23, 2010, 7:57 pm

    Hi Tammy, I like your site and the message you send. I’ve recently been lurking around =P

    I thought I would add a few things:
    – board games
    – tide pools
    – museums
    – plants or gardening
    – talking about green living =P

    I guess museums cost money, but they are cheap and fun! Actually, I guess people have already listed most of those. I’ll just be a supporter :]

    • Tammy March 23, 2010, 8:13 pm

      Hey Lynn – thanks for unlurking. I love your list.

      Going to museums don’t necessarily cost money. You can usually find free coupons, discounts and some places have free attendance days. πŸ™‚

  • nicole March 23, 2010, 8:17 pm

    great post!
    a few of our favorites…
    -My husband and I like to find free museum exhibits here in L.A. (UCLA Fowler museum, Getty and Getty Villa are ones I can think of that are always free admission).
    -we’re huge bird watchers.
    -gardening now that it’s spring time (sooo much fun to get your hands dirty!)
    -and of course being a married couple sans children πŸ˜‰

  • Tyron March 23, 2010, 11:00 pm

    Having fun is very good for you! Luckily I’ve always been an odd ball and found joy in:
    β€’ Climbing trees (highly recommended)
    β€’ Body surfing
    β€’ Walking barefoot (I don’t own a pair of shoes, I go to work in slops:)
    β€’ Drawing cartoons (doodling)
    β€’ Cooking one pot meals (our kitchen is small, so the less dishes the better)
    β€’ Growing herbs in pot plants
    β€’ Playing with my sausage dogs

  • Zengirl @ happy heart and mind March 24, 2010, 1:36 am


    Like your post and many other have said here, simple pleasures are countless and fun. When our soul is content, what we do for fun is not important because we are at peace with ourselves.

    I find that now I need lesser fluff ” I deserve this” attitude when I am downsizing my materialistic life.

  • Kerri Fivecoat-Campbell March 24, 2010, 4:39 am

    We love having a good meal and some wine with friends, reading, taking walks with the dogs, playing with the dogs, watching movies (which can be borrowed from the library), canoeing, fishing, hiking the mountains.

  • Mars Dorian March 24, 2010, 1:05 pm

    My favorite free activity:

    Listening to favorite music (which happens to be AVA – Angels and Airwaves) and dreaming of magical scenarios in which I play the hero, of course πŸ™‚

  • David Grove March 24, 2010, 1:41 pm

    In the morning before going to work I put some music on and dance my ass off – great exercise and mood enhancer πŸ™‚

    • Tammy March 24, 2010, 1:52 pm

      @David – sweet. Your comment made me laugh out loud. I think I’ll try the “dance my ass off” routine tomorrow morning. Thanks for reading the blog. πŸ™‚

  • Francesca March 25, 2010, 9:21 am

    I have definately started having more fun since I started living a more simple life. I’ve stopped trying to buy everything under the sun and instead used that money to do more interesting things visit the circus (last week) or buy some hiking gear for a camping trip I am taking over the Ester period. I read a lot more and have started blogging, I also intend on writing a novel, maybe over the summer when college is out.

  • Loganenator March 25, 2010, 1:49 pm

    I tried the “dance my ass off” to music this morning and it works! πŸ™‚ That tip is definitely a keeper. A free boost of fun energy first thing in the day! πŸ™‚

  • Nickd August 16, 2010, 6:08 pm

    I love your website. Marvelous. I’m losing my job in a couple months. I started thinking about how much I hate my job anyway. Then I started thinking about all the crapola I have that doesn’t mean anything to me. Your website has been very inspiring. Thanks for all that you do.


    • Tammy August 17, 2010, 1:18 pm

      @Nickd – Thanks so much. I’m glad you’ve found the site useful. Wishing you all the best. πŸ™‚

  • Anonymous June 24, 2011, 11:08 am

    Gardening, spending time with my dog. Creating – knitting, restoring furniture, re-decorating, metal work and yes – shopping (she said defiantly) bu tonly in thrift and consignment stores!

  • Sue June 24, 2011, 1:35 pm

    My husband and I live outside of Boston. It is a beautiful, walkable city. A few things we enjoy:
    – using our membership at the Museum of Fine Arts. $110/year and we can go as many times as we want
    – getting free/reduced tickets to other museums from our local library
    – walking around the city with our American Institute of Architects guide book and checking out the buildings that are described (we’re not architects but we appreciate architecture)
    – packing a picnic and enjoying it in a park or by the water

    These activities are truly more enjoyable than shopping and barely cost anything.

  • Malinco June 25, 2011, 7:28 pm

    Hello Tammy, im writing from peru, i do the following:
    walk and play with my dog at a beach.
    paint, i don’t how to paint but i paint.
    in lima you can walk through an avenue called “el malecon”, there you can see the sea coast to coast.
    play the game: how much do you know me? ask a question to two persons and each one must answer what the other one likes. very fun!
    besides that, love to read Jorge Luis Borges, Kundera. Listen to Kevin Johansen, its very good.

  • Janis June 28, 2011, 12:09 pm

    i have really enjoyed this posting and all the comments! i keep dipping in and out of this site. i’m new to minimalism, but it resonates with me, as i’m sick of stuff and accumulating more stuff. there is no joy in it.
    i had a problem with my bills and my cable tv was cut off 3 months ago, and it has been a joy to rediscover the silence and get away from all the noise. i’ve been reading a lot more instead.
    i discovered that birds sing outside my windows in the morning – I listen to them and it’s such a lovely sound, it’s as if i never heard them before, and in a way, i am listening to them with complete attention for the first time.
    thinking of how to have fun while spending little or no money has been just what i’ve been contemplating. i almost forgot how to have fun. thanks for all the wonderful ideas, and good vibes to all

  • adrian July 25, 2011, 7:23 am

    one of my favorite things to do with my husband is to grab a card/board game and take it to our local coffee shop. we both work from home, so we love the opportunity to get out of the house. beats watching a movie and even though i love reading at night, game playing is experienced together! all for the cost of a cup of tea/coffee.

  • Arielle August 13, 2011, 8:00 am

    Free writing, journaling, and creative writing. Also watching movies with friends and family Sometimes just listening to NPR on the radio is pretty fun! Great ideas everyone! And as always great insight Tammy! <3

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