Gayle is an accountant. Shh – don’t tell. She thinks she’s a writer.
Published August 25th 2015
No Cost or Low Cost Enjoyable Pastimes
Ten Free or Low Cost Things to do in your Spare Time
Are you looking for something to do on the weekend without spending your hard earned cash? In a time where it seems everything has a price, there are still some simple pleasures that can be enjoyed without first reaching into your pocket.
Enjoying our National Parks. Lake McKenzie on Fraser Island in the Great Sandy National Park
Be resourceful and spend nothing or spend as much as you can or like. Use recycled materials where you can or swap with like-minded people. Enjoy an activity free in its simplest form or join a group or club. Whatever your choice these pastimes are sure to please.
Where available links to interest groups or clubs are included with each activity listed. Groups and clubs may have membership or attendance fees.
Gardening Whether you seek flowers for colour or fruit and vegetables for the table, watching your own garden grow is rewarding.
Start by deciding what to plant. Not an expert? Look at your neighbours' gardens to see what does well in your area or join a community garden or a garden club.
Cheap garden tools can usually be found at local garage sales, but if you prefer your tools to be more personal they can be purchased at garden centres or hardware shops.
Gardening for the whole family. (Image by taliesin via morgueFile)
Many plants are easily grown from cuttings. Don't be afraid to make polite requests of family and friends. Complimenting them on their own gardening efforts will be appreciated. If you are starting from scratch, packets of seeds can be purchased at garden centres, hardware shops, some supermarkets and often cheaper selections are available in places like The Reject Shop. You might like to join The Diggers' Club.
Plant directly to the garden or into pots. Raised garden beds can be edged with old timbers, stones or used bricks. If you don't have anything check with friends and relatives who may have something suitable and may even be pleased to have you take it away for them. No-cost pots of varied sizes can be made by inserting drain holes into recycled containers – paint or plaster tins, ice-cream containers, coffee tins. Ready-made edging and a large selection of pots can be purchased at garden centres or hardware shops.
Tending the Flower Garden. (Image by bjwebbiz via morgueFile)
Relax now, I'm not talking about a strict exercise regime but rather a pleasurable stroll.
Look at your neighbourhood with fresh eyes
When did you last meander along your local streets and pay attention to the suburban architecture, the beauty of the neighbourhood gardens, the joy of children playing in yards and streets? You may be surprised at the pleasure of taking the time to look about, nod a greeting, say a hello, or compliment a neighbour on their house or garden.
Take advantage of local parklands
Find a local park, walk through bushland or along a trail, sit by a lake, or take in a view. Many park areas have wetlands where birdwatching can be a personal or family joy. Young children are often as excited by the birds as their parents. What toddler could supress a giggle at a duck's bottom high in the air as it forages beneath the water? There may be a playground for the children to enjoy; slides, swings and monkey bars.
A Walk in the Park (Image by xenia via morgueFile)
Join a local walking group
Although a peaceful solitary activity, walking can also be a social gathering. This popular pastime has likely given rise to a group in your area. Many large shopping centres allow early morning walking groups. The Heart Foundation has a list of supported walking groups on its website.
Walking the Dog (Image by pippalou via morgueFile)
Join a bushwalking group
You don't need to be an experienced and accomplished hiker to enjoy bushwalking. Many of Australia's parks and reserves have short easy walks for all levels of fitness. For reliable details of the walks available, the length and degree of difficulty check the national park websites. You might like to join a bushwalking group. Please observe safe practices, don't stray from marked paths, do wear sensible shoes, let somebody know where you are going and always carry water.
Take a heritage walk
Check your council's or capital city website for heritage walks. You might be surprised to find heritage buildings and sites near your home. Many councils provide printouts or pamphlets mapping out these walks with details of buildings and places of interest.
There is little in life more fulfilling than helping somebody else. Statistics indicate that as many as 6 million Australians already perform some form of volunteer work. The hours committed and work performed are many and varied and something to fit your schedule will be easily found. Check your council website or one of the sites listed below.
Meals for the Needy (Image by WorkingKind via morgueFile)
If you are a parent you might volunteer your services for the school parents' association, get involved with your child's sporting club, or join a working bee. You may wish to help the elderly and deliver meals on wheels, take them shopping, or simply put time aside to visit the lonely. Would you like to make a meaningful contribution to a child's life through the Big Brother Big Sister Program? Maybe you would be more at home volunteering in a hospital, helping patients with their flowers, manning the library trolley, giving directions to wards or even serving in the café.
NSW SES volunteers removing debris from Lake Albert (Image By Bidgee (Own work) CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)
Perhaps you would like a more physical role like your state emergency service or country fire fighters. For volunteer opportunities in the great outdoors check Conservation Volunteers Australia. Animal lovers might seek volunteer opportunities at zoos and wildlife parks.
Whatever your passion, be assured your time and skills will be well received.
Play a Board Game
When I was a child, board games were very much a part of family life. There is truth in the old saying, 'the family that plays together stays together.' Why not dust off those old games and give them a new airing.
Chess is thought to have originated in India in the 6th century and continues to challenge amateurs and professionals the world over. Play it at home, with friends or join a chess club. See below for links to chess clubs
Although games similar to Monopoly have existed since 1902, the game we know today was created in 1933 and sold by Parker Brothers. Many localised and themed versions have since been released. The Australian version features streets from our capital cities. It is the earlier British version I have treasured since receiving it as a child.
Playing Backgammon (Image By Bernd Schwabe in Hannover (Own work) CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)
Do you love TV quiz games or trivia nights? Look no further than Trivial Pursuit, a general knowledge game with themed question cards. Or what about the old favourite, Scrabble, a word game that produces a result like a crossword solution.
There are so many more to choose from, Backgammon, Draughts (Checkers), Pictionary and Mah-jong amongst them.
Visit Unspoiled Landscapes in our National Parks
There are over 500 national parks in Australia, areas of natural beauty preserved for us and for future generations to enjoy. Not only do these provide access to unspoiled landscapes and superb vistas, they are allow us to see our native flora and fauna in their natural habitat. Amongst these you will discover bushland or beach, mountain or desert, ocean or lake, forest or open plain, waterfalls or rocks.
The Twelve Apostles Marine National Park in Victoria
Most parks provide picnic facilities and public toilets and allow camping. Check the park's website for maps and details of facilities, walks, cycling trails and other things to do. What better place than a national park to introduce children to nature and to foster from an early age, an appreciation for our natural heritage.
Write Your Memoirs
Writing memoirs is not the preserve of the rich and famous. Every person has their own unique story, one only they can tell. Why pick up note pad and pen, computer or iPad and start writing?
How many times have you told your children or grandchildren about the good old days? More than you can remember or perhaps not at all. When they look back and wonder about you and your life, having your memoirs to read will be a treasure. Tell them not only of the events in your life but of your times, things that don't happen anymore – bottled milk deliveries to the doorstep, chalk and slate in schools – paint them a picture they cannot imagine for themselves. This is the history of your family and it matters.
You might be surprised when you begin to write as memories long hidden are teased out. Delight in the joyful and put the not so good behind you. Enhance your memory as you draw on it more frequently and benefit in other areas of your life.
If you're not sure how to start there are plenty of tips online. Links to some of these are provided below. Alternatively a search of online book shops will reveal a plethora instructional books on memoir writing.
So what's stopping you? Why not start now, pick a memorable day and write about that.
Reading for Pleasure
Lose yourself in a book, a magazine, a newspaper, or a comic and you are on a holiday without leaving the comfort of your lounge chair. Reading for pleasure is a wondrous pastime. It can set your imagination afire, transport you to another time and place, and open the door to the world and beyond.
A Realxing Read (Image by pedrojperez via morgueFile)
Not up to reading a long book, then grab an anthology of short stories or a magazine about your favourite things. Are you a fan of documentaries, try National Geographic. Do you have diverse interests and like to keep it short and sweet, try Readers' Digest. There is no shortage of women's interest magazines on the shelves, specialist magazines for collectors, car enthusiasts, or fishermen; the list is endless.
Public Library reading room 2014 (Image By Monumenteer2014camper (Own work) CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Join your local library to read for free. Did you know libraries loan out magazines as well as books and many now loan out e-books. Source cheap books and magazines at opportunity shops, garage sales and second hand book shops. Books for e-readers are cheaper than hard copies. E-readers have the added advantage of text enlargement for those who struggle to read small print books.
Sing Australia encourages people of all abilities to gather together and sing for enjoyment alone. Their mission statement is to bring the joy of singing to the world. Check the website to find a group near you. If the more formal structure of a choir appeals to you the Australian National Choral Association website is a good place to start.
A theatre group. (Image By BMTG (Own work) CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Amateur theatre groups abound. Choose one that suits your likes and style. Do you like traditional plays or modern interpretations? See below for links to amateur theatre and acting groups in your state.
Does your local school, community centre or church have a singing or acting group? Don't be afraid to get together with a friends and start your own.
Crafts from Recycled Materials
What you can make from recycled materials is limited only by your imagination. Make something practical and useful, something artistic or combine logic and creativity in one as in this action figure lamp base.
Some years ago my husband made a bird feeder for our garden out of old fence palings, dowel offcuts and coffee jars. Small wood offcuts might be styled into bird houses or plant boxes.
A bird feeder made from scrap timber and old coffee jars.
Fabric offcuts and left over wool might become patchwork quilts, cushions, rag rugs or children's toys. Plastic drink bottles can be used as mini greenhouses. Glass jars and food tins can be decorated to become attractive containers. Breakfast cereal boxes can be cut and decorated to make magazine holders. Cut the legs off worn jeans to make shorts.
A toy made from scrap materials. (Image by jdurham via morgueFile)
Plastic plant pots can be dressed up by dribbling paint dregs down the sides. Sections of logs can be hollowed out and set in the garden as rustic planters. Is there a sculptor in you just waiting to emerge? Old iron, wire, and tools might be welded together to make unique and interesting garden statues.
Scrap iron sculpture (Image by clarita via morgueFile)
When first I started birdwatching which at the time amounted to no more than recording and identifying birds that came to my own back yard, I could not have imagined how far I would travel and how much enjoyment I would get from the birds.
Even in the cities there are many different birds to be seen. Start with your own garden, then local parks and wetlands, botanical gardens, beaches and bushland. Many species previously associated with the bush have become comfortable in our towns and cities – cockatoos, lorikeets, and corellas - and the occasional kookaburra can be found at the urban fringes. At wetlands you might see ducks, geese, herons, swamphens, coots, swallows, plovers, cormorants and perhaps even a pelican. Are there dotterels at the water's edge or finches in the reeds?
A pelican on wetlands in a park in Melbourne's outer south east.
Some city parks and many country locations have bird hides where you can watch without disturbing the birds. You need no special equipment but might like to take a pair of binoculars or a camera. Since many of your photos will be from a distance a tripod or monopod is handy. Internet resources for identifying the birds are plentiful or you might like to purchase a compact field guide.
Go alone, take the family or join a birdwatching club. See birds you have never encountered before, and listen for their distinctive calls.
The links below are in introduction to birdwatching and to finding good birding sites for your enjoyment.