Simple Ways to Spend Your Free Time

This article was originally posted on MouthyMoney.co.uk on 22nd August 2016. It is reposted (with some slight expansion) with the permission of the website.

During the week, I work hard. I’ve got an office job, I have a delightful 40 min each way commute, I attend a couple of exercise classes and there’s TV that just insists upon being watched. Seven seasons of the Gilmore Girls on Netflix aren’t going to watch themselves, my friends! (Update: I’m now ON season 7… I have lost track of a few good series because of my GG obsession!)

At the weekends though, the time is more my own, and I like to spend it relaxing, and spending as little as possible (on account of, I hardly have any free cash!). So I wanted to remind myself of the my favourite things to do that cost either nothing or very little. Sometimes I’m so busy spending money I don’t have, that I forget of some cool things I could be doing.

By the way, none of this is rocket science, but I thought it gives a bit of insight into how I spend my free time.

Visit the library

“Libraries could be the vibrant hub of our communities.”

One day, we will be telling our kids about libraries in the same way as blackboards or playing with a hoop and stick. Nostalgic tones and with the phrase ‘does anyone remember…?’ In 50 years time, I doubt authors will recount tales of the librarian giving them a wry smile as they returned the book they borrowed that morning, already finished. This makes me sad. Libraries could be the vibrant hub of our communities. They have internet, books, activities, audiobooks, local history and resources all for free. You can go there and enjoy the peace and quiet. You can learn, and get lost, and have fun – and it won’t cost you a penny. Our libraries not only have interesting content for us, but they need our support, as they are hit every year with crippling budget cuts. So a great way to spend your time if you’re at a loose end is to visit the library. You might just miss it when it’s gone! Find your local library here.

Go for a run/walk

“If you don’t like hills (spoiler alert) don’t pick a hill to walk up”

Yeah, sorry guys, I’m another Mouthy Money blogger who is going to extol the virtues of running (my MouthyMoney colleague Michael Taggart ran  the Budapest Marathon and I believe is still raising money on his JustGiving page). It gives me a real boost to stick on my headphones, load up an audiobook (currently Anna Kendrick’s Scrappy Little Nobody) or some pop punk tunes, and get a couple of miles run. Now running is not for everyone – maybe your knees won’t allow it, maybe you just don’t like to run – but going for a walk is a good substitute.

Pick your location well. If you need a sit down every so often, make sure your venue has some seats or benches; if you don’t like hills (spoiler alert) don’t pick a hill to walk up. You could visit somewhere you know and love, or you could choose somewhere new. Why not check out a local forest or country park?

Write or draw something

“They say everyone has at least one book in them – why not start yours?”

They say everyone has at least one book in them – why not start yours? Grab your phone, your notebook, your laptop or just some spare paper you’ve got knocking around the house and start writing. Set yourself a timer and write what’s in your head for that length of time. You could make it a short story, a chapter or a diary entry. Or, if writing’s not for you, why not try drawing a picture? I love Kawaii-style characters (but I’m rubbish at art) so sometimes I practice copying pictures in a similar style. Honestly though, you’re probably better than me at any style of art, so that should make you feel better all ready!

Doing anything creative has a really calming effect on me. It allows me to really focus on one thing and at the end I really feel like I’ve achieved something. You can share it online if you want to (such as on Instagram, DeviantArt, or a WordPress blog for example…) or you can just keep it for yourself. This is all about you and what you want to do. Own it!

Have a bath

“Just be careful not to drop it in the water. I’ve lost a few good books that way… Sad times!”

There is very little more decadent than running yourself a bubble bath in the middle of the day. Just closing the door, taking time out just for you, and soaking in tub. Now, I’m going to advocate reading again, because I love it so much, as also I’m one of those people who can’t switch off for any length of time, so to force me to relax, I always take a book or a magazine to read. Just be careful not to drop it in the water. I’ve lost a few good books that way… Sad times!

Make your bath an event. If you don’t fancy reading, maybe light some candles (cliched I know..), stick on some tunes or a podcast, you could even grab one of those relaxing eye masks to help you to maximum chilled out status. The real objective is to have some ‘me time’ away from the stresses of day to day life. Put yourself in time out, and really enjoy it!

Have a conversation

“To make a dated reference about Bob Hoskins – it’s good to talk!”

Think about the last great conversation you had. Like, one where you really found out something about the other person, and you really felt good afterwards. Not a chat about work, or a run down of what is happening on The Walking Dead, or complaining that they left balls of kitchen paper all over the house again! It is a really valuable way to spend some time, right?

Sometimes, with all the TV and work, I forget to have proper conversations with my other half. Yeah, we’ll go through the “how was your day?” and “what do you want to eat?” business, but sometimes forget the real conversations about how we’re doing. Make time for the real conversation. Or maybe you haven’t spoken to a parent or a sibling or a good friend for a while. Pick up the phone or see if it’s convenient to pop round and see them. To make a dated reference about Bob Hoskins – it’s good to talk!

So there it is – just like I said, there’s nothing new here, nothing groundbreaking. But sometimes it’s beneficial to be reminded of the simple things in life that you can do to make the most of your free time.

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