Saturday, February 21, 2009

Get Paid to Play

Hobbies are fun. Everyone has them. Everyone should. But why not choose a hobby that doesn't cost much, or even earns you money!

Some hobbies, like golf, require expensive equipment, and involve additional costs such as greens fees. Others, such as travelling, can cost quite a bit depending on how far you are travelling and where you choose to stay while you are there. Some pursuits can be very expensive or not so expensive depending on how high-end you like your equipment and materials to be. Cooking and photography are like that. Not that these hobbies are not worthwhile and a lot of fun, but your financial circumstances may not allow you to indulge in such pricey recreational pursuits.

There are some very inexpensive alternatives out there. Gardening can be a very cheap hobby. Seeds can be had for as low as 25 cents a packet, or you can trade seeds with other gardeners. Here is one place to trade: Sow seeds directly in the ground, or save plastic buckets from cat litter or bulk foods to use as planters. Save your kitchen scraps to make compost to nourish your plants. This hobby can also save you money if you grow some of your own food, or plants to sell or give as gifts. Related hobbies include beekeeping and raising chickens. I am told both can be done with minimal expense, and save money since the products can be consumed. They taste far superior to store-bought, too!

Couponing and refunding is another fun pastime that can save you a lot of money. The only costs are for postage (although some rebates can be submitted online), envelopes and a good pair of scissors. There are a lot of good websites out there if you want to educate yourself about this. A related hobby is entering contests online. The only cost for this is an internet connection. I have won a few contests, even though I put very little time into this.

Do you enjoy crafts? Make something to sell on Etsy or at local craft fairs. Lots of instructions and patterns for crafts can be found online or in library books. Even better if you can incorporate recycled materials such as corks, cans or jars into your creations. Supplies can be bought with coupons in your Sunday newspaper from Michael's, Joann's or whatever your local craft store is. Dollar stores and yard sales also have some craft supplies.

Reading can be a free and very rewarding hobby. Patronize your local library. Many books can also be found online now. If you don't have a local library, there are many websites that allow you to swap books. Trade with friends and neighbors. Buy some at yard sales.

Blogging is another cost-free hobby that I obviously enjoy. You can find many websites that allow you to set up a blog for free. You can even put an adbar on your blog and get a penny or so anytime a visitor clicks on it. You are definitely not going to get rich this way, but it's great fun, and very rewarding to pass information on to like-minded people. Everybody has some topic that they are knowledgeable and passionate about that they could share with others. Make sure to visit other people's blogs and comment on them. Before long, you will be part of a vibrant community of bloggers.

Others enjoy putting together jigsaw puzzles, or solving word puzzles. Jigsaw puzzles can often be found at yard sales or thrift stores. Some libraries even have them. Just don't be too upset if one is missing the occasional piece! The word puzzle books can be found at dollar stores or you can even subcribe inexpensively. Crossword and word-search puzzles can also be found for free online. Another plus to this type of hobby is that some studies show that solving puzzles can help prevent Alzheimer's Disease!

I know people that enjoy searching for coins and jewelry with metal detectors. After a while, the stuff they find pays for their equipment. Look for used equipment on Craigslist or Ebay. You never know what you'll find!

There are countless free, cheap or even profitable hobbies out there. Have fun exploring the possibilities. I'd love to hear your suggestions too. Be sure to comment on this post!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Swap Till You Drop

Entertaining on a budget has become an art in this tough economy. One of the best ideas for a party I've heard of lately is the Swap Party. Everyone has stuff in their closets that they never use, that doesn't work for them, for whatever reason. It's still good stuff to someone else, guaranteed! Pick a theme, such as books and board games, craft supplies, clothing and accessories, kitchen gadgets and cookbooks, or home accessories. Invite as many friends as you want, and tell them to bring their castoffs in whatever category you've chosen. If exchanging clothing, it's ok to invite people who wear various sizes. If none of the clothing fits, they will probably find some accessories. When everyone arrives, let the fun begin!

Provide an area such as a large table or clothes rack where the items can be displayed. As people get there, have them arrange their items in the space provided. For clothing swaps, provide a separate area for coats and purses so none of these go home with a new owner by mistake!

While the guests look over the items, it's time to snack and enjoy a glass of wine (or two!). Once everyone has arrived and had a chance to relax, mingle and scope out the merchandise, it's time to trade!

You'll probably want to come up with and explain some basic rules before you start. Provide a try-on room with a full-length mirror if it's clothes you are swapping. Give your guests boxes or bags and have them put their names on them, so they can hold onto their finds. It doesn't have to be a one-for-one exchange. The goal is to get rid of everything. Make sure you donate whatever's left at the end of the evening to your local thrift store.

Your guests will have a blast trying on outlandish outfits, coming up with ways to use craft supplies, discussing the plots of books, or dreaming about how they could use that tablecloth or those candlesticks to freshen up their dining room. The thrill of shopping without the agony of the credit card bill that arrives shortly after. What could be better!

I bet you are mentally scanning the contents of your closets, cupboards and bookshelves right now. Time to send out the invitations!