Recession fun: Hobbies and hangouts on the cheap

Most people would probably say that the recession has put the brakes on their social lives. It's hard to justify spending $20, $50, $100 or more on an evening out when you know you're just adding to credit card bills that you can't pay off any time in the foreseeable future. And we can forget about pampering ourselves with the small luxuries we used to enjoy in better times, right?

I can't give you the secrets to living like a millionaire on a pauper's income, but there's no reason you can't still go out just as much, or treat yourself just as much as before the recession made everything seem impossible -- it just takes a shift in perspective. There are plenty of enjoyable activities, both of the social and personal pampering varieties, that are not only free but could even save money or create a little bit of income, if you're the crafty type.

First of all, get away from the idea that you have to go out to have a good time. Hobbies like gardening and cooking can be incredibly fulfilling. You can share the fruits of your labors with your friends, and the money saving possibilities are many. Obviously if you grow your own veggies, that's less you spend at the store, and if you serve dinner at home, that's money saved on restaurant tabs. Pot luck dinners are a great way to get a group of friends together without spending very much money.

Instead of spending $35 on a night at the movies, or $25 on the latest novel you've been dying to read, swing by the dollar store for some cheap popcorn and then hit up the local library. As long as you can remember to return things on time, borrowing books and movies is free!

If entertaining friends in your home isn't your cup of tea, consider all the places you can still go out together that don't cost a thing. I'm talking about the great outdoors. Find a good hiking or bike trail, pack a sandwich and some water, and get out there. When you're stressed about money, there's nothing like enjoying a gorgeous day at a peaceful waterfall or mountain ridge to relax your soul, and it's good for your body, too.

There's no excuse for moping around the house because you're too broke to do anything. That kind of negative attitude will only make your tough financial situation more miserable. Wouldn't it be nice to immerse yourself in some hobbies that really let you forget about money?

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