Bored, bored, bored; most of us find those words repeating in our head at some point during the week. The trouble is, when you’re bored, you look for ways to relieve the boredom. And these days, that can lead to some poor money decisions. Here’s how to avoid the lure of blowing your monthly budget just to escape the monotony.
1. Find a go-to “boredom beater” activity
If you know you’re going to have spells of boredom in the future, put something together now to combat it. Make a list of books you want to read, and go get them from the library. Fill an empty drawer with cheap jigsaw puzzles, Sudoku books, and adult coloring books. Thrift stores can be a great source for many of these items (although you may be taking a risk purchasing a used jigsaw puzzle). (See also: 15 Frugal Ways to Battle Boredom)
2. Plan something you would like to do
Making plans is something we all enjoy doing. Whether it’s a weekend away, a trip to Europe, or figuring out your next home remodeling project, it’s fun to think about the future. You can keep it realistic, or you can put together your “dream vacation.” You can make a bucket list, featuring everything you want to try in your lifetime. Use the internet to research delicious foods and incredible restaurants. Search for “experiences of a lifetime.” Not only does this put you in a positive frame of mind, it gives you a reason to start saving for something special. And the best part is, planning doesn’t cost you anything.
3. Avoid any and all online shopping sites
“I’m really bored … maybe I’ll see what’s new on Amazon.” That’s a big mistake right there. Even if the initial intention was just to window shop, the prospect of instant gratification and enticing deals can lure you in. Before you know it, you’ve put a bunch of items in your shopping cart, searched for a few promo codes, and checked out with that “What just happened?” feeling. If you absolutely must go online shopping when you’re bored, keep a list handy that contains items you know you will need. A birthday gift for a friend or family member. Cleaning supplies. Household stuff. At least then, you’ll be checking a chore off your list. (See also: How to Prevent a Drunken Online Shopping Spree)
4. Don’t raid the pantry or fridge
You’re bored, not hungry, and there’s a big difference. One of the reasons smokers put on weight when they quit is not because they’re hungry, but because they feel the need to do something with their hands. When you’re bored, you’re looking for something to do to eat up some time and busy yourself, so you may think, hey … why not actually eat? But if you budgeted correctly, you’re using up food meant for a different time; like, an actual meal. Do this often, and not only will you have to spend more on food than you planned, but you’ll gain weight.
5. Don’t go to the movies
Who doesn’t love a night at the cinema? If you’re bored, the idea of getting out of the house to see a new movie may be very appealing to you. And, if you have money set aside in your budget for that, go ahead. But if you’ve already used that up, or there isn’t a movie you really want to see, don’t go.
The average price of a movie ticket these days is around $9, although it can be less at off-peak times, or much more for 3D and IMAX. Then you’ve got the snacks, which are very hard to resist. Throw in a small popcorn and soda and that’s another $11–$13. You’re over $20 in the hole for this boredom buster.
Instead, check out some of the new releases at the local library or Redbox. The library is free, although the newest titles are often reserved for months. Redbox costs between $1.50–$2 depending on your choice of DVD or Blu-ray. However, search online for codes that can get you a free night’s rental. Just remember to take the disc back the next day.
6. Have a game night
Board games. Video games. Charades. As long as you already have free access to your choice of games, inviting friends or family over to have some fun is a great way to kill boredom without spending a nickel. If you don’t have any games in the house, or are bored with the ones you have, take a trip to the nearest thrift store. There is usually a huge selection of pre-owned games of all types.
If you go to Goodwill, look for color tags that give you either 50 percent off or the item for just 99 cents. Of course, it goes without saying that you should open the box and check the contents first. Make sure the game has all the pieces, but don’t worry too much about instructions. These days you can find them free online, ready to print out and use in an instant.
7. Go on free tours
Whatever town or city you’re in, you have access to tours of a wide variety of places. In some cities you can tour the United States Mint facility. You can visit local breweries or wineries, candy companies, and even car manufacturing plants. These free tours vary from state to state, but a great resource is FactoryToursUsa.com. On a tour, you’ll go around in a group with a guide explaining the history of the company and the step-by-step process that goes into the products being made. Plus, many of these tours offer freebies at the end, or as you’re walking around. Free beer? Free candy? Now that’s not boring at all. (See also: 9 Free Things to Do in Any City You Visit)
8. Get out and do something that costs nothing
There are plenty of ways to escape the house and not open your wallet. For starters, a simple walk around the neighborhood can be a great way to relieve boredom. Grab your phone and some headphones, play some music, and explore your local area. If you’re feeling up to it, turn it into an exercise session instead. Jog, do pushups, run up and down steps. Find a way to turn that foray out of the house into something that will do you good.
If you’re in the right part of the country, you could try a hike, hit a bike trail, or maybe grab a tent and a few supplies and go camping. If you own a dog, take him or her on a walk. This is also a good chance to meet your neighbors. If you see one outside and you’ve never found the time to say hello, strike up a conversation. You may find you have a lot in common. Get inventive. Imagine you don’t have one penny to your name. Now, what can you do to entertain yourself?