It’s winter, that post-Christmas, pre-spring lull. You’re bored, but unfortunately you're also broke. Last year CNN reported that 76% of Americans are living paycheck-to-paycheck and, given the cost of the recent winter storms which have hit America, it's likely that times have only got tougher.
There may be plenty of fun things to do after work or at the weekends during the dark months, from going to a concert to an evening at the local bar. However, for many, after paying heating bills and repaying Christmas loans, the sums just don’t stack up and average ‘real disposable income’ has been shown by the department of commerce to have dropped in recent months, leaving citizens with far fewer options to break the monotony of snow storms and winter winds.
It may seem easier to simply stay at home during the dark evenings and snowy weekends; however this reclusion from society often leads to a low and depressed mood. More and more people are falling victim to ‘SAD’ (seasonal affective disorder) as the days get shorter and darker, and this year’s storms are doing nothing to brighten anyone’s mood. Winter is a long time to hide indoors, re-read your favourite book for the 100th time or stare out of your window waiting for summer.
But what about waking up your sleepy winter and trying something new? Here are a few fun ideas to shake-up your weekend or brighten your evening: So, instead of spending yet another night surfing the web or channel hopping, here are a few cheap (or free) ideas on what to do until the weather picks up or until you get a raise. From the practical to the childish these suggestions prove that winter can be so much more than the dull wait for warmer months. So go on, beat the winter blues and give these a go…
10 Have a movie night
Sometimes after a long day there's nothing better than a little TV; so whether it’s a movie night with your mates, or working through a box set with your other half, stick your feet up and have a quiet night in. Why not organise a weekly ‘bad movie night’ with your friends, where you get to giggle through spectacular cinematic flops such as the ridiculous ‘Troll 2’ or the cult classic ‘The Room’. Stuck for suggestions? Check out this list. Create the cinema atmosphere by dimming the lights, preparing some snacks and turning off your mobile so you can sit back and enjoy whatever you pick in peace. Stop channel hopping and make TV a treat again!
9 Go for a wintery walk
Wrap yourself up and go for a wander. If you live in the city have a poke around your neighbourhood and find something you didn’t know was there, who knows you may discover your town’s next best restaurant or a surprising pocket of beauty. If your surroundings are more secluded and you live in the country then immerse yourself in the landscape, climb that hill you’ve always looked out of your window at or get some binoculars and see if you can spy some nature. Not only is a good walk great for clearing your mind it also has significant health benefits (helping to prevent or manage: heart disease, high blood pressure and type-2 diabetes).
8 Games aren’t just for kids
Get in touch with your inner child and be a big kid with your family or housemates. Even the most simple games can bring a smile to a rainy day (quick the floor is lava) and it'll make a nice break from the stresses of being a ‘grown up’. Try setting up an obstacle course around the house and seeing who can do it in the quickest time. Alternatively take a more intellectual, less strenuous approach and have a game-night playing board-games, charades and finishing off with fiendish quiz where each team writes questions to befuddle the other.
7 Get crafty
Remember three years ago when your aunt gave you that candle-making set for Christmas; you plastered on a fake smile, said ‘thank you’ and wondered when on earth you would use it. Well give it a go next time you’re bored instead of repeatedly refreshing facebook and tweeting about how you have ‘nothing to do #urgh’. At best it will be fun and you’ll have something to show for your afternoon, at worst it will be a funny anecdote and you can show your friends your misshapen creations. If you don’t have a relative to gifting you weird and wonderful craft-sets then get yourself to a craft shop and find the weirdest-looking one within your price-range, there is no reason why you should be excluded from the fun just because your family gives normal gifts.
6 Do It Yourself
Just because it’s not quite spring yet doesn’t mean you can’t have a spruce-up with some DIY. Giving a room a lick of paint can really brighten up your home and helps to lift your mood during the gloomy winter months. It you are particularly handy around the house now might be the time to fill-in that crack in the ceiling or find out why the washing-machine makes that weird noise. If you’re budget can’t stretch to DIY supplies and you’re afraid you might make things worse by trying to fox them then spend an afternoon re-arranging furniture and moving pictures from one room to another to freshen things up.
5 Build your career
Perhaps the reason why you’re stuck at home too poor to go out and have fun is because your career is going nowhere. Well instead of feeling depressed and bored indoors spend some time sprucing-up your resume. Signing up for an evening class can put you one-step ahead of the pack and you may find some useful contacts amongst your classmates. If you are trying to break into a new career and are having no luck, offer to volunteer on your days off. It may be tiring but by taking the initiative you can demonstrate to employers how driven you are to succeed and before you know it you’ll be in your private jet eating caviar…perhaps.
No longer solely practiced by hippies and people trying to ‘find themselves’ meditation is now officially cool. From Katy Perry to Rupert Murdoch everyone nowadays is taking a moment in their day for quiet reflection. Depending on what type of meditation you are after there are plenty of guides available both in print and on the internet. If the notion of sitting still drives you mad then there is always Yoga, equally relaxing with the added bonus of improving your flexibility, tone and posture.
3 Cook up a feast
Some days stretch ahead of you and the only thing you have planned is your next meal, well in that case why not make it epic? The internet is full of thousands of recipes so have a go at something you’ve never tried before. If you can’t afford to go to the shops for more ingredients then don’t worry, tell websites like supercook.com and myfridgefood.com what you do have and they will show you what you can make with what you’ve got.
2 Skype old friends
Skype can be a cheap way to reconnect with friends and family around the globe. Set aside an afternoon to catch up with those you don’t get to see very often. Just because you live far away doesn’t mean you can’t keep up with one-another’s lives, and using skype it won’t triple your phone bill. Just remember: a) work out the time difference if they are in a different country, b) unlike a phone call they can see if you are still in your PJs, and c) if they are being dull you can always hang up and claim your internet connection cut out.
1 Meet new people, do new things
Maybe you have plenty of great ideas for cheap things to do in your area but no one you know is free or interested. In that case check out a local meetup group - free to join and a great way of finding people with similar interests to you who live in your area. Not only is it a great way to meet new people, it can also be a good way of trying new things for a cheaper price as group activities often mean a discount.