Beating Boredom on a Budget!

I will be at a different stage of my life than other readers, I'm aware of that; so I'll try and be as comprehensive as I can with this blogpost.
My history:
I was the youngest of a large family growing up in the 70s (1970s, NOT 1870s - cheeky!), I then had some years as a single mum on a small income after my first marriage ended.
I had experience of the benefits system here in the UK, and am now happily living on a teeny shared income in probably the smallest home in the UK. (* Kevin McCloud hasn't made a programme about us yet, but our entire house would fit inside most people's garage!)

When you don't have money for the latest gadget/phone/subscription TV channel/club/headphones....or whatever it is that would 
really help you pass the time/relax/join in with other   

people/chill out/find yourself: what happens?

It can affect your mood, that's for sure!
As a youngster you can feel resentful because you don't understand why. Why there isn't enough money.
As an adult you can feel guilty because you can't give your child what other kiddies have.

Yet as with many things in life, the simplest are often the 

Try these activities, as age-appropriate, to ease boredom with either no funds, or very little!

. Crosswords - in free newspapers, in newspapers put out for recycling, in cheap books from the charity shop, free online apps, make your own.

. Word searches - as for crosswords, but also much easier to 
make your own, with a theme (dinosaurs, colours, people's 
names), and a great way to help with learning literacy.

. Soduko - as for crosswords.

. The alphabet game - either aloud or written down: this is a good 'car journey' game. 

Choose a subject, then try to think of a list of words for that subject, one for each letter of 
the alphabet. (It's ok to 'pass' on Q X and Z!)

. Origami - save envelope backs, any leftover letters (without 
personal information...), completed crosswords 😉, and cut 
these into a perfect square. Then look online, or borrow abook from the library (still free) and try out some shapes!
. Crafting. Where do I start with this one? It can be as expensive or as cheap as you want it to be.  While I recover from hand/wrist surgery, I cannot do my usual 24/7 crafting, and have stopped crafting for others for a few weeks. 

I've made a simple appliquéd design for a high shop tunic top using my fabric scraps tin, 
so this cost me nothing other than time.

I'm also managing to knit for minutes at a time using lightweight yarn and fine needles, so I'm making squares using up leftovers of sock yarn.
I have also been painting simple watercolour designs onto some recycled cards, to make Birthday cards. 

. Art

You don't have to be JMWTurner to be able to get creative. Encourage kids to use up their 
colouring books, to keepcolouring pencils in a pot, and have a 'creative space' 
that is easy to tidy up.
Salt dough is a fabulous and cheap medium for kids and 
adults alike. It is safe, too, and is perfect for using with folk 
suffering from dementia. Using bog standard white value   flour and salt with a little water, a dough that can be rolled, 
cut, moulded, and stamped, painted then baked to form hanging pieces perfect for decorations or little gifts: and a brilliant way to pass a rainy afternoon. 


I know that I'm blessed to have grown up as I did, in the unusual and very quirky family I had. One thing my Dad was so proud of is that we were all musical. All my elder siblings 
played violin, and I played the piano from age 5. These days 
it is seen as a little elitist, which bemuses me because our piano came from the local pub (my mum sanded it down to get rid of the beer glass rings and graffiti scratches) and we only had heating in one room, with no carpets on the floors...but we had a piano. At primary school in the 70s, everybody learned to play the recorder.  
There might be a keyboard in your attic, or under a bed it. Try and play a little tune. Make some sounds. Get a samba beat going and enjoy the rhythm.

Radio 3 plays beautiful classical music. Have it as background noise. See how the sounds make you feel. Sway and move in your kitchen as you wipe down the work surfaces: why not?!
One free thing we love to do when babysitting our littlest grandchildren (now 4 and 2 1/2!) is to have a "Disco"!
This means tidying away all the toys in the front room to make space (see what I did 
there...?), washing hands and face, and getting changed, then putting on a CD and ... Dancing!! We do all the "favourites" - YMCA, Hokey-Cokey, Head, shoulders, knees and toes: the CD was £1 from the charity shop, and is a kids party album.
There are countless ways to use music that is free. 
Have you listened to all your CDs/albums recently?? 

. Food

It's expensive.
We need it to stay alive.
We don't want to waste any.
Have you tried making fun food?ni don't mean making food fun.
Fun food.
Make sandwiches as usual and cut them out using cookie cutters. (The crusts or leftovers bits go in either a savoury bake with ((vegan)) cheese, or are used for thickening stews..I freeze them labelled).

Then make toast pizzas the same way, but with tomato purée and grated ((vegan)) cheese or whatever you have.
Take a small piece of cake and cut it into small pieces, like cubes. Top each cube with a dollop of icing (icing sugar and a little water), sprinkles, raisins, glacé cherries, or whatever is in your cooking cupboard. 
Posh hotels charge oodles of pounds for food served up like this. 
Have you ever even tried a cucumber sandwich?

. Party games

You don't need to have a party to play charades. You just need to alone really.
Most homes have board games. 

Play them!
A cheap bottle of lemonade mixed with normal value squash - but in a jug and with ice cubes from the freezer compartment - and it feels special.
If you really want to push the boat out, make up a couple of 'pass the parcel's with something at the end like a bag of sweeties or a colouring book.
Cards. We play cards.
And backgammon.
And cribbage.
We have them and we play them.
One thing I don't have anymore is scrabble.
That went to live at daughter's house with the piano, but can be played whenever we want to.

All these things are free to do.

The only things you need  to  beat  boredom on a   budget are:  imagination and time. 
And the last time I checked, both those were still free.

Leave me a comment below with your ideas for other people to try.
And have a great time thinking about this topic. X


  1. I like to keep my brain in gear with games from this site - sudokus of different kinds, battle ships, shisen, oh, loads of games and all free.

    J x

  2. As children of the 50's there was virtually no money for entertainment and no tv etc either. My friend and I spent the entire school holidays making a doll's house and all the fittings etc out of cardboard boxes and other packaging. Nobody entertained us, we had our own ideas and never said we were bored or mum would give us a job to do. We also loved making paper dolls and designing and making their clothes. Then we would create stories about them and act them out. Walking,climbing trees and enjoying nature kept my own children amused for ages for free. As you said imagination and time are free and using them much better for all ages than just passively having entertainment handed to us on a plate.

  3. Many wonderful ideas! I think the big difference nowadays (I think we're about the same age) is that everyone expects "to be entertained" and they make little effort to entertain themselves.
    Libraries are free and besides books, ours rent CD's and DVD's and Audio Books. They also offer all sorts of classes and reasons to get together i.e. knitting, book clubs, movie viewing etc. all for free. If you have access to major libraries they also often offer special exhibits and talks by visiting authors.
    I have been astonished to find out how many people didn't know that many museums and art galleries offer free times (most museums & galleries have entrance fees here) at least once a week. Both the Royal Ontario Museum and the Art Gallery of Ontario here in Toronto also offer Friday night events - the AGO's are free and feature musicians and the ROM is usually $10 and feature theme music, tours and lectures.
    Many music venues here in Toronto also offer free mini concerts/churches offer lunchtime concerts & recitals and even popular music stations here in town offer lunchtime and/or evening concerts (often live on air) with a free reception with food and drinks afterwards - all you have to do is call or email to reserve your spot.
    I find that people just don't make much of an effort to seek out these opportunities - and it's their loss. Smaller locations may not have as much on offer but you never know what's out there if you just take some time to look.

  4. I know as a child of the 80's with a small daughter I'm considered odd as I try to get my 3.5 year to entertain herself a bit and do things cheaply. I want to try and get her to understand entertainments is not just on a screen,toys or all about her.
    Don't get me wrong with play together alot but its often simple things.
    We go to the park to blow bubbles and i read a book while she blows and pops them, afterwards we have homemade ice pops.
    Watercolours is her favourite game, plastic pots(yogurt/mixing bowls) few drops of food colouring with spoons and pipettes. She learns about colours and makes witches stews with dandelions and grass added, yummy i can tell you.
    We use free resources like woodland trust website, library and children centres. With my husband I just love being with him and being able to take our daughter for a walk and flask of hot chocolate is bliss.
    Don't get me wrong money helps get things, experiences but for us if we save and think outside the norm it buys us time and boy is that worth it. I also hate waste of any kind.
    I'm going to be stealing yours and your readers ideas esp if my daughter says shes bored!

  5. Hello Tracey! I used to follow you many moons ago and then lost you! Great post.
    We were poor when our girls were little in the 70s. We used to pack jam sandwiches and bottles of water, go to library and then to the park on the way home. The girls friends would say how lucky they were as they had such special times. These friends were all better off than us. Time cost nothing.

  6. Hi I was really interested in what you said on this piece. My two boys (ha, ha, grown up now)were never bored when kids and we had very little money. One of the things we loved to do when they were small and if it was raining and we couldn't get outside was have a picnic indoors. Make up a packed lunch (wrap the sandwiches up etc) and put a blanket on the living room floor and have a picnic lunch. They loved it and all that was different was we didn't sit at a table and ate our lunch out of tin foil. Also they had a small tent and we would pop that up in their bedroom and they would sleep in it sometimes in sleeping bags just to make a change, they loved that as well. We would go out to "free" places like parks, libraries, free museums, or just for long walks in the countryside. I always looked out for any coupons or "kids go free with an adult" tickets and they would help for fun days in the long summer holidays. We would craft and also have cooking sessions and play-dough was one of their favourites, but the bit they liked best was making it themselves. I can honestly say that not once did they ever say they were bored and having a frugal childhood has not hurt them at all and in fact they have taken a lot of life lessons from that and they live frugal lives themselves now, not owing any one anything. Thank you for your good advice. Regards Sue H.


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