So, you’re stuck at home with nothing to do. Or, you’re not necessarily stuck at home, but your budget or other circumstances don’t jive with a costly activity. Luckily, there are lots of activities you can do for free.

As our family works hard toward saving money to build a house, we’ve become quite efficient at finding cheap or free entertainment. Here’s a list of some of the things we do to keep busy and have fun while on a budget.  

Free Activities at Home (or Near Home)

You might be surprised at all there is to do when there’s nowhere to go. In fact, my four teenage kids and I had a blast doing the second thing on this list just last night. 

What kind of fun activities can you find to do at or near home? 

1. Put a Puzzle Together

Putting together a puzzle is one of the few activities that uses both the left and right sides of your brain. Puzzles involve teamwork and a lot of deep thought; they’re shown to increase your intelligence. They improve concentration, strengthen your memory, and bonus: they’re relaxing too. 

2. Play Card Games

As I told my kids last night, we played card games regularly as kids. Why? Simple: No video games. 

As I taught them one of our old family favorites, 500 Rummy, we laughed and giggled as they worked to learn the rules. There’s a bit of strategy involved with 500 Rummy too, so we were sharpening our brains in the process. 

Here are some other card game ideas for you:

And more. And don’t discard some of these games because they’re too “little kiddish”. Find the little kid in you and have some fun!

3. Reminisce Over Old Photos and Videos

One of our very favorite things to do at our house is to look over old photos and play old videos from days gone by. We’ll reminisce about past holidays, birthdays and other events as we look through them. 

And the photos will inevitably bring up memories of some silly thing one of the kids used to do, or something they said. There’s hours of fun to be had reminiscing over old photos and videos. 

4. Tell Stories From Your Past

Between yourself, your parents and your grandparents, you’ve got a wealth of memories and stories from your past. Tell your family about what things were like when you were growing up.

Or share things you remember about your grandparents, great grandparents or other relatives. Share stories about vacations you took as a kid or about special (or difficult) times you had growing up. 

You might think that people are uninterested in your past. But I think you’ll find, as I have, that sharing things about your history only makes you grow closer with loved ones. It gives them insight into your heart and soul, and that’s a good thing when it comes to bonding.  

5. Tell the Kids About the Day They Were Born

One of my favorite things to do when I’m spending alone time with my kids is to share the story about the day they were born. I’ll tell them what I remember about the pregnancy, the days leading up to their birth and what it was like on the way to the hospital. 

I’ll share silly details about what happened when I was in labor. Of course, I leave out anything too graphic. But the kids love hearing about the excitement and joy surrounding each of their births. 

6. Rearrange a Room

There’s nothing that gives your house a breath of fresh air like a little rearranging of the furniture. Take one or more rooms in your house and give them a fresh look. 

Even if your room is laid out so you can’t rearrange, change things up a bit. Move decor items like plants and pictures to different places. Or from one room to another. 

7. Paint a Room

Paint is cheap–especially if you get it from the return bin at your local home improvement store. Pick up a gallon of inexpensive paint and bring a whole new feel to a room in your house. 

8. Declutter and Reorganize

Something else that will give you a whole new feel in your house is to go through a room (or the whole house) and do a deep cleaning. 

Reorganize. Declutter. Give things away, throw things away and sell things. Sites such as Decluttr will buy your DVDs, CDs and more on the spot. And they offer free shipping too. 

9. Write a Letter to a Loved One

Writing letters is pretty much a forgotten art with technology these days. But there’s still nothing like getting a card or letter in the mail to brighten one’s day. 

Consider writing a letter to a family member, friend, or a penpal that lives far away. 

10. Do Some Baking or Cooking

One of the things we do when we’re stuck in the house is to try new recipes. Why not dust off one of those old cookbooks and find something new to make for the family?

No cookbooks? Here are some great sites that offer a variety of good recipes to choose from:

You can find recipes in all genres at most of these sites. Do a search for “best food blogs” for some added fun. 

11. Do Something Nice for Others

Doing something nice for someone else never goes out of style–even if you’re stuck at home. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Call a grandparent or other family member, just to say “hi”
  • Rake the yard or mow the lawn for an elderly or incapacitated neighbor
  • Do one of your house members’ chores
  • Make a meal to give the main cook a break
  • Write a letter to someone who lives alone
  • Tell someone you love them and appreciate them
  • Make a card, write a letter or draw a picture for a loved one
  • Give your pet some extra attention
  • Bake cookies for a loved one

Try and look for things that the people around you might want help with. Or, think of something you can do or say that might encourage them. In short, show them some love and kindness. 

12. Listen to Some Podcasts

There are hundreds of podcasts on the web in just about any subject you could possibly be interested in. Want to start your own business? Check out Entrepreneurs On Fire.

Interest in hard-to-believe stories? Try Freakonomics. Just do an internet search for a subject of interest to you, followed by the word “podcasts”. You’ll find all sorts of fun stuff to listen to.  

13. Read Some Blogs

I was late to the blogging game. I didn’t read my first blog until 2013. But I fell in love with blogs almost immediately. 

There’s something cool about reading “real person” accounts of whatever subjects interest you. 

From lifestyle blogs to personal finance blogs to cooking blogs and more, you can find blogs that cover pretty much any topic you want to talk about or learn about. 

14. Read Books

Yes, you can read an ebook. But we suggest picking up a good, old-fashioned hardcover or paperback book. Yes, a real book. 

You can read an autobiography, a history book or a fiction book. Start with an old classic like The Hobbit. Or a Tale of Two Cities.

15. Make a Money Plan

Making a money plan for you and your family might sound boring. It might also change your life. What does your money life look like? What are your financial goals? What is your net worth? 

Here are some steps you can take to make a money plan and get on your way to changing your financial life–in as little as an afternoon. 

  1. Write down your financial goals. What do you want out of your money? Total debt freedom? The ability to retire early? To fund an extravagant vacation? To purchase a car with cash? Figure it out and write it down. 
  2. Write down your debt balances, minimum payments and interest rates
  3. Write down your savings balances, investment balances and retirement account balances
  4. Figure out how much equity you have in your home (the value of your home minus what you own on it)
  5. Figure out your net worth
  6. Make a serious budget, assigning every dollar you bring in a job
  7. Resolve to stop wasting money
  8. Use your extra money to put toward your financial goals

Make 30 day, 180 day, one year and five year goals for your money. Now, get to work meeting those goals

16. Play Board Games

There’s little like an old-fashioned board game to get the fun on. Some of our favorites are: 

  • Monopoly
  • Trouble
  • Hungry Hippos
  • Apples to Apples
  • Scattergories
  • Trivial Pursuit
  • Checkers
  • Chess
  • Cribbage
  • Yahtzee

Use the games you’ve got around the house, or buy new ones. (Hint: don’t go “new” new, just yet. Check Craigslist or FB Marketplace for deals. Or swap with friends/family members).

17. Play Hide and Seek

Yes, hide and seek can be fun, even for adults. But you’ll get some serious giggles out of your kids if you play the game with them. 

Lighten up, have some fun and let the kid in you come out and play for a while. 

18. Play Charades

This is a great group game for all ages. Check out the rules for traditional version along with other fun versions here

19. Try Some New Recipes

Whether it’s an old family favorite, a new idea or a restaurant copycat meal, trying new recipes is fun! You could make homemade ice cream or try out a new dessert recipe.

How about experimenting with a new region of cuisine, such as Indian or Mediterranean food? Check out your favorite recipe sites for some good ideas. 

Or do an online recipe exchange with friends.  

20. Go on a Hike, Walk or Bike

Between your local neighborhood and the plethora of city, county and state parks, you can always find someplace to walk, hike or bike. 

Grab your family, a friend or head out by yourself for some fresh air and exercise. 

Hint: Try someplace new, just for the fun of it. Or see how many new parks you can visit within a one-month span. 

21. Play in the Yard 

Yep, more kid activities to help you feel young again. If you’ve got a basketball hoop in the yard, play H.O.R.S.E. Grab a ball and a couple of gloves, or a football, and play some catch. 

Get some sidewalk chalk and draw pictures on the driveway. Blow bubbles. If you’re feeling extra adventurous, play some dodgeball with the family. 

22. Take Photos

Grab your phone or camera and spend some time taking pictures. You can do live action shots of the family, get outside and take some nature shots or just photograph anything that looks great in front of the lens. 

Bonus: Post the images to a site such as iStockphoto and make some extra cash with your photos. 

23. Learn A New Skill

There are lots of ways to learn a new skill–and lots of new skills you can learn. Here are some ideas:

  • Knit, crochet, sew, or cross stitch
  • Learn how to do basic car maintenance
  • Learn the basics of a new language
  • Basic home repair
  • Learn how to draw or paint
  • Gardening and canning
  • Learn basic self defense
  • Learn basic first aid
  • Improve your memory
  • Try a new sport
  • Learn about investing
  • Learn how to break a bad habit
  • Build a new good habit
  • Learn to make some healthy meals
  • Practice relaxation and meditation techniques

By the way, you can learn pretty much anything you could possibly desire to learn via YouTube, internet blogs or books from the library or Amazon. 

24. Get Some Online Schooling

Aside from all of the learning sites out there (i.e., there are other places you can get some online schooling. 

Universities like Yale and Harvard offer free classes. And if you’re looking for something a bit more casual, try browsing Wikipedia. There’s a wealth of information out there on pretty much any subject you can think of. 

25. Start a YouTube Channel

Do you have some knowledge you want to share? How about starting a YouTube channel? If the subjects you’re teaching about are popular, you could find yourself with a whole new side hustle for making some extra cash. 

You could teach people pretty much any skill you know on YouTube, from home repair projects to fashion. 

26. Have a Movie Marathon

Get together with family and/or friends, choose 3 or 4 of your favorite movies and organize a movie marathon. You could have everyone bring their favorite movie, or make a themed movie marathon like: 

  • Lord of the Rings 
  • Back to the Future
  • Indiana Jones
  • Star Trek
  • Chick Flick marathon
  • Clint Eastwood marathon
  • Adam Sandler marathon
  • John Wayne marathon
  • Funny movie marathon
  • Sci-fi marathon
  • Classic movie marathon
  • Drama movie marathon

Or any other of dozens of ideas. Don’t forget to make a menu plan for the movie marathon–complete with your fave movie foods. Or, match the menu to the movie theme.  

27. Have a Sleepover

You’re never too old for a sleepover, although guys might want to call it a camping trip. Choose your group, plan your entertainment venue for the night and put together a menu. 

28. Make a List of Goals

When was the last time you sat down and made a list of your goals? What are your 30 day goals? Your 60 day goals? What are your one-year goals? Your five-year goals?

Do you have career goals? Relationship goals? Fitness goals? Financial goals?

Take a few hours (do this with your spouse too) and think about what you really want out of life. Then make a step-by-step plan to achieve those goals. 

You got this! 

29. Make Plans for Future Vacations

If you’re a on a budget, you might not be able to take a vacation right now. But you can make plans for a future vacation. 

What is your dream trip? Globe-hopping for a month? Spending two weeks at a national park? A trip to Disneyworld? 

Figure out what your dream vacation trip is and make plans for when and how you’ll take that trip. Search travel sites for the best deals.

Check out VRBO and Airbnb to see if you can find cheap places to stay near your dream vacation destination. Bonus points if you create a budget to help save and pay cash for the trip. 

30. Play in the Water

Yep, play in the water. Just like when you were a kid. Run the sprinkler. Go to the beach. Buy a kiddie pool for the backyard. Draw a nice hot bubble bath.  

Have a water balloon toss or a water balloon fight. Or a water pistol war. Just. Play. 


Being on a tight budget doesn’t mean you can’t have fun. Expand your horizons and brush your pride aside. Find fun stuff to do that brings out the inner kid in you.

Learn a new skill or take a free online class. There’s no limit to the number of things you can do for fun, for free!