131 Fun Things To Do When Broke (or on a budget) in 2024

featured image; best things to do when bored and broke

We’ve all been there.

There’s not much (or any) extra cash.

Or unexpected expenses have come your way and it’s time to tighten up the budget.

Whether you are a college student, young professional, or mom of three, here’s a comprehensive list of fun things to do when you are broke or on a budget.

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Title pin: Good things to do when broke

can you have fun without spending money?

Being “broke” has different definitions to people depending on age and life stage.

Regardless of the definition, 86% of Americans say they’ve experienced being broke at some time. (source)

Furthermore, at the start of 2022, 64% of the U.S. population was living paycheck to paycheck. (source)

With a little creativity and planning, we can continue to share fun times with those we love- even when we are broke.

broke statistic; broke things to do free and cheap

Fun things to do for free (or cheap) with friends

Alright, think back (if you have to) and channel your 20-year-old self. It’s the weekend and the world is yours, minus a solid bank account. What are you going to do?

women sitting on couch

1. Girls night in

I try to get together regularly with a good group of friends for a girls night in. We usually bring a few snacks and a bottle of wine. We catch up and talk (and laugh a lot). That’s it! No activity required. And it’s the best time.

2. Host a game night

Invite your friends over and have them bring a snack and a favorite game. Options for a game night are endless. Opt for board games, card games, or even bunko (it’s surprisingly fun).

3. Start a Book club

Choose a book to read at the same time with your friends. For ideas, check out best books to start a reading habit. Borrow copies from the library in paperback, e-book, or audiobook format to make it free!

Read, meet, and discuss!

Make it a success by planning to give everyone plenty of time to borrow the book.

4. Host a potluck

Have everyone provide their favorite homemade dish and enjoy a delicious meal together. This is simple to host and the cost remains low. These are great hosting meals at low cost too:

party foods for cheaper: simple ways to save money at home

5. Spa Day at home

Invite a few friends over and have them bring their favorite nail polish colors. Do your own manis and pedis or take turns helping one another. Don’t forget to soak your feet in a warm tub for a bit.

Pro Tip: Add cucumber and lemon to water and refrigerate ahead of time to make it a more “spa” like experience.

6. Chick Flick movie marathon

Pop popcorn, invite your girlfriends over, and watch all your favorite chick flicks. Or binge-watch a series. Great options include:

  • Bridesmaids
  • How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days
  • The Notebook
  • The Devil Wears Prada
  • Bridget Jones Diary

7. Trivia or bingo Night

Check around to see what bars or wineries have free trivia or bingo nights. I have played both at several different places close to where I live. Many places also have movie and tv series themes.

8. Karaoke night

karaoke; cheap and free things to do with friends

Check out a karaoke night at a local bar.

If you prefer to test your vocal skills in private, set up a karaoke night at home through a SMART TV app or karaoke machine someone already owns.

9. have a Swap

Swap books, clothes, games, puzzles, fingernail polish, etc… You will feel like you have made a new purchase without spending a dime.

10. go Window shopping

On a nice day, grab a coffee from home and take a stroll in an area with fun window shopping. Leave your wallet behind if you will be tempted to use your credit card.

11. make a new Cocktail concoction

Gather up the supplies you and your friends already have at home, and come up with a creative and delicious new cocktail.

12. Have a Progressive dinner

A progressive dinner is a dinner party where each course of the meal is eaten at someone else’s house. Keep it simple. If you have several friends willing to host, it’s a cost-effective and delicious evening.

I did this with a group of friends back in college. We were able to see one another’s apartments and catch up.

13. Host a couples Night (things to do when broke)

Invite couples over for a game night or to hang out.

If you have kids: Put on a movie in the basement so they have something fun to do without having to pay babysitters. Or pool your money together to get one babysitter (if that’s all it takes) for all the kids attending.

14. Fire pit Fun

Host a fire pit night complete with s’mores. Have everyone bring their own chairs and a s’mores component to contribute.

15. Start a fantasy league

Starting or joining a fantasy football league is not just for the guys. According to Greg Ambrosius, editor of Fantasy Sports Magazine, women account for 7 million of the 12 million players.

If reality tv is more your thing, play along with Survivor by joining their fantasy game. Or if there’s a competition show you enjoy, make up your own fantasy game with your friends.

16. Host a poker night

Borrow poker chips and cards and pull together a game.

17. Play pool or darts at a local bar

Check out a local place to play darts or pool for free things to do when you are broke.

18. Go thrift store shopping

woman shopping at thrift store

If you want to buy new clothes for cheap, look for items at the local thrift store. Or shop around for fun to see what they have to offer.

19. Complete a challenge

Who doesn’t love a good challenge? And these challenges are free, will keep you entertained, and are enjoyable to do with friends.

20. play truth or dare

It’s still fun to play as adults! Want a new twist? Play Two Truths and a Lie.

21. host an at-home painting party

Find an online painting tutorial and spend the night being creative. To make this budget-friendly:

  • Only gather one bottle of the primary colors (red, blue, and yellow) and then mix to make secondary colors. Add in black and white for more mixing possibilities if needed.
  • If you know what you are going to paint, only gather the paint you need for that specific picture.
  • Canvas panels come in packs, are more economical, and you don’t need an easel to paint them.
  • Have everyone bring whatever paintbrushes they have at home.

Related: Best Affordable Friends Activities

Things to do with no money (that will also make you happier)

The next activity items to do when broke are proven to boost your mood.

22. Take your dog to the dog park

woman with dog; what to do when broke

It’s a win-win. You will get out into nature which is a mood booster and you will enjoy time with your pet. Your pet will love it too!

23. take nature photos

Get outside and walk on a scenic trail. Snap some nature photos along the way.

24. Day pass at a local gym

Many gyms offer a free day pass for first-time guests. If you have a friend who attends a gym, ask if they have free passes or if you could attend a group fitness class with them.

25. Take a long bath

Taking a hot bath is relaxing, good for sore muscles, and helps you sleep better.

26. Call or Facetime a loved one

Texting is convenient, but take some time to truly connect with a loved one by calling or Facetiming.

27. Write a letter or thank you note

Take time to write a handwritten note to someone you love. They will value and appreciate receiving it. (Try these other inexpensive thank you ideas too)

28. Play a musical instrument

woman playing guitar; things to do with no money when you are broke or bored

Do you still have your old band instrument in the basement? Or a guitar or piano in your house? Freshen up your skills. Or look online for free tutorials for beginners.

29. Make a new music playlist to enjoy

What songs make you want to blast your car radio? Music is proven to make us happier.

30. Get Some Extra Sleep

Take a nap! Sleep enables our brains and bodies to reset, handle stress better, and makes us feel good. Who doesn’t love a good nap?

31. Take a Walk In Your Neighborhood

We are lucky enough to live right by a trail that runs through our city and have spent countless hours walking, biking, and exploring. Plus, we get to see people we know and meet new people who live in our area.

32. Take a Bike Ride

If you have a bike, dust it off and take it for a spin.

Fun things to do at home

(without spending money when broke)

33. Listen to a podcast

woman wearing headphones; broke things to do for fun

Podcasts have become one of my new favorite pastimes. Search and enjoy a variety of podcasts on everything including true crime, comedy, business tips, or meditation. If you find one you like, follow it to get the latest episodes.

34. Listen to an audiobook

Much like podcasts, audiobooks are easy to listen to in the car or while doing things around the house. I enjoy listening to books read by the famous authors who wrote them.

Check out audiobooks from your local library to listen to from your device.

35. Find a free online workout you will enjoy

There are tons of free online workouts to choose from. The key to following through with exercise (and even enjoying it) is to find something you like to do. What makes you feel good? Strength workouts? Yoga? HIIT? Zumba?

Tip for an effective at-home workout:

  • Make sure you have plenty of space. I have been known to workout in the garage so I have room to move.
  • If you don’t have dumbbells, use objects you have around the house (including water bottles or cans of food). Bodyweight workouts are also effective if you don’t own weights.
  • Modify how you need. Most fitness instructors do a great job of showing options for different levels.
  • Have fun! No one is watching. The emotional and mental health benefits of exercise are just as important as the physical ones.

36. learn a new skill

Check out free online tutorials for knitting, learning a foreign language, simple home repairs, or any new skill you want to learn.

37. Gardening

Dig in the dirt and revive your flower beds, vegetable garden, or herb garden.

38. Get back to a hobby you enjoy

Evaluate how you are spending your time. Is there something you used to enjoy that you no longer take the time for? Today’s the day to start again.

39. Read

Reading is a hobby that I have recently thrown myself back into.

Tip: I’ve started putting books I want to read on hold at the library so that I always have another book available. This keeps my reading habit going and it’s free!

40. Homemade spa

woman with facial mask

Mix up a facial mask from items around your house, plop cucumbers on your eyes, get in your robe, and relax.

41. Make a version of your favorite take-out meal at home

I am a lover of all Mexican food (and margaritas). So, my family has Taco Tuesday every week. This curbs my craving so I am not as tempted to eat out.

Make a version of your favorite take-out food for less at home and schedule it into your regular meal rotation. It feels like a treat!

42. Train for a race

Registering for a race is not always a cheap thing when you are broke. Instead, set your own race date, look up a training program, and start training.

Tell someone about your plans (or do it with them) to hold you accountable!

43. Do a puzzle

Puzzles help keep our memory sharp, fight against cognitive decline, and improve visual-spatial reasoning.

My great-aunt always had a puzzle going and she lived to 101 with excellent cognitive health.

44. Play trivia

Trivia is not only fun and free, but it can be healthy for us. It releases dopamine, lowers our stress hormones, and exercises our brains. (source)

45. Play Online Games

Have you tried Wordle yet? Search for other free online games that you will enjoy.

Things to do with your spouse when you are bored and broke

Connecting with your partner doesn’t take a lot of money. Most of the following activities are free to do together.

46. Create a couples vision board

couples vision board, things to do with no money at night

Get to know your partner better, build healthier communication, and set new goals by creating a vision board for couples.

Deciding on your priorities and goals for the future will further strengthen your bond. And you most likely already have the supplies you need.

47. Take a drive

When I was young, my parents often took the long way home. I didn’t appreciate it of course, but they seemed to enjoy looking at the different sights and catching up with one another.

Now that I’m also a parent, I understand the allure of simply taking a drive.

*Watch out for rising gas prices and plan your route so you don’t end up driving farther than you intended.

48. Plan a date night at home

Put the kids to bed and have a romantic dinner or watch a movie together. Intentionally plan to spend time together.

49. Go to an open house

When we were first married, we would often go to open houses on Sunday afternoons. It was a fun way to spend time together, it’s free, and it helped us decide what we liked and didn’t like before we were ready to buy a new home.

50. Watch a sunset

Find a good spot in your area to see a sunset. It’s romantic and free!

51. ride a Free scooter

If you have seen electric scooters around your city, hop on and explore! (Be safe and go slow if it’s your first time.)

52. Go for a hike

Research hiking trails in your area and plan to go for a hike. This has become one of my favorite ways to spend time with my husband. And it’s free!

We use the AllTrails App to help discover trails close by, see reviews from other hikers, and stay on course while we are hiking.

53. Find a free outdoor concert

Or visit a bar to listen to a band. Go on a full stomach and limit your drink order if you want to stay on track with your budget.

54. Would you rather questions

Spend time asking would you rather questions for couples as a perfect (and free) way to get to know your partner better!

55. Bucket list

Make a bucket list with your significant other. This can include a list of anything you have not done together but would like to do.

56. Star gaze

Check out the night sky together. Download SkyView Lite to identify constellations, stars, and satellites.

57. Netflix and Chill

This is an easy and cheap way to spend the evening together if you can decide on the same show to watch.

58. Be Intimate

Your partner will be on board with this free idea!

59. Break out an old gaming device

Old gaming devices can be a lot of fun! When my husband got out his old guitar hero, we had a blast playing it for several hours.

60. Give one another massages

This is much more cost-efficient than going to a spa. Break out the massage oils and take turns.

61. Plan a date using only gift cards (things to do when broke)

We have a drawer dedicated to gift cards and coupons. Plan a date night using only the gifts cards or coupons you have to make it a budget-friendly date.

Places to go on a budget

62. Visit a museum or a zoo

Most museums or zoos have free days or discounted days. Plan ahead to find those times.

*Check your local library to see if they have passes you can check out to visit local museums and zoos for free.

63. Explore a part of the city you live in on foot

Or try out free public transportation to explore a new area of town.

64. Browse a farmer’s market

On nice days, there’s nothing better to do than browse a local farmer’s market. There’s often musical entertainment and many vendors give out free samples to try too.

*Leave your wallet at home so you aren’t tempted to spend money.

65. Drive-in Movie

Check out the prices of your local drive-in movie theatre and go when they offer discounts.

The upside to this experience when broke:

  • You can bring your food and drinks to avoid paying for pricey snacks.
  • They tend to play older movies, so tickets can be cheaper.
  • Kids under 11 are free at our local drive-in, making it much more economical than the regular movie theatre for our family.

66. visit an Arboretum

While our local arboretum typically has a small fee, they offer one free day each week. This is a great place to take a picnic and go for a hike. Stop by the visitor’s center to see what yours has to offer.

67. Local lakes

Visit a local lake and go for a swim and play on the beach. Bring your own canoe or paddleboard or rent one for a small fee if you have the option.

68. Frisbee Golf

Many local parks have free frisbee golf courses. All you need is a frisbee to enjoy an afternoon of playing this game.

69. Explore a town nearby

You may not have to travel far to explore something new. Check out the surrounding towns in your area.

Related: How To Travel With Family On A Budget

70. Attend school plays, musicals, or concerts

There may be a small cost for admission, but it supports your community without breaking the bank.

71. Visit extended family

Whether they live close or far away, visiting extended family can be an enjoyable and low-cost way to spend an afternoon or a weekend.

My extended family lives on a farm and it’s a perfect place to go to enjoy spending time with them.

72. go to the beach

If you are lucky enough to live close to a public beach, it’s free to spend the day there! Pack plenty of food, drinks, and sunscreen so that you avoid unnecessary costs on your beach day.

Fun family things to do when on a budget

The following free and cheap activities are great for a family or anyone looking for something fun to do with free time.

73. Questions

My kids love thinking creatively with this fun What If questions game for kids and family.

74. Riddles

Question: I lose my head in the morning, but get it back at night. What am I?

Answer: a pillow

These entertaining riddles will have everyone using their critical thinking skills. This is a great and free way to pass the time.

75. Art projects

Challenge your family to make a creation out of the art supplies you already have in your house.

76. Look at old photos and memorabilia

I have a cedar chest in our basement that holds old scrapbooks, photos, and other memorabilia from when I was younger. Our kids love looking through these things as I tell them stories from my childhood. They also enjoy looking through the container of comic books my husband has saved.

So, walk down memory lane with them. And take a picture of their faces when they see your first cell phone!

77. read a book together that you loved as a child

Much like looking through your old memorabilia, your kids will enjoy reading something that was special to you when you were their age.

According to Scholastic, 83% of kids ages 6-17 say being read to is something they either love or like a lot.

78. Build a fort

If you have pillows and blankets, you have what you need to make an epic living room fort with your kids. Let your kids camp out in it for a night to make it extra fun.

79. Go to a local coffee shop and play a game

Take games to play and enjoy connecting with your family. Our favorite game to play right now is UNO, but you can play any card or board game you have. While you may need to splurge on a treat to share, this is a great way to spend an afternoon.

My kids love the smoothies at our local coffee shop, but they are pricey and sugary. Buy one and ask for an extra cup so everyone can share.

80. Have a Picnic

family having a picnic

Picnics are great whenever the weather is great. Take it to a park or even your backyard. If the weather is cold, have a picnic in your living room. Eating in any different place is fun for kids!

81. movie night

Movie night is always a win. Toss homemade pizza into the oven or pop popcorn and relish a night in with your family.

82. Kids trivia questions

Ask kids trivia questions on your next family game night or on a rainy day.

83. Check out your church or synagogue

Your place of worship will have many opportunities to participate in together that are free and family-friendly.

84. Visit the Library

The local library is a hotspot for free activities for kids and families. They offer story times, summer programs, play areas, kid-friendly computers, movies, and books.

Our library has extra programs geared toward kids all year long and a makers space where kids can schedule a time to print a free 3D object.

85. Bake

Go shopping in your pantry and figure out what you can bake together.

We love this 5-ingredient muffin recipe. Or throw together a frugal chex-mix with whatever cereal and snack foods you have leftover in your pantry.

Related: Best Cheap Foods That Are Healthy Too

86. Get Wiggles Out With Brain breaks

Search for a variety of brain breaks on YouTube to get everyone moving. My kids love Minions: The Floor is Lava Brain Break.

87. Learn a new game together

I opened a drawer yesterday and found a brand new game one of the kids had gotten for his birthday that we haven’t even played yet.

*Learn how to play chess or another game that will take extra time to learn.

88. Make Paper crafts

All you need for these crafts is paper and scissors!

  • Snowflakes
  • Airplanes
  • Paper chain snake and more paper craft ideas here!

89. Directed drawing

This is another easy thing my kids are loving right now. Find any directed drawing online and they will show you step-by-step how to draw whatever your want. I was even successful with this!

90. Toss a ball When You Are Broke (Or Just For Fun)

Remember that Friends episode where they played catch for the entire episode until Phoebe set the ball down?

Make it a competition to see how long you can toss around a ball with your family without dropping the ball.

91. Walk the dog or learn how to take care of a pet

If you already have a pet, teach your kids how to better take care of it.

If your kids want a pet, learn about how to take care of it together and make a long-term plan for getting the pet when your budget is on track.

92. Water play

Backyard water play on a hot day is fun and refreshing. Get out the sprinkler and any water squirters or toys you have to add to the fun. Invite friends over and let the play begin.

93. Dance party

Turn the music up and have a family dance party.

94. Parks

Check out all the parks in your area. During the summertime, we try to visit as many parks as we can on nice days. Pack a picnic and a blanket and spend several hours playing and relaxing.

95. Shoot hoops at the school playground

When school is not in session on the weekends and during summer, the local school playground is a good place to burn off energy. Plus, they may have different things to offer. Most parks don’t have like basketball hoops and a place to play four square.

96. Driveway movie with friends

Borrow a projector and set up a movie in the driveway. You can use your garage as the screen. Invite neighbors and friends over and have them bring chairs and their own movie snacks.

97. Visit outdoorsy stores

Many big outdoorsy stores have fun displays for kids like aquariums and wildlife scenes. It’s worth checking out on an extra hot or cold day when you want to be inside but also get out of the house.

*If you leave your wallet at home, you can make it clear to your kids that you can’t buy anything while you are there.

98. Rock skipping in a creek

Rock skipping in the creek is by far the free thing my kids want to do most. If you have fishing supplies available, take the fishing pole with you. Even just a fishing net and a bucket could lead to hours of play.

One spring, we started visiting a spot in a creek on a trail behind our house almost daily because we found tadpole eggs and wanted to see them hatch.

99. Geocaching

Try out this GPS treasure hunt. You find a geocache in your area on the online map, and use it to find the coordinates to find the treasure. Find out more here.

100. The Highlights Book of Things to Do: Discover, Explore, Create, and Do Great Things

We stumbled upon this book in the library last winter and it was so awesome! It had tons of creative things to do at home and we didn’t have to buy anything for the things we did.

101. Tell Jokes

Find family-friendly jokes online or check out a book with jokes from the library to make everyone in the family crack a smile.

102. Community Center

Check out the schedule at your local community center. They often offer free programs for kids and families-especially around holidays and in the summertime.

103. Celebrate with a party at home

If you have a birthday coming up, think of a way to celebrate at home in lieu of an expensive party.

  • Water balloons and water play
  • Board games
  • Lego building challenge
  • Make your own pizzas
  • Create your own spa
  • Set up a baseball or soccer game in your backyard
  • Nerf gun party

104. Kick a ball at the park

Have a friendly family game of soccer at the park. Invite friends to make it even more fun.

105. Make bird feeders

Make these inexpensive bird feeders to hang from your trees. If you don’t have something, you can find it at the local dollar store. Then see if you can spot birds while they enjoy a treat.

106. make an obstacle course

Last fall we went to a local event for a trunk or treat. They set up a basic obstacle course with things for kids to climb on, over, and through. There were a ton of other things to do at this event, but all the kids wanted to do the obstacle course on repeat.

You could easily duplicate this in your backyard with things you own. Get creative and see what you can set up with what you already have.

107. Find restaurants where kids eat free

If you want to plan a dinner out, find places where kids eat free for a budget-friendly meal. Ask other moms for recommendations, search online, or call your favorite restaurants to see what they have to offer.

108. Go camping

Camping can be a relatively cheap getaway for a family. Try borrowing any equipment you don’t have but need.

109. Swap games and puzzles

Have you ever noticed how well your kids play with other kid’s toys?

Do a toy swap with another family for games, puzzles, and books that you don’t have. Or ask a friend who has kids a little older than yours if they have any toys they are ready to donate.

110. Minute to win it games

Minute to Win it Games are fun for adults and kids alike! Use objects you have around the house to make and play these inexpensive and hilarious games.

111. Go on a scavenger hunt

Do a nature scavenger hunt. It gets everyone outside and moving. Plus, it’s totally free.

Productive things to do without spending money

(or for cheap)

112. Set sMART goals

What are your financial goals for the future? Start where you are and make a plan to improve your finances. Set SMART financial goals to help you get to the financial place you want to be.

SMART goals; things to do with no money

113. learn more about personal finance

Read these tips for financial wellness to learn how to make better financial decisions and money habits that help you in the future.

Find out where your money is going and make a budget. Figure out your income versus expenses and trim down your expenses.

114. Complete Easy house projects within your skill set

Tackle easy home projects. I have surprised myself with what I can do with a little research and materials I already have around the house.

115. Declutter and sell

Use this free decluttering checklist to declutter your home and make it more enjoyable to live in again.

Decluttering improves our mental health and you save money when you know what you have. Plus, you can sell items for extra cash.

decluttering checklist printable image; things to do when broke

116. Clean the garage

It’s productive, free, and you will figure out what you already have for home projects coming up soon.

117. Have a garage sale

Sell your stuff through a yardsale. Then, donate whatever you have left over.

118. Refresh a room in your home

Move around existing furniture or hang different family pictures on the wall. Take out decorations you have in storage that you are ready to use again in a new way.

119. Watch something educational

There are so many good documentaries to choose from. Enjoy learning about something new while you are watching TV.

120. Read something inspiring When You Are Broke

Pick an inspirational book to read from the library.

121. Cancel unwanted subscriptions

Take time to go through your subscriptions and cancel anything you are not using that is costing you money.

122. turn your hobby into a money source

A couple of years ago, I decided to turn my love of attending group exercise classes into a side hustle by becoming a group fitness instructor. This took money upfront to get certified, but it has paid off over the years.

<<Read 50 Ways to Make $500 Fast now.>>

123. Meal plan

Use your time to plan a month’s worth of meals for your family. Look through your pantry and freezer to use up items that will expire soon or need to be eaten first.

Don’t forget to figure in leftovers!

124. Check your credit card rewards

Does your credit card offer rewards? Check and see what you can redeem or use to pay down your credit card debt.

125. journal

woman journaling

Create a new habit. Money journaling can help you clarify your ideas, express emotions, and feel more grateful.

126. meditate

New to meditating? The benefits are numerous and you can find free guided meditations that help you get started.

127. Learn how to compost

Composting is a process that turns organic materials into nutrient-rich soil through decomposition. You can compost at home by using food scraps, dry leaves, and other materials from your yard. Look here for more guidance on starting a compost at home.

128. Volunteer opportunities

Find local volunteer opportunities and give back to your community.

129. Positive Affirmations

Write down a few positive affirmations for success and read them aloud daily.

130. Ted talks

Listen to an expert on a topic with a short, but powerful Ted Talk.

131. Restore an old piece of furniture

Right now I have two pieces of old furniture sitting in my garage. My goal is to take the time to refinish them.

To Consider With things to do when you’re broke

That was a long list! Hopefully you found creative ways to stay entertained when you are broke or on a budget.

Use the productive ideas presented to improve your finances and prepare for future financial success.

Let me know what other ideas you have for what to do when you are broke in the comments!

pin; things to do when broke list

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