The best things in life are … actually, yes, they are free. At least, creativity is free. It’s only in recent times that recreation and entertainment has been sold to us for a very high price. But do you really want to spend $30 for a movie and popcorn with a friend? Nah, you can do better, especially if you’re trying to save money these days, like most of us. Check out these ideas and step outside of the expensive, prepackaged entertainment box.
Try your hand at guerrilla gardening. You know that boring patch of grass on the corner? I’m sure no one would mind if you sneaked in some sunflowers or a bunch of marigolds. Guerrilla gardening is an underground urban movement to take back the little green spaces most people ignore. Beautify your neighborhood, on the sly.
Spend some time outside. Hiking, biking, or walking in a local natural area or park. Yes, this is obvious, but sometimes we forget how free and easy some of the best pleasures are!
Attend a free concert. Keep your eyes peeled for free concert and theater-in-the-park series starting in late spring and summer.
Take up urban foraging. Who doesn’t like free food? Learn about wild, regional edible plants or befriend a neighbor with an overloaded fruit tree going to waste. Augment your diet with fresh, free foods!
Get intimate. Nature’s foremost free fun activity—get creative with it! (Getting busy is certainly one of our favorite  healthy recommendations.)
Pack a picnic. Take your honey or some friends on a good, old-fashioned picnic.
Trade entertainment. Scour your books, CDs, and DVDs for those items you just no longer need and trade them in for credit at a local used CD or bookstore. Spend the afternoon browsing for new reads and new tunes you’d never find otherwise. If there’s no used media store in your area, try a website like SwapTree  or Title Trader , or check out our recent roundup of online bartering services .
Spend a night stargazing. Find star maps online or in the library, then scout out the darkest part of town and learn the constellations . Watch as they change through the seasons. Bring a romantic partner for extra motivation.
Explore the vast world of podcasts. I myself am a podcast addict, loving to enrich my mind with interviews and alternative news. You can find storytelling and comedy podcasts too if you prefer something a little lighter, or podcasts featuring music you’d never hear on the radio.
Try volunteering. I know, I know, this is not what people usually think of for fun, but my husband has shown me otherwise. He regularly volunteers for behind-the-scenes help at music festivals and expo’s, which means he meets lots of great people and attends the event for free. I’ve done it with him and I have to admit, it’s more fun than simply buying a ticket and being part of the audience.
Find a bargain. Check out your local Craigslist free  section or Freecycle . This is a fun way to pick up free things you need, and maybe some fun items you can redecorate or make art with. Surprising things have been known to turn up…I’ve seen soap-making kits, antique roll-top desks and even a hot tub! It’s definitely worth a spin.
Throw a party. Call your friends and organize a clothing swap party. Tell them to bring all the clothing, shoes and accessories that no longer suit them (or fit them) and spend an evening hanging out and shopping for free .
Have a yard sale. You know you have lots of stuff you could do well to pass along, and make a little extra cash while you’re at it. If the weather is still too cold where you live, start putting things aside now and you’ll be ready for yard sale season.
Make use of the public library. This has been one of my favorite free things since I was a kid. I mean, c’mon, books, movies, music—all for free Depending on how extensive your local library system is, you will have an amazing amount of resources at your fingertips. Your taxes already paid for it, might as well take advantage.
Host a potluck. Humans are social animals and we all love to eat. Food is a great icebreaker.
Pull out a sketchbook and draw. If you’ve got colored pencils or watercolors, play around with those, too. Looking at something deeply enough to draw it can be a powerful exercise in perception – and recognizing beauty in surprising places.
Learn about nature. Get a regional plant identification guide (from the library, of course) and make a point of learning the names of the trees and plants in your area. It’s even more satisfying if you bring a sketchbook along and create your own personal botanical book.
Send a note. Make homemade greeting cards for upcoming holidays and birthdays. You can use fabric scraps, magazine cut-outs and odd bits of beautiful paper. People love to receive snail mail.
Get fit. Develop a workout routine that you can do without equipment (or minimal things you might already have, like a jump rope or dumbbells) and then do it! It’s most fun if you find a sweet spot outside , with the fresh air and shade under a tree.
Start keeping a journal. If you don’t like to write, don’t be dismayed. One of my favorite journalers  simply does one small watercolor painting per day, and that’s all she needs to record the progress of her life. If you’re a crafty DIYer, you can easily make a journal yourself with simply things you have around the house.
Is that enough to get you started? What do you do for dollar-free fun?
By Sarah Irani for EcoSalon