What to do with all of this free time?
January 24, 2010 1:02 PM   Subscribe

I'm unemployed until march. I find myself spending hours on the internet for lack of anything better to do. What can I do that is either extremely cheap, or preferably free, to fill up my time until then?

I'm without a full-time job until late march. I'm living off my savings (which only covers rent and utilities) and one shift a week at a restaurant (all they can give me) until then, which means that I have a lot of time, and quite literally no expendable cash. This has been my situation since Christmas.

What can I do that is either extremely cheap, or preferably free, to fill up my time for the next couple of months? Here is what I already do:
-Running, push-ups, weight lifting - 3-5x a week (I have a Y -membership)
-Working on my secret Quonsar gift
-Organized and cleaned my whole apartment
-Mended my boyfriend's clothes, helped clean his apartment
-Read books
-Walk downtown to get a coffee and read
-Mastering sudoku
-Snowshoe and xc ski (I'm in VT)
-Volunteer with refugee families - 3-5x a week
-Free yoga class - once a week

Despite all of this, I find myself spending hours on the internet for lack of anything better to do. I'd like to acquire a skill and am going to learn to play poker online. I'm also going to hitch a ride to NYC and Montreal later this month.

Any other suggestions for how to fill up my time? An awesome card trick to master? A really good book recommendation? I'll take anything. Thanks, metafilter!
posted by pintapicasso to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (30 answers total) 41 users marked this as a favorite
Take up a team sport at the Y. I started playing recreational sports a few years ago and my social life and outlook and fitness and fun level all improved. Most organizations allow teams to join all together, and will also allow individual players to join, and then meld them all into a team. I've been on an individual team as well, and it was fun and I made a couple of long-term acquaintances.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 1:08 PM on January 24, 2010

Any museums in your area with free admission? (Often, even museums that charge admission have special free days or free hours -- check their websites.)
posted by scody at 1:11 PM on January 24, 2010

If you have access to a scanner, digitize all of your old photos and tag and organize them online.

Index, tag and review your books on LibraryThing.

Work on family history projects. A lot of research can be done for free online, and just asking relatives what they remember and then organizing the information can be very helpful. You could also organise an "Our family in 2010" effort - getting everyone in the extended family to contribute a few paragraphs and a photo or two about what they are doing in 2010.
posted by sueinnyc at 1:12 PM on January 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

Wow, it sounds like you are doing a lot already.

Is there any way you can scrape together the $10/mo for a low-end Netflix account, or have someone treat you and pay them back later? When I was between jobs I read a book from the library and watched a movie or tv series disc pretty much every day,
posted by drjimmy11 at 1:16 PM on January 24, 2010

Oh, and as for a book rec, I recently read and adored Empire Falls (it's set in Maine, so when I saw that you were in VT, the New England setting reminded me). I picked it up (for free!) from Paperback Swap, which you might want to join (in addition to joining your local library, of course) -- it's an easy and inexpensive way to cull through books you don't want anymore in exchange for new books you do want (the only expense is the cost of media-mail postage for books you send out to others, which is cheap).
posted by scody at 1:18 PM on January 24, 2010

sueinnyc: "Index, tag and review your books on LibraryThing."

A follow-up would be to sort out any books you Don't Want. And rather than taking them to a used bookstore, put them up on BookMooch.

For every 10 books you list you get a point. You can trade to have someone mail you a book for free. If someone wants a book you have, you can either accept or decline to mail it to them if money is still tight. If you mail internationally you get bonus points. You can set up a Wishlist and be notified when someone is offering a book you want. A good community of generous book traders, and a nice way to find books.
posted by Hardcore Poser at 1:33 PM on January 24, 2010 [2 favorites]

Write a blog perhaps? Not necessarily tracking your day-to-day activities like "Today I ran, knitted, and worked on my secret Quonsar gift," but something more in-depth like chronicling very fond memories or other events you'd like to have written for posterity.
posted by puritycontrol at 1:42 PM on January 24, 2010

Until March??? You have time to write a novel and a half! Or two full screenplays! Or paint 45 bad paintings and 3 really good ones! (Using about $20 of acrylic paint, or stolen house paint from job sites.) Or write 150 poems! Or take 860 photographs! (With whatever camera you can beg or borrow.) And the you have the time to learn the complete rules of bidding and playing contract bridge left over!

Or design a calendar! Or carve some nice (found) wood blocks for printing.

I guess the answer to this question is: what did you dream of doing while you were sitting in study hall, bored, in high school?
posted by RJ Reynolds at 1:49 PM on January 24, 2010

(1) Download this and print out the first two pages.
(2) Find the nearest sizable college or university.
(3) Go there, and ask around until you find the music department.
(4) Poke around in the music building or buildings until you find the piano rooms. Most colleges have several rooms with practice pianos that music students can use while studying. If you can't find them, stop someone and say: "hey, I'm looking for the piano rooms. We do have practice pianos, right? Do you know where they are?" There may be a schedule which requires you to come back at a time when they aren't all reserved.
(5) Once you find a piano in a room you can use, sit down, and learn to play Bach's first Prelude from The Well-Tempered Clavier! It's fun, easy, and beautiful. (If you don't know how sheet music works: every line and space is a white key. The first note there is Middle C, the second note is two white keys above that, and the third note is two more white keys above that. When you see a number-sign thing next to a note, that means play the black key above that note; when you see the sign that looks like a tiny letter b, that means play the black key below that note.)

This piece is really a simple piece once you get the hang of it, trust me - after you learn to do about four bars (a "bar" is the chunk of music between the vertical lines, also called a "measure") you'll see that it's the same pattern repeated all the way through with few variations. Pianos are neat, and you don't need to plan on becoming Rachmaninoff or something - it's just kinda cool, I think, to be able to sit down and play one little tune when you meet a piano here and there. That first prelude is great because even the beginnerest of beginners can usually plink it out in a couple of hours, and can do it pretty good in a couple more. And plus it's a lot more fun and a lot less annoying to have your one song be a really cool Bach piece than "Stairway To Heaven" or "Heart and Soul."

Have fun!
posted by koeselitz at 1:53 PM on January 24, 2010 [9 favorites]

(- Oh, and if you don't have a printer or can't afford to print it, I'll bet they'll let you print it out in the college's library...)
posted by koeselitz at 1:55 PM on January 24, 2010

Don't just read books! Sure, they might entertain, but to really make it worth your time you should read well-regarded, relevant literature. You know those books that are always being referenced in articles, movies, interviews, Simpsons episodes etc? Read those. Find a list of books you should read before you die - read those. You know those foreign-sounding authors whose names are always being mentioned? Read those. Don't be intimidated - read the shortest of their works. Read their short stories, even. Skip anything new - read modern classics.

I just saw the movie Annie Hall by Woody Allen. There's a scene where after making love a girl says to Woody "Sex with you is really a Kafka-esque experience." It feels good to get that joke.
posted by SebastianKnight at 2:01 PM on January 24, 2010

I've never used the site, but a friend absolutely loves Academic Earth (tagline: free online video courses from leading universities). If you want to study a subject or take in lectures without paying university fees, you might find it fun.
posted by nicoleincanada at 2:05 PM on January 24, 2010 [6 favorites]

Also - learn a language! Or learn enough of a language that, by the time you're working again, you'll be able to confidently and excitedly plan a holiday to a place where the language you've been studying is spoken.

Tons of free websites and podcasts out there for language study. If French is your thing, let me know and I'll give more specific pointers.
posted by nicoleincanada at 2:08 PM on January 24, 2010

Learn to cook nice cheap food, check out crockpot recipes etc
Buy your shopping from markets and learn to haggle
Do paid work on the internet
posted by Not Supplied at 2:14 PM on January 24, 2010

A really good book recommendation?

Without knowing anything about what kinds of books you'd be interested in, here are some nonfiction books that I'd recommend to anyone -- not just because they're enjoyable and well-written, but because they've changed the way I think about the world, human nature, and/or how to live:

Stumbling on Happiness
The Moral Animal
What Have You Changed Your Mind About?
In Defense of Food
The Conquest of Happiness
Your Money or Your Life
Upheavals of Thought
Mortal Questions

Here's another idea: get a cookbook and cook good food. This will cost some money (the cost of the book + good ingredients), but getting into this habit (if you haven't already) will pay for itself many times over in the long run.
posted by Jaltcoh at 2:17 PM on January 24, 2010 [4 favorites]

I highly recommend this book.

I'm dying to discuss it!
posted by jgirl at 2:22 PM on January 24, 2010

Learn how to do the tiny stupid human tricks/hacks that you secretly admire in others. Like, how to do that piercing cab-hail whistle with two fingers or how to inflict injury via the card throwing thing that was just discussed here recently.
posted by 8dot3 at 2:54 PM on January 24, 2010

I know you're already volunteering, but volunteer more. Start with volunteermatch. It's really, really needed, especially now.
posted by R a c h e l at 3:43 PM on January 24, 2010

Learn a language, for sure - see this page on the MeFi Wiki for French-specific AskMe questions. Also check out FSI Language Courses which has a bunch of really good self-contained courses.

I'd also look at learning a skill - web design, programming etc. would be a good one as tons of internet resources and can be done at home - which you could earn some extra money from if you wanted.

Learn to play chess - tons of people play online. This site is pretty good at explaining chess tactics.
posted by djgh at 3:46 PM on January 24, 2010

(If you think of something you want to do that you can do online, almost guaranteed that a few AskMe searches will turn up a ton of resources)
posted by djgh at 3:47 PM on January 24, 2010

Oh, and if I had more time. I'd watch every single video on ted.com.
posted by R a c h e l at 3:51 PM on January 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

Read library books that will help you develop skills and knowledge for whatever job/career it is you're starting in March, so that you'll be prepared to hit the ground running and wow everyone with your performance.
posted by Jacqueline at 4:26 PM on January 24, 2010

Nthing something like LibraryThing -- I prefer GoodReads myself -- and BookMooch. Then Netflix is a GREAT value, especially because you can stream tons of stuff, including lots and lots of documentaries. I cross-stitch while I watch documentaries, and that's very cheap to get started doing as well.
posted by Nattie at 4:35 PM on January 24, 2010

I am just a teensy bit jealous.....

The library is your best friend.
BBC's Big Read--I've had very good luck with this list for good books (as opposed to randomly grabbing books from the shelf)
100 Most-Often-Recommended Works for College Freshmen--I'm working my way through this list, some of it's a slog and some of it's fun...there were about 75 books I never hit in high-school or college
Language learning CDs from the library
AFI top 100 movies?

Learn to wolf whistle
Learn to identify 20 local birds, trees, plants...practice while snowshoeing/skiing
learn to do belly rolls (belly dancing)
learn to juggle
take up sketching
learn to collage from magazines, journal over the top
give blood
make a will
set up all your billing to be automatic
write activism letters about your favorite cause
shampoo your carpet
start a meditation habit
learn to do cryptic crosswords
stretch until you can do the splits
(a little closer to the new job starting) cook and freeze a whole pile of meals for those busy weeks
set up a compost bin
check out any historical sites, obscure (possibly free or very cheap) museums
look in your paper or local web site for any and all free concerts, poetry readings, author lectures...
does your Y have a pool? learn to swim (or if you can) learn to do a flip turn
learn shorthand
overhaul all your routines, make some new habits--flossing? meditating? morning getting-going routines?
spend some time stopping all your junk mail
read some books on getting more environmentally friendly, do everything that's free/cheap
set up your computer to backup/virus scan automatically, clear out old junk files, sort and file...
posted by lemonade at 6:28 PM on January 24, 2010 [4 favorites]

Picking up another part time job would fix both the too much time problem and the lack of disposable income problem.
posted by craven_morhead at 6:46 PM on January 24, 2010

Learn to cook/bake from scratch anything that you are currently buying as a prepared food product. If you don't get too fancy this should actually save you money.

Grow sprouts.

Take the bus to a part of town you have never visited before.
posted by yohko at 6:46 PM on January 24, 2010

Produce instead of consume. Create something tangible at the end of the day. Knitting is a perfect example. Start an exercise blog. Start a clothes mending business. Do something that creates external value.
posted by jasondigitized at 7:00 PM on January 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

Explore and record your family genealogy.

Learn the lyrics to songs you like that have challenging lyrics. It took me a while to learn REM's "It's the End of the World As We Know It" but every time it comes on the radio I love being able to sing along to it.

Try to solve the puzzles in this year's MIT Mystery Hunt. I enjoyed this one, because I learned a lot of history while solving it.

If you have any space for gardening, order vegetable seeds and start growing them indoors in time for the spring.
posted by A dead Quaker at 7:14 PM on January 24, 2010

If you can scrape up just a little money up front or have a friend lend you some, learning some basic ukulele or guitar skills can get you playing along with the radio or youtube or whatever fairly quickly. Youtube can teach you all you need to know to entertain yourself, at least. My banjo kills LOTS of time for free (but cost $400 up front).
posted by ctmf at 8:12 PM on January 24, 2010

get a cheap sketchbook and draw everything

record yourself reading for librivox
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 9:57 PM on January 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

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