Staying home for fun and profit
September 5, 2017 11:05 PM   Subscribe

I have to be super frugal for a few months. I like to stay at home anyway but I'd love some ideas for pleasant, mildly constructive hobbies to do at home.

Last time I was "home broke" I learned how to make milk tea with coffee jellies, which was very pleasant and satisfying while also taking up a few hours. Similarly, I've baked butter mochi, learned to cook dried beans, and learned to make various aperitifs (not super cheap but I had things around the house). Things that don't really fit the bill are like, making pie crusts-- cheap but frustrating and labor intensive. I want to be able to follow relatively simple directions and not fail 15 times before I pull it off. These are pleasurable stress relief hobbies to take my mind off my current financial constraints. I will save the frustrating hobbies for when money stress is lifted.

I would love more suggestions for day projects that are fun in their own right, give one a sense of accomplishment, and aren't too expensive. Food and non-food suggestions are welcome! Some non-food things I've done: went looking for, purchased, and learned to care for an orchid; made a detailed inventory of my debit card purchases by exporting my transactions into a spreadsheet and making various calculations; learning a weight lifting routine. I am a computer programmer so computer or technology related tasks/hobbies also apply.

I know many people advocate for things like adult coloring books but I don't find them very relaxing; I would say I prefer things slightly more constructive. I like refined and beautiful things!

I have a little bit of a budget so they don't have to be free. Things to do with my partner are also welcome (besides, er, the obvious).
posted by stoneandstar to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (24 answers total) 42 users marked this as a favorite
Borrow a massage techniques book from the library and practice with your partner?
posted by stillmoving at 11:19 PM on September 5, 2017 [5 favorites]

Simple knitting projects, e.g., a garter-stitch scarf, are not that hard to do (especially these days, with all the Youtube tutorials), but some people are not big fans of the cheaper yarns that are good for learning on (and fitting into your budget). The refined and beautiful cost more. So give that yarn a good feeling-up first, as it will be in your hands for a long time.
posted by praemunire at 11:25 PM on September 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

Patchwork, the English hexagon kind, is faster done by hand than machine due to the shape. Done in various shades from scraps, it is very beautiful and can make surprisingly diverse geometric patterns and shapes. You can cut up old clothes for free fabric sources and make a scrap lap blanket to start. Highly, highly addictive and portable sewing. All you need is running and back stitch.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 11:46 PM on September 5, 2017 [5 favorites]

Food things:
Baking with egg whites (pavlova, angel food cake, macaron). Save the egg yolks and make creme brûlée and/or these fun umami rich cured egg yolks.
Make enchiladas from scratch, and freeze the leftovers. Substitute your favorite restaurant meal and learn how to make that instead.
Non food things:
Learn a new language
Pick a subject on CrashCourse and learn all about it!
Try a different exercise routine on for size (how about yoga?)
posted by Champagne Supernova at 12:00 AM on September 6, 2017

Making soap with glycerin (glycerin from a craft store) and food coloring is cheap, satisfying to do and easy. They're nice gifts. I don't think the link mentions it, but of course it's also fun to mix in other things -- bits of lavender, or oatmeal, say.

(On edit: a comment to that Martha Stewart link says it's a bad tutorial. I didn't use that particular site, but making soap in any case is still fun and satisfying :) ).

And - Don't underestimate the satisfying potential of totally cleaning out and reorganizing a room or just a closet and getting rid of tons of things you decide are no longer essential....that "negative making" impulse is fun and useful too.
posted by flourpot at 12:19 AM on September 6, 2017

Make a terrarium. Plan and plant a garden. Interior decorate your home (you can do this with paint and furniture from Craigslist). Do over your wardrobe or create a capsule wardrobe to minimise spending. Write a book or short stories. Get crafty (bath products, jewellery etc) and sell it on Etsy. Have a look at instructables and make something from that. Do online volunteering.
posted by Jubey at 12:22 AM on September 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

I agree you could learn a new language, like Spanish, or it might be cool to learn American sign language.

Maybe learning how to do some card tricks, or in my case, learning how to even shuffle cards would be a great start.

I don't know how to sew, even a small hole in my shirt, and it's something that I always think would actually come in handy.

Food-wise, I'd learn how to make bread from scratch and different kinds of breads. Like make a French loaf, some focaccia, pretzels, etc. For some reason, gnocchi jumped to my mind as well -- it seems like a pasta, but it's actually made of potato!

If you're a programmer and it's your career, there's always the possibility of teaching yourself a new coding language that might be up-and-coming. I have a friend who is learning some new coding language I had never heard of because he thinks it may be the next wave.
posted by AppleTurnover at 12:22 AM on September 6, 2017

Make bread. Sourdough is fun, but there is a learning curve, and you will make a few bricks as you'll overprove them. Sourdough pizza is almost failproof though.

Mending. Darn socks, sew on buttons, do some sashiko, take up those jeans you've been meaning to hem.

Declutter. Sell anything of worth.

Grow sprouts. Ferment vegetables. Make chutney.
posted by kjs4 at 12:52 AM on September 6, 2017 [3 favorites]

Do you live somewhere with relatively good sound insulation? Learn to sing! Start with a popular song to hone for the dreaded karaoke, so you will have it in your secret arsenal, and then move on to songs that you find interesting and challenging, along with learning good breathing techniques and how to dissect the aspects of your own voice. There are yt videos for all of this stuff.

I learned how to control my breathing and project my voice around when I was 13, thanks to a combo of being in an award winning middle school choir, a father who majored in music and remained an active singer and hobby composer, and having to learn to chant in Hebrew for my bat mitzvah. And let me tell you, I can't sing so well anymore, but projecting my voice, controlling my diaphragm, being able to analyze my breathing, and tweaking the tonality of my voice? I have retained all those things because I've used them so so much, all the time. The benefits of singing reach out into so many aspects of my life even though the only singing I've done for more than fifteen years has been to myself while doing chores.
posted by Mizu at 4:08 AM on September 6, 2017 [2 favorites]

Buy a field guide or borrow one from the library and go outside to identify. It's a bit late for wild flowers although I
did just id Toothed white-topped aster (pretty sure) in bloom. Mushrooms may be abundant now but don't eat until you are expert. Birds might be the best in the next few weeks as migrations start. There are guides to trees and even ferns, grasses and fossils. Keep a life list.
posted by Botanizer at 4:27 AM on September 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

Teach yourself to play an instrument. You should be able to find a cheap guitar for $20. A keyboard might be a little more. But you can also use GarageBand instead.
posted by kevinbelt at 4:47 AM on September 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

I am on a jigsaw puzzle bender these days. I bought a few new, but really went nuts at a thrift store the other day. I suspect they will have some pieces missing, but the benefit for me is the meditative process!
posted by Stewriffic at 4:54 AM on September 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

Second the suggestions for knitting and patchwork; also consider embroidery or cross stitch, which have both modernized of late. Crochet is my own preferred fiber craft; it's cheaper to buy good quality hooks than knitting needles, but it uses up yarn faster than knitting. Knit Picks is the best source of affordable wool yarn if you're in the US.
posted by serelliya at 6:26 AM on September 6, 2017

Dust off your library card and hit the stacks for books and DVDs on arts and crafts. Does your local library have an adult programming schedule? You may find your inspiration there.
What about community outreach, senior centers, and craft stores? These may also have monthly meetings or classes that allow you to learn or revisit hobbies, and meet like-minded people. You may even earn some money teaching these classes.
My current hobbies are crocheting (amigurumi and lap blankets), taking long walks, and reading. One of the nice things about crochet is it only takes a hook (G/H/I are the standards), scissors, a big-eye needle and a ball of yarn. And you can unravel and reuse it if you don't like what you made.
The weather is starting to turn -- time for beanies and hats, scarves, mittens, leg and arm warmers, even socks. The projects do not have to be works of art -- just functional.
posted by TrishaU at 7:25 AM on September 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

I'm going to say it's time to get organized. Clean out all your closets, attic, kitchen cabinets, etc. Give a good look at stuff you don't use any more and sell it. Clean, clean, clean. Use Unf*ck your habitat to get everything in order.
posted by raisingsand at 8:39 AM on September 6, 2017

This is a great time of year to get a jump start on organizing for the holidays, if you do that kind of thing. What about some hand decorated cards? One year I perfected (imo) a chai tea blend and made a bunch of mini packages of it to give out as gifts, packaged in mason jars with ribbon and labels. That's about as crafty as I get!

For language learning, have you ever tried duolingo? I find it works best when paired with a traditional book on grammar, which should be available at your library.
posted by missmobtown at 8:45 AM on September 6, 2017

I'm going to attempt canning this fall. Sauces, salsa, jams, etc.

posted by TomFoolery at 9:11 AM on September 6, 2017

Do you have old family photos? Scan them and make cds for the family as your holiday gift, or just do it for you.
Got any albums or cds that need to be ripped to .mp3?
Go check out every local library; collections vary and you may find some cool stuff. University libraries can be interesting.
What courses are available at your adult ed. program? You can learn to make specific dishes, or learn photoshop, whatever.
I recently started baking muffins to address some specific nutritional needs and have an easy breakfast, so now I make pumpkin apricot walnut bran muffins, and I don't even need to look at the recipe anymore. I change it up occasionally with different ingredients.
Making bread is satisfying and your house will smell amazing. Start with white bread, and branch out to cinammon bread, whole wheat bread, etc.
Learn to knit mittens and socks.
posted by theora55 at 10:23 AM on September 6, 2017

I do this. I basically live on hamburgers, steaks, and eggs (fried and hard-boiled). I quick & dirty cook whichever one I want in a cast iron pan and then put it on a bed of either arugula or spiralized zucchini. Everything else is just a bonus. But this is what I live on for the most part, and its a pretty quick painless process.

I get my (grass-fed) meat online at US Wellness, and keep it all frozen, and just pull out what I want a day before I want to make it.

Also, once a month or so I will make a big batch of bone broth in my Instant Pot and freeze it into ice cubes, and which I'll often heat up quickly in a little pan and stir in an egg for egg drop soup (takes about 2 minutes!) or use it to make Congee (on the Primal side of things), which I make in my Instant Pot (rice, chicken, broth). If I could get my act together more, I would cook once every two weeks and make big batches of things in my Instant Pot and freeze it, but I have yet to manage that.
posted by thegreatfleecircus at 1:40 PM on September 6, 2017

Crossword puzzles are fun.

You say you're a programmer. Arduino and Raspberry Pi are fun, can be useful, and don't have to be expensive. Blinky lights are fun; get some old CD or floppy drives and control them!
posted by at at 2:20 PM on September 6, 2017

If you live in the northern hemisphere, this is the perfect time to preserve tomatoes. Canned tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato paste, oven-dried tomatoes are wonderful ways to keep the taste of summer going. So it tomato soup. They also freeze well.

Learn how to make really good soup from scratch. If desired, host a "soup exchange" with friends, so you can all trade soups and you don't get sick of eating the same thing over and over.

Teach yourself the basics of a foreign language.

Read the collected works of a favorite author.

Join or host a book group.

Declutter or reorganize your house.

Start that novel you've always wanted to write, or just write a poem a day.
posted by dancing_angel at 10:43 PM on September 6, 2017

A few others I thought of, after I posted:

Learn how to make sachets or scented pillows. They are wonderful gifts.

Learn how to make candy! Homemade sweets or barks are wonderful holiday gifts in a decorative tin.

Make your own cards, holiday or otherwise. There are lots of resources out there, including stamps, glitter, and stickers. Scrapbooking is another really nice hobby, if you enjoy creating tangible reminders of events.

Make your own scented lotions or bath oils. Or even make soap, although do be careful if you use lye.
posted by dancing_angel at 10:50 PM on September 6, 2017

Learning to juggle is apparently not as difficult as I had originally thought? At least if you just stick with three objects. There are YouTube videos to help learn the process (or your library) and you can get little beanbag juggling balls on Amazon for like $7.

Making bath bombs is also pretty easy. Silicone baking molds are cheap on eBay and all you really need beyond that is citric acid, baking soda, and an essential oil if you didn't want to get too fancy with it.

Food-wise, maybe making something you would usually buy? I knew someone once who made saltine crackers and marshmallows from scratch and I remember thinking that it never even occurred to me that one could just...make those things at home. But it can be done!
posted by helloimjennsco at 8:12 AM on September 7, 2017

Paper folding! Someone mentioned making platonic solids on the blue months ago, and since then I have been making shapes as stress relief.
posted by Literaryhero at 5:39 AM on September 8, 2017

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