Curing Boredom on the Way to Early Retirement

A number of times, I have been asked if I get bored by not spending as much money as everyone else.

A giraffe is never boring.

The assumption is, if you’re not spending money on things to do, you must be bored. That couldn’t be further from the truth.

First of all, Poopsie and I do spend money on entertainment. We go to the symphony, the ballet, sporting events and large concerts. We do eat out, though we are trying to cut down on this as we mostly do it because of our own laziness.

However, we certainly don’t do these things every weekend and we don’t rely on spending to keep us entertained. There are a plethora of ways to entertain ourselves that cost either nothing, or very little.

Free Community Events

Unless you live in an extremely rural setting, there are free community events everywhere. Take advantage of these.

I follow a variety of Brisbane organisations, mostly councils, libraries and musesums, on Twitter. These places tweet about events they have, particularly the free ones. If I see one that I think might be fun, we check our calendar and then go along.

By no means have all of these events been a success. We have been to local festivals that we thought were a bit underwhelming. However, amongst those very rare occurrences, are a large number of successes!

A few weeks ago we went to our local library (well, about half an hour drive from us) to see the illustrious Dr. Karl speak. The event was completely free, however, you did have to get a ticket as space was limited. The tickets “sold out” in ten minutes! Fortunately, we managed to get some and went along to the event, not really knowing what to expect.

If you squint, you can see Dr. Karl schooling the audience.

On arrival, we were ushered upstairs to the top floor of the library where a makeshift bar was set up. Waiters circulated offering a variety of beer, wine, cocktails and soft drinks. Yes, actual cocktails in a library!

Other waiters brought out various trays of hors d’oeuvres. They were delicious, particularly the pumpkin arancini balls. The food and drink circulated for about half an hour before Dr. Karl took to the stage. He spoke for about an hour before taking audience questions. At the end of the event, the bar opened again and dessert was laid out on a table.

We had a fantastic night. We were both full enough that we didn’t need to eat dinner afterwards, and we thoroughly enjoyed Dr. Karl’s talk.

And all of this was free! Boring? Not even slightly!

The Library

Speaking of the library, it is one of our favourite sources of free entertainment.

Poopsie and I are both avid readers. We both read predominantly non-fiction, but usually on different topics. Poopsie likes science and reads about it a lot. I love politics and religion, so a lot of my reading is focussed there. If we read a great book on our own topic, we often recommend it to the other, so there is definitely some crossover.

I used to be someone who bought a lot of books. I would quite often buy these second hand, The Lifeline Bookfest being one of my favourite annual events. However, I sometimes found that books I bought (both new and second hand) would sit on my bookshelf for a very longtime, sometimes years, without me reading them.

The bookcase we culled is in the background of this shot.

Late last year, Poopsie and I did a major declutter, which included a number of books. Due to this, we decided to reduce to one (albeit quite large) bookcase, as opposed to the two we’d had before. I committed to limiting my book purchases, not only to save money, but also to save on clutter. I am certainly not saying I will never buy a book again, but these purchases will be reserved for books I love and feel I must have in my own personal library.

We love our local library. The selection of books is fantastic. If I hear about a book, I check if it’s at the library, place it on hold and receive an email when it’s ready to pick up. We then take an alternate route home from work, past the library, pick up the books and return any we have borrowed out.

Since about 2013, I have tracked in an Excel spreadsheet every book I have read each year (yeah, I’m that person). I can honestly say that since we became frequent users of our library, my reading has increased exponentially. As we don’t own a TV, we get a lot of time to fit some reading in and we have found a great and free resource to do so. If you’re not a member of your local library, join now!

Dinner Parties

This is really just a fancy way of saying “have our friends over for dinner”.

We mentioned this in our Frugality and Friends article, but while it’s a great way to keep costs down with your friends, it’s also a great way to keep ourselves entertained as well.

We will invite our friends round whenever we get the chance. Afternoon tea is my preferred time to invite them, mainly so I can bake something delicious and enjoy it with a nice cup of tea. However, we quite often have friends around for dinner as well.

This is always a fun and relaxed time. We don’t stress out about creating a perfect evening, we are just a few friends coming together to share a simple meal. Usually Poopsie cooks, so it’s always delicious, but it’s nothing fancy or too time consuming.

Sometimes we’ll play a boardgame, other times we will just hang out chatting. It’s an incredibly fun, relaxed and frugal evening and definitely not boring!

One of our favourite board games: Sequence.

These are just a few ways we keep ourselves entertained without spending a lot of money. Does anyone remember whingeing about boredom as a kid and your parent replying “only the boring get bored”? I definitely do and I have to say, I agree.

There is so much to see and do and read about in this world, I don’t know how anyone could ever be bored. And there is so much free stuff out there, you just have to be willing to look and seek it out. Sure, sometimes you will want to pay for entertainment, but those sorts of events should definitely be the exception, not the norm every single weekend. Not every free community event you attend has to be excellent, but it’s an experience and I guarantee you’ll enjoy at least some part of the event. Get out there and have some fun!

How do you stay entertained for free? What are your best tips?


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12 Responses to Curing Boredom on the Way to Early Retirement

  1. Ashley says:

    I love these suggestions! I’m biased as I’ve tried most of them myself. To anyone looking for free entertainment, I’d also suggest attending readings at local bookstores whenever authors do promotional visits.
    We have a lovely park near our home and my husband and I will pack a picnic and go enjoy the scenery. We bring our camera and take pictures which can entertain us for a couple of hours.
    Our city has a lot of clubs (rowing club for instance) and occasionally, they’ll host free introductory events- this year my husband and I woke up at the crack of dawn (I did not want to be out on the lake midday- all that heat!) and took a free rowing class. Organizations like that can really introduce you to a lot of activities (that might eventually cost money if you decide to stick with them).
    Lastly, I’ll volunteer with a few local groups– it’s always fun to help or teach people something and quite a bit of entertainment. I am on a waitlist to help feed kittens at the animal shelter so I’m not the only person who thinks it’s fun!

    • Some really good suggestions here, Ashley. Thanks for dropping by!

      I had never thought of doing introductions to hobby groups or sporting groups, that’s a great idea. Volunteering is also something that is always on my to-do list but I never seem to find the time to do. I need to make time for it, I think. Thanks for the prompt!

  2. Pia says:

    So incredibly right! There are so many free events out there and so many amazing ones. You just need to know where to look for it. This is why it grinds me gears when people say there’s nothing happening in Adelaide (not the same as what you are posting about, but same argument.) You need to look for it! It’s not going to come to you at your doorstep.

    We have actually stopped having dinner parties though. We used to have them super often but time restriction plus we worked out that our dinner parties cost us quite a fair bit because we don’t tend to do potluck dinner parties. We would cook for 10 odd people and because I like to go all out, it usually ends up costing quite a fair bit. So when we do entertain now, it’s one person or two so it doesn’t impact our bills quite as drastically.

    • Hmmm, that’s a really good point about dinner parties. They are easy to get out of control and cost more. We mostly only entertain one other couple at a time, but certainly in the past we have done bigger groups and it has ended up costing a bit. I still think it’s cheaper than eating out though, and maybe pot lucks can feature in both our futures!

  3. Miss Balance says:

    A favourite saying of my parents! I never believed them then, but I agree now. As an adult, I never have enough time to do all the things I want to do and wish I have the endless hours of my childhood to laze around and read books and ‘play’ (now hike) outside.
    Besides borrowing books I haven’t paid much attention to events at my local library. If they serve cocktails and free food I’ll have to get in on that 😉

  4. Mrs. ETT says:

    Not spending money doesn’t mean not doing anything – it simply means substituting different activities (sometimes). As you said, when an activity aligns with your values, you will spend the money.

    We are heading to a free festival this weekend. Admittedly it’s not something we do very often, but I’ve thought for years that I’d like to go. This year I finally committed. After that, it’s around to a friend’s place.

    Libraries – one of my favourite places that I don’t make enough time to visit. I appreciate knowing it’s there whenever I want to, though! I also think they’ve done an excellent job moving with the times and keeping themselves modern and relevant.

  5. We love our local library, too. Both of us have always had library cards, even before we met each other. 🙂 We used to hoard books, too, but decided to cut down on buying because they are a pain to pack and unpack when moving. Ugh.

    We also like going to National Parks. I know some of them aren’t free to go in to, but they aren’t expensive at all. We like the hike and the view!

    I know what you mean about underwhelming local events…we once went to a Strawberry Festival and didn’t see one strawberry. Seriously. At least it was free.

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