Stay busy on an extremely low budget

As a recent college grad, finding a job has been quite an exhausting journey. Sure, most of my time is put into the many cover letters and applications, but I definitely need a brake and to take some time to explore. I have been in the Bay for almost two months now, and there is still so much to see. I want to go out and do things, but keeping to a budget does have its limits. From going day to day without any real plans or an office to go to, I have come up with a list of free or almost free activities to keep my lazy unemployed butt preoccupied.

1. journal. everyday.

 I recently just started this. Every morning I write down what I did the day before, the conversations I had with others, and how I felt about it. It’s a great way to reflect on accomplishments made yesterday, and/or if I am working towards a solution. If I had nothing to write, I guess that’s motivation to go out and do something today. It keeps my thoughts organized while also keeping tabs on my level of laziness. “Sat on the couch with Netflix today” does not make a good journal entry. I like having something for my own personal use. It’s not to impress or do good for somebody else, it’s just for me. Once a week I plan to walk to our neighborhood cafe. It’s a perfect little nook to sit and gather thoughts and ideas. Plus they have a delightful cup of coffee for about $2. Great cheap morning outing.

2. blog!

Also obviously just recently hopped on the blogging bandwagon, but I would like to get further into it. Goal is to post something once or twice a week. Similar to having a journal, in order to write a post, I had to have done something or learned something. This can also force me to take more pictures. I love to look back at photos, but I’m pretty bad at taking a moment to snap a shot. I enjoy reading other blogs as well. They can inspire to help my own blog, and it’s fun to see what ideas others have to offer. It’s also nice to see another try out something you may have wanted to learn, but were afraid of the mess. Let them make the mistakes first! That’s what is great about the collaborative blogging world, and learning from one another. Once again to get out of the house, I am going to walk to our town library and work there. Change of scenery and free wifi!

3. craft.

I have plenty of craft supplies. String/twine, beads, paint, and my bottle cap crafts that I will blog about later. There are so many things you can make from string, ribbon, buttons, and recycled materials such as plastic bottles, glass jars, cardboard, and unworn t-shirts. Lots of things that are just lying around the house, waiting to become something of use.

4. cook/bake.

There are many recipes that sound delicious, and would be fun to prepare. However, most have so many ingredients that it can become a bit pricey. I like looking for recipes that contain things I already have in my fridge or pantry. Most of the time I honestly just make it up. I pick one main food item (a meat or vegetable) and then decide what I have that would make a tasty dish. For instance, I have been really into different squashes (’tis the season of fall after all), and have only spent about 50 cents to a couple dollars to obtain a healthy squash (depending on quantity and size).  Other fresh ingredients like an onion, tomato, avocado, etc. can go long way if you choose to make different meals that have similar ingredients. I would get tired of eating the same thing all week, so by using bits and pieces from previous lunches/dinners, I am able to make something completely different.  For me, it is relatively inexpensive to cook a “fancy” meal for one or two (plus leftovers!).

As for baking, I think it is worth investing in supplies (flour, sugar, baking soda/powder etc). I got them all at the Grocery Outlet for $5-$7. The extent of a couple cups of flour is pretty amazing. I like baking the sugary goods like cookies and brownies, but my roommates don’t want me to “fatten them up”, so I’m not allowed to do that all too often. I tried this awesome pretzel recipe. It’s so easy, and so good that I had to make more the next day. Also considering baking my own bread instead of purchasing it at a store. Pretty inexpensive, fun to do, and you get to eat what you make!

5. learn a new skill.

 A new language: I have studied Spanish for years, and have still not been able to master it. Since I can’t afford to take more classes, I utilize the resources I do have. Currently, I am reading a novel in Spanish, and have the opportunity to use workbooks/textbooks at my local library. Free check out with residency! I can read proficiently, so I chose a novel I read in English back in high school. It’s helpful to be familiar with the story line. I have also been using a free app called Duolingo. They have multiple languages you can learn from your phone or computer.

Improve a current skill: I would like to improve some of my technical skills. There are many tutorials online for gaining a refresher on tools such as Excel or photoshop. I also have a pretty average typing speed. I found some free tests online to help practice. In addition to typing, my penmanship could use some brushing up on, and if not in a journal, having a pen pal is fun.

6. clean!

Cleaning is always necessary at our place. Sometimes it’s even a bit of a workout. Great way to utilize free time.

7. workout.

It’s free to jog out your front door. Plus many videos and online guides to working any muscle.

8. volunteer.

Yes. It would be nice to get paid to work, but it’s a nice feeling to help a good cause. I don’t have money to donate, but I do have time. Might as well use it for a good reason. It also provides a few benefits to the job search. One, employers like to see volunteering, and that you are doing something productive in your free time. And two, you never know who you’re going to meet while working on site. Maybe a new friend or potential networking opportunity. Volunteering is a win for everyone.

9. search the craigslist free section.

As they say, “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” Most of it pretty much is trash, BUT you never know what you may find. Maybe even gain a new project. Kinda fun to browse here and there.

10. thrift!

Lots of affordable hidden gems. And more cheap stuff that could lead to a project!

11. take a photography trip.

After recently moving to the Bay I have wanted to take a little adventure, and capture some photos. Being right next to a bike path provides a perfect opportunity to walk/bike around a see what the area has to offer. We are close to BART as well, and its relatively inexpensive to take a trip into the city. Wherever you are, it’s fun to play tourist and site see. Sooner than later, I’ll pack a lunch, a camera, and have a little daycation.

12. window shop.

Not particularly my favorite, since I can’t actually have it, but could be a nice outing. Maybe even get some ideas for a DIY.

13. if it’s nice out, have a picnic!

I’m going to eat lunch (or brunch/snack) anyways. Might as well bring along some friends, a blanket and enjoy the fresh air.

14. once again, if nice out, go for a hike!

My aunt took me on a great hike in the trees up in Oakland Hills. Felt like I was in the mountains again. There are many more trails around that my friends and I want to try.   Hiking=exercise, photo ops and fresh air

15. read.

Get lost in a book or stay up to date with the news. Even while unemployed, I force myself to keep learning. I read random articles for the fun facts, and others for the actual content. I have been using a free app called Circa. It provides snip-its of top news stories nationwide and worldwide with access to read further. You can also choose to follow a story, and it will notify you when a new article related to the topic is published. It’s a quick and simple way to stay in the loop.

That should be enough to have some level of productivity. I am pleasantly surprised by how many things I am able to do on a no-to-low cost budget. This is not simply a list of ideas, but also a reminder that there are a bunch of opportunities out there to discover. Just have to go out a get it.