Eight Cheap and Fun Things To Do

by 1:59 PM 0 comments
Okay, I wrote yesterday about income inequality in the US, and my own struggle to find a decent-paying job to cover tuition. I'm going to turn that sturm und drang around by making a list of cheap and free things to do that one can enjoy with limited funds!

1. Tea is probably one of the most under-rated things in the US. All you need is a stove to boil water and a bag of leaves. When you mix the two together, it's delicious! And calorie-free. I love how different types of tea have such distinctive flavors that evoke their own memories. Barley tea takes me back to the teacher's office at my work in South Korea, peppermint tea feels like Winter holidays with my family, black tea reminds me of studying English lit in college curled up with a book in the library. Drinking tea is such a rich and powerful experience, and it's extraordinarily cheap. A single bag of tea usually ranges between $0.10-$0.50, and that's for the organic, fair-trade brands. Not bad!

2. Public libraries are great resources in so many ways. First of all, free internet! Second, it's a great place to study because it's quiet but there are people around, so I don't feel like a hermit by the end of the day. Third, there are free DVDs, books, and CDs to peruse in the building or to borrow and take home! I know, technically it's not free, and I paid for it with my taxes. But as long as we're paying for it, we might as well take advantage of the resources. 

I have listened to so much great chamber music onto my laptop this year thanks to the San Carlos Public Library's collection. I just don't understand why these places aren't more crowded, because they're the best. In France, I had to wait in line for an hour to get into the library in Paris, because everyone knows it's a great place to be and it fills to capacity quickly. Special shout-out to the Los Gatos Library, which sells snacks and beverages in the front. That's a genius move, in my opinion. It's a great way to make some money back and keep people from being hungry and thirsty while they enjoy a wonderful public space!

3. Walks around the neighborhood are another free and pleasant thing to do. There's a benefit of low-intensity physical exercise combined with getting to see other people out and about. I also like to see what's going on with other people's yards and houses, to check what they're using the balcony and garage for, and to answer other innocuous snooping questions. Plus something about walking in a familiar space helps me to re-focus my thoughts and figure out puzzles that I'm sometimes not able to solve while sitting at a desk. If you already have shoes and clothes, this is a completely free activity!

4. The Internet is full of amazing things. There are so many talented artists, journalists, actors, videographers, comedians, and dancers that have put content on the internet for absolutely free! After paying a monthly subscription fee to Comcast, the learning possibilities far outstretch anything that anyone could hope to master in a lifetime. Even if a person never paid for Netflix or downloaded an illegal torrent, the legal content on the internet is incredibly vast and enriching. 

5. Books are free from the library, or very cheap if bought used. I bought a lot of books new about two years ago from Barnes and Noble for around $200, and I'm still working my way through them. Despite paying the highest possible price for them, if I divide the price by the time I've spent enjoying them, I'm sure it's still an excellent deal. I found a great passage in The Valley of Bones from the "A Dance to the Music of Time" series by Anthony Powell the other day: 

"I was impressed for the ten thousandth time by the fact that literature illuminates life only for those to whom books are a necessity. Books are unconvertible assets, to be passed on only to those who possess them already."
I am lucky enough to love reading, and to care about it deeply. Thank God it's a cheap habit!

6. Writing is free, or next to free. There's the cost of the laptop, or the pen and paper, but after that it's just the cost of time spent. It's enriching and exciting, and it helps me to process my thoughts by narrowing them into simple sentences and paragraphs. It's a gift to be able to express oneself, and I'm glad that I can sometimes take the time to do so. 

7. Friendship is one of the most valuable things there is, but it's easy to keep the costs down. Having a friend over to watch a movie or cook dinner together is very affordable, but it's such a joyful thing at the same time. There may be a little money spent here and there, but the returns outstrip the investment almost every time. 

8. Synagogue/Church/Places of Worship are completely free to attend! There are free services, free adult education classes, free lunches...Even if you don't believe God but you just want the experience of community, you could go to the UU church. I'm don't know of a religion that turns people away because they can't afford to give money. Anyway, it works doubly as a free place to be and as a place that stops you from going to a more expensive place while you're there. Brilliant, right?

Okay, I'm sure there are more, but anyway that's a lot of things! It's not like we live in North Korea; there's a lot of good stuff here. The point is, if there's free time, there are good things to do with that free time that don't cost much money. Finding free time is usually the hard part. 

Enjoying a cheap cup of tea!

Marina Gafni

Marina Gafni is a 28-year-old speech pathology student. She lives with her husband in San Jose, CA.


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