How I Plan To “Find Myself” For Less Than $100 This Summer
One of the most unfortunate things I’ve recently come to realize is that life is expensive-as-hell. And I’m not just talking about the essentials, or the things you need to live safely, comfortably, or happily (i.e. food, clothing, shelter). I’m talking about the extra stuff — hobbies, passions, and all that other good shit that comes along with self-actualization. These little bits and interests are the things that make us unique and distinguish us from the person next to us. These little bits and interests are also the things that I feel, more recently in life, completely drained of.
Due largely in part to a series of unfortunate personal events, I’m in a place right now where it it seems both emotionally and financially exhausting to try and pick up a new “just for fun” activity to occupy some of my spare time. And to be honest, I’m all for “self-care” that comes in the form of taking a few extra naps during the week, or not going out on a Friday night because the energy just isn’t there. (I do not, however, condone use of the term “self-care” as a gentle excuse to be an asshole to your friends and loved ones, but that’s a whole other issue.)
However, my current lack-of-interest in pursuing any fulfilling or enriching pastimes is becoming an issue in areas of my life that were hardly even on my radar before.
For example, I recently became a new and not-so-proud member of the Tinder community. As a slightly introverted girl feeling unsure about whether or not I was ready to “get back out there!” I saw Tinder as a good way to ~guy shop~ and get a sweet little sampler of the variety of single men existing in my area without even leaving my house or spending a penny. This hasn’t been a particularly fun experience so far, but I have gone on a handful of first dates (!!!!) meaning I’ve been asked, a handful of times, my least favorite question: What do you like to do?
It should be easy to respond to that. Not only am I a person with thoughts, but I’m also a writer, which honestly should at least qualify me to at least be able to articulate some of those thoughts. But each time a devilishly handsome Tinder-suitor asks me what I like to do, I get shifty-eyed, sip my beer, and ask him the same question so I can just agree with his answer. Marathon running? Sure! Long walks on the beach? Me too! College basketball? Eh, I can only feign so much interest.
The point is, I do need to feel passionate about something again. I want to talk my date’s ear off about the pottery class I took just because, or tell him about the Pinterest recipe I made for my family the other day and how it came out. I want to have something that I love to do, just for fun, that doesn’t stress me out in any way (i.e. doesn’t drain my energy or my bank account).
This brings me back to my original point, which is that hobbies require two very important things: energy and money. I don’t really feel like I have either of those in excess right now — just the bare-minimum, relatively-comfortable amount of each that allows me to carry on with my daily life. The fact that I think twice about swiping my card for a second cup of coffee is proof enough that I’m not exactly in the best position to test-drive new, and possibly expensive hobbies.
For this reason, I recently got to thinking (Carrie Bradshaw? Is that you?) about hobbies that I could fit within my target budget of “free-or-really-really-cheap.” (Aside from my favorite cheap hobby, which is obviously Competitive Netflix Watching.)
I took to Google with a brilliantly articulated search: “really fun cheap or free hobbies,” and through lots of clicking around, compiled a list of activities I’m going to test-drive over the next few weeks. Some of them are ones I’ve tried to pick up before, and therefore already have the necessary supplies. A few are totally new and I’m super excited to give them a go, and hopefully figure out the cheapest and most effective way to have a freaking life.
The list of hobbies I’ve come up with is a gentle one, including, but not limited to cooking (I’m not sure I’m ready to cook my way through the Julia Child cookbook, but I could definitely try a few new recipes, or at least learn the basics!), learning calligraphy (which I’ve tried before via YouTube tutorials, but definitely want to get way better at), and committing myself to the aggressive viewing of some educational documentaries, which I rented for free from my local library (a six-part documentary on America’s national parks? Mother may I!). All of these hobbies require a very low level of energy output, and also cost very little to effectively enjoy and accomplish.
I’ve decided, in order to keep me in check and prevent me from going on a spending spree in the name of self-improvement, to set a strict $50-$100 (leaning strongly towards $50) “hobby budget” for the summer. This money will go towards the small things I need to test-run my new activities, like ample sketch paper for my calligraphy practice (and probable failures), ingredients (preferably in bulk) that will last for multiple attempts at testing new recipes, and a few bucks here or there for the $1 late-fee that I will inevitably get for returning a library DVD late. (Sorry I’m not perfect.)
In general, I know it is good to have hobbies, interests, and activities that are “mine” to focus on for no reason other than the love of it. I’ve spent a great deal of time blaming my lack of these things on the money aspect of it all, but the truth is, when going through a difficult time emotionally, it is hard for me to remind myself that there are ways to explore the universe and all the fun activities it has to offer for cheap or free — I just have to look in the right places.
Mary is the summer Media Fellow at The Financial Diet. Send her your summer intern stories (your lessons, failures, triumphs and good advice) at firstname.lastname@example.org
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