July 14 2022

Free things to do: How to have fun on zero funds

With the soaring cost of living, many households are feeling the pinch right now. Having fun is important for your mental health, but it can seem difficult to find free things to do when money is tight. That’s why we’ve put together a list of 10 free things to do so you can take care of your mental health and save money at the same time.

Making financial wellbeing a priority 

With 83% of people in the UK affected by the cost-of-living crisis, focusing on financial wellness is more important than ever. 

Unfortunately, many have turned to personal loans, and credit card borrowing has risen at the fastest rate for 17 years. This puts people at risk of spiralling debt, so finding ways to save money has become more of a priority for many.

In addition, as the month of August approaches, many households are either saving for a summer holiday or tightening their belt after taking one. In either case, finding free things to do can help save money and boost financial wellbeing.

Happiness and financial health are linked

The old saying money doesn’t buy happiness is true, but feeling like you have some control over your finances is important for your mental health. Research by Aviva suggests that happiness increases with a sense of financial control, not with how much we earn.

Those with sensible financial plans and budgets in place have a stronger sense of financial wellbeing, regardless of their salary.

Top 10 free things to do

Finding free things to do is not only possible, it’s fun. It means thinking outside the box and rediscovering things that are often right outside our back door or perhaps hark back to your childhood.

So let’s dive into our list of 10 fun things to do when you don’t want to spend:

1. Picnic in the park

Ok, so the UK weather is not always helpful, but on those dry sunny days take advantage of the green open spaces in your area.

London is made up of 40% green open spaces as well as 3,000 public parks. Outside the capital, green spaces are even more accessible, making them a really accessible place to spend some time.

A picnic, and a friendly game of football can provide a fun, free family activity and day out. Being in the fresh air and close to nature can do wonders for your mental health, too.

2. Hiking trips

Again, this free activity is weather dependent, but a little bit of rain shouldn’t put you off. The UK has some incredible hiking destinations with views and historical sights you might not have considered.

If you’re in or around London, check out this list of 10 of the best hikes near London and these 10 ridiculously scenic walks near London by Timeout.

Outside of London, check out Timeout 11 of the best breathtaking UK hikes that amateurs and pros alike can enjoy. So, get your hiking boots on, pack some snacks, and prepare to be inspired by some truly incredible sites. And it’s all absolutely free.

3. Museum days

In 2001, museums and galleries scrapped entrance fees as part of a government plan to widen access to the nation’s culture and heritage.

With over 30 free museums in London alone, this is one free day out you don’t want to overlook. Plus, London’s Natural History museum has just welcomed back Dippy the Dinosaur. If you have kids, you’ll know what a big deal that is!

There are also many free museums across the UK. Check out this list of the best free museums in London and the UK.

4. Have a movie night

While the cost of your Netflix subscription may have recently increased, there are plenty of other streaming services that offer excellent affordable and even free content.

Going out to the cinema is pricey, especially when you factor in treats and the £2 bottle of water!

So, stay in, tune in, and put the popcorn in the microwave.

5. Increase your sense of wellbeing by serving others

Local charities are always looking for volunteers to help. Yes you’ll be giving up your time, but the rewards in terms of wellbeing and a sense of accomplishment cannot be overestimated.

Plus, volunteering can be fun! Do it with a group of friends or choose an area that specifically interests you. From animal welfare, to reading with kids in primary schools, to helping to promote fundraising events, there’s something for everyone.

Volunteering is also a great way to meet new people and learn new skills. By volunteering, you’re not only having a fun day out for free, you’re also giving back to your community.

Check out these useful links to find volunteering opportunities.

6. Your home is your castle

Now’s the time to get going on those DIY projects and it doesn’t have to involve spending money. Simply rearranging furniture or having a declutter can be fun and rewarding.

We recently investigated the benefits of an ancient art that can boost financial wellbeing. Check out our article Feng Shui office tips for wealth.

Consider applying these concepts to your work and living spaces, then watch how they positively affect your sense of wellbeing. You’ll be surprised how beneficial re-thinking how you arrange your furniture can be.

Alternatively, if you’re handy with tools, then why not make something from scratch? Building furniture or seeing what you can create from old pieces is incredibly satisfying.

Some people repaint or repair used furniture. Many get so good at it that they can sell it on for a profit.

7. Upskill your life

In response to the recruitment crisis, many employers are upskilling and retraining employees. Upskilling increases employee resilience as they can tackle new challenges.

You can boost your own resilience by having fun and learning new skills yourself. There are plenty of free courses on learning platforms, such as Udemy and YouTube, of course. 

So whether you want to learn a new skill or build upon existing skills, almost everything is available for free. It doesn’t have to be professional development either. How about learning a new language?

9. Expensive gym memberships aren’t fun

Tips on free things to do wouldn’t be complete if we left out exercise. It’s good for your physical and mental health and best of all, it can be totally free.

So, ditch the gym and take advantage of the free options instead. Got a bike that’s gathering dust? Dig it out and save on petrol costs while you improve your fitness at the same time.

If cycling isn’t your thing, then consider running. Make it fun and do it with friends or challenge yourself with a free running app that measures your distance or steps. 

Finally, why not take advantage of the many open air swimming places around the UK? Sometimes called wild swimming, you can swim for free in rivers, lakes, and some reservoirs.

If you prefer indoor swimming, then check in at your local leisure centre. It’s not completely free, but you can sometimes get a good deal at council-run leisure centres and some lidos.

9. Flower power

Surround yourself with flowers, literally. Have a day out at one of London’s flower markets and see where top florists go to stock up.

Columbia Road flower market and New Covent Garden market in London are two examples of fun free things to do. These markets have also become havens for independent boutiques, stalls, pubs and cafes.

It’s totally worth it, for a free day out wandering around these islands of horticultural beauty.

10. Hit the markets

Free things to do have to include markets. From antiques to food, to jewellery and much more, you can spend a free, fun day out at one of these.

London has markets at Camden, Brewer Street, and Spitalfields, to name a few. Outside of London, nearly every town has some form of market where you can browse second-hand goods, eat local produce, watch street entertainment, or simply soak up the atmosphere.

Take control of your financial life

Budgeting doesn’t have to be a chore. Focus on the things you can do to save money that are fun and reap the benefits of feeling more in control of your financial health.

In a consumer-driven society, we’ve been trained to look at how much we have and what we can get for it. Challenging that concept leads us to see how many things we have at our fingertips that are free.

Start by creating a budget that allows you to save money. Cut down on non-essentials with the help of these tips on free things to do.

Look into options that boost your financial flexibility. For example, ask your employer about earned wage access. This can help relieve the anxiety of unexpected bills and help you feel more in control of your finances.

Finally, if you’re concerned about finances, or are in debt, then make sure you take advantage of free financial advice available.

Key takeaways

  • Feeling in control of your financial health is important for our overall wellbeing.
  • Keeping to a budget doesn’t mean you can’t have fun.
  • There are plenty of fun things to do for free – you just need to think creatively sometimes!
  • Take advantage of free financial advice and free, unbiased services that help you feel more in control of your financial life.