Mindless spending can ruin a budget. All those little purchases that we barely remember can add up to large sums of money. We usually spend mindlessly when we’re bored or seeking to procrastinate on some other dreaded task. It’s at those times when we wander the aisles of Target without a plan or pull Amazon up on our phones and start browsing. We’re also more susceptible to those marketing emails and newsletters. “Ooh! Merchant X is having a big sale. Let me see what’s on sale.”
You can help keep this mindless spending in check by having the plan to deal with the free time that drives it. What else can you do if you’re bored or trying to procrastinate besides shop? (In the case of procrastination, it’s probably best to do the thing you’re avoiding because it never goes away and often gets worse, but I know not everyone is wired that way.)
Intellectually we know there are thousands of things we could do besides shop, but at the moment, it can be difficult to think of something or get motivated to do it. Having a list and a plan ahead of time can help. Here are some ideas to get you started. There are many more, so make your own list while you’re thinking about it.
- Declutter. Sell, recycle, or donate unwanted items.
- Clean your closet and trade unwanted items with friends.
- Organize your stuff. Put things where they belong and make sense.
- Deep clean your space, including the garage, attic, and/or basement.
- Clean out the fridge and freezer.
- Clean the oven. Everyone hates it, but it has to be done.
- Rearrange furniture. It can make the space seem bigger or at least different.
- Repair things. Fix all those little broken things around the house and mend your clothes.
- Organize your digital life. Clean out emails, unsubscribe from lists, organize passwords and photos, clean out your bookmarks, back everything up, etc.
- Clean your car inside and out.
- Spruce up your yard.
- Schedule long overdue home maintenance or DIY. (This isn’t specifically money-saving, but it is something we often put off until an emergency (very expensive) repair is needed.
Boost Your Career
- Work on your resume.
- Update LinkedIn and other social media to showcase your skills.
- Create a portfolio (online, analog, or both) if it’s needed in your field.
- Look for new, better jobs or reach out to reputable recruiters.
- Make a wishlist for your ideal job and figure out how to get there.
- Watch a TED talk or webinar, or listen to a related podcast.
- Read in your field, or read career advice books.
- Find a related conference or event in your area and look into attending.
- Learn a new skill that will boost earning potential.
- Look into courses or certifications that might be beneficial and research costs, offerings, etc.
- Start a side hustle.
Organize Your Financial Life
- Set up auto payments and direct deposit.
- Enroll in online banking.
- Create a budget.
- Set up expense tracking.
- Figure out exactly how much you owe and to whom, and figure out a payment plan.
- Evaluate subscriptions and dump what you don’t use.
- Do your taxes.
- Combine, shop, or drop insurance policies as needed.
- Organize/toss your receipts or records as needed.
- Have a shredding festival and get rid of all the sensitive stuff you no longer need.
- Boost your savings. Set up that IRA, brokerage account, or CD ladder, or find a higher-earning savings account.
- Get your affairs in order with a will, power of attorney, health directives, etc.
- Create a household inventory for insurance purposes (and to see how much excess crap you have).
- Write a book or poem.
- Build something out of scrap material.
- Paint or draw something.
- Craft using whatever medium makes you happy.
- Frame those treasured pictures and create a photo wall.
- Create a family recipe book.
- Organize your photo albums.
- Write down family histories.
- Start a website, social media account, or YouTube channel if you have something to share.
- Finally, finish all the half-started projects you have lying around. Or decide to move on and clean out the supplies.
- Make a meal plan.
- Meal prep for the coming week.
- Try a new recipe.
- Bake from scratch.
- Get creative and cook from your freezer or pantry.
- Put together a picnic.
- Start or maintain a garden, even if it’s just a few indoor pots.
- Host a potluck dinner.
- Organize a progressive supper.
- Make gourmet coffee or tea at home.
- Call or visit a friend or family member. Don’t just text.
- Play with your kids or pets.
- Have an in-home date night.
- Volunteer. (Even doing a trash pick up in your neighborhood with a friend is worthwhile.)
- Invite friends over for a movie or game night.
- Go to a book club at the library.
- Send a card for a birthday or anniversary and enclose a handwritten letter. People still like getting stuff in the mail that isn’t a bill, and it’s an elegant way to connect with others.
- If you’re a church member, join some of the groups or activities on offer.
- Invite a friend over to share the baked goods you made above.
- Go to a Meetup or other local gathering.
- Go for a walk.
- Go for a bike ride.
- Hike local/state park trails.
- Go to the park.
- Have sex. (Responsibly, please!)
- Take a free or low-cost fitness class at the senior center, church or YMCA.
- Exercise at home with free videos, or use the gym at your job or apartment complex.
- Play a sport with the equipment you already have. (Tennis, use the basketball hoop in the yard, hit some baseballs, toss a frisbee or football, etc.)
- Stretch while you watch TV.
- Take advantage of whatever your location has to offer for outdoor recreation: Kayaking on the lake, walking the beach and picking up shells, hiking a mountain trail to the waterfall, camping at a state park, or flying a kite on a large field.
- Go to a low-cost venue like a skating rink, climbing gym, bowling alley, or paintball course and check out the public offerings. Bonus if you take a friend for social time.
- Meditate, pray.
- Practice gratitude.
- Take a nap.
- Pamper yourself at home with a bath, DIY manicure, new hairstyle, etc.
- Make a bucket list.
- Look over old photos and remember when. Laugh at your hairstyles.
- Create a vision board.
- Block or unfollow social media accounts that are hurting you, or dump entire platforms. Find new positive accounts to follow.
- Be kind to others. Spontaneous acts of kindness make everyone feel better.
- Do nothing; be still and present.
Entertain or Educate Yourself
- Go to the library.
- Go to a free concert, museum, or festival.
- Read a book/listen to an audiobook (from the library).
- Catch up on the stack of magazines by your sofa.
- Practice something like an instrument, drawing, foreign language, writing, or photography.
- Play a board or video game you already own.
- Check out free streaming services for older movies and shows you missed.
- Clean out your DVR.
- Watch the bonus features on your DVD’s.
- Go deep. Watch all of the movies by your favorite actor, listen to all of the albums by your favorite artist, or read all the books by your favorite author. Read the archives of your favorite blog or catch the back episodes of a podcast. It’s fun to go back and see how an artist’s work has evolved (or devolved) over the years.
- Dance around your living room, or sing along to a video and do all the moves.
- Find a new podcast or catch up on an old favorite.
- Find new music online or listen to entire albums instead of the headline track.
- Do a jigsaw puzzle, or do crosswords, sudoku, or the like.
- Go shopping in your own home. We all have clothes, books, DVDs, craft supplies, games, dishes, linens, kitchen do-dads, etc., that we’ve never used or underused. Dig stuff out and use it fully.
- Take a free class online or through an extension program or library offering.
- Watch videos to learn how to do something new.
- Watch a documentary.
- Color or doodle.
- Research places you’d like to visit someday.
Do you have any other ideas to share? Let us know in the comments!
- Go Shopping in Your Own Home
- A Life Without Debt: Procrastination Is The Enemy
- Feeling Better Without Spending a Lot of Money
- How to Unplug from Consumerism
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