Now that the busy season at the zoo is finished and I am only substitute teaching for a school a couple of days a week, I am, euphemistically, under-employed. Instead of stressing out about the state of finances or strewing about lack of opportunities, I'm trying to find things to do with my time (aside from job-hunting), so if you are in the same boat, here are some ideas that are fun, inexpensive and productive, too.
Sign up with your local Big Brothers and Sisters organization, help with Meals on Wheels, or show furry critters some love at your local Humane Society. Even if you don't want to make a long-term commitment, you can still volunteer at special events: help set up for a charitable fundraiser, stuff envelopes for a cause, or be a time-keeper at a fun-run.
2.) Work out
I know working out seems like a chore, and gym memberships are a luxury the under-employed often don't have, but working out will raise endorphins and help you beat the no-money blues. Do an activity that's free, such as walking or jogging, or do some yoga or Pilates from a DVD (you can even check them out from the library), or find free fitness classes through a community center.
Make a list of a few books you've been meaning to read but haven't gotten around to, or start working your way through the Modern Library's top 100 list. You can feel smart, relax and escape from reality without paying a penny. (Have I already mentioned how awesome libraries are?)
Decoupage Duct Tape Wallet
4.) Get Your Craft On
Decoupage, jewelry-making, knitting, origami, or wherever your interests lie, you can find craft projects to keep you occupied and increase your skills. The great thing about crafts is that the possibilities are endless and the results can be used as thoughtful gifts, which will also save you a little cash. Don't worry if you aren't usually a crafter; with minimal time, money and skill, you can still create something pretty cool!
5.) Peruse Craigslist
Okay, so scrolling through the "jobs" section on Craigslist can get tedious and discouraging, but the site offers more than just employment networking. Check out the "community" section to find out about events in your area, or get great bargains on something you need from the "for sale" section. You can barter with items you don't need anymore or find a new club to join.
6.) Visit friends and family
Aren't you always saying you should visit your great-aunt Muriel more often? Here's your chance. Hanging out with friends and family will keep your spirits up and keep you from feeling isolated while you aren't working. Visit with your stay-at-home-mom friends, retired friends, or friends who work off-hours, and if you don't have any of those in the area, you can always meet friends near their office to join them for a lunch break. Bring a picnic if you don't want to spend the money to eat out, or spring for a id="mce_marker".50 cup of joe from Starbucks.
So cooking might not be your favorite activity, but now that you have the time, search the web for quick and easy recipes to try using inexpensive ingredients. Making things from scratch can be a lot cheaper than buying boxed or prepackaged foods, and once you master a few new dishes, you will be able to keep making them, even when you go back to work. And if you are one of those people who loves to cook (I don't understand you), take this opportunity to whip up something complicated you've always wanted to try like Cajun roux or a souffle.
8.) Get Organized
I know I always feel more satisfied and able to relax if I've accomplished something during the day, so I like to generate a list of tasks and then pat myself on the back for accomplishing them. Use your forced free time to clean out the closets or tackle the piles of who-knows-what in the garage. Not all organizational activities have to be a chore; maybe you have a stack of old photos you can reminisce and giggle over while you label and file them.
9.) Go to a school play
One of the harder things to go without during tough financial times is entertainment. You might be avoiding going to the movies, to sporting events, or eating out because of a decreased budget, but everyone needs a night on the town now and then. Look up what your local high school students are up to and get some tickets to the drama department's next performance or the orchestra's next concert. It may not be Seattle's 5th Avenue Theater, but the young talent in your area just might surprise you. You can have your night out, support the schools and pay much less (sometimes nothing!) for the evening's entertainment.
10. Take a nap
Because you can.
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