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15 Cheap/Free Ideas to Make You Feel Happier

Inside of yesterday’s post about dealing with financial discouragement, I started to make a list of these, and I realized it would better to do that in a stand-alone post.

There are plenty of ways to lift your spirits if money is no object (massage! dinner out! a vacation! shopping!)

But if you’re feeling discouraged because money is tight, then spending more money is not going to actually cheer you up.

So. I’m going to list a bunch of free/cheap things that come to mind for me, and then I’d love for you to share your ideas in the comments.

1. Move your body.

Go for a walk, dance to YouTube music, or do a home workout. Moving your body will release endorphins, which will make you feel happier.

2. Give yourself one small indulgence.

Take a longer, hotter shower than usual, buy the more expensive chocolate, pick up the block of cheese you really want.

anniversary chocolate

Are these things rock-bottom frugal? Nope. But they’re a heck of a lot cheaper than a massage or even one meal of take-out.   And as long as you choose one thing here and there, the cost will be reasonable even over time.

3. Make a homemade treat.

Bake some brownies, make slushies, or bake a loaf of bread.

oatmeal bread cooling on rack

(this is molasses oatmeal bread.)

The cost is minimal and your house will smell fabulous.

4. Help someone out.

Babysit for a friend, bring brownies to someone, or help someone with a project. Assisting other people gets your mind off of your own problems.

5. Call/text/email a friend.

Good friends cheer the soul!

(and of course, it goes without saying that you will be there for your friend when they need an emotional lift.)

6. Read a (library) book.

That’s free! And you can get cheap books on eBay or at thrift stores as well.

7. Organize something.

If you hate organizing, maybe skip this tip. But if you love a neat space, find something small to organize…a drawer, a corner, a dresser top.

A tidy space can offer cheer, and organizing can be completely free.

Also, if you happen to be feeling sad because you can’t afford a nicer home, you might at least feel a little more cheerful if you organize your current space.

8. Clean something.

Piggy-backing on the previous tip…a clean space usually feels more luxurious than a messy one. Maybe you can’t choose to upgrade your home, but you can at least control how clean it is.

Also, aggressive scrubbing can be cathartic. 😉

9. Listen to music.

Music, whether you’re listening to it or playing it yourself, can lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

And there are oodles of way to listen to free music (YouTube, the radio, CDs from the library).

10. Go out for dessert, donuts, or coffee.

Cheaper to stay home?   Totally. But if you have a little bit of cash to spend, do something other than dinner.   You can get ice cream, a few donuts, or a cup of coffee and be out $5 or less.

11. Play a game with someone.

This can be completely free (who doesn’t own a board game or two?) and if you pick a game that’s funny (like charades), you’ll probably end up laughing.

12. Get warm or cool.

Do something that makes your body nice and comfy.

If it’s hot and humid where you are, make a cold drink and sit in front of the fan for a little while.

If it’s cold, wrap yourself in a fuzzy blanket, put on a warm sweater, and sip a hot beverage.

Being too cold or too hot (especially too hot!) makes me crabby, so fixing that helps my mood greatly.

13. Get enough light.

Darkness can be depressing, so open your blinds/shades, go outside, light a candle, or turn on your indoor lights.

14. Go outside.

Nature has lots of mood-boosting benefits, and you don’t have to spend tons of money to enjoy it.

Look for local parks, sit outside your front door and look up at the trees and sky, take a walk in a neighborhood with plenty of trees, or visit a nearby lake/river/ocean.

15. Go to bed on time.

Sleeping in can be more fun, but most of us don’t get to choose to delay our wake-up time. We can choose to turn off the tech and put ourselves to bed, though.

As Laura Vanderkam says, “Going to bed early is how adults sleep in.”

And a more well-rested you is going to feel way more cheerful about the challenge life sends you.


I know I’ve only scratched the surface here, so add to my list in the comments. Help resource your fellow frugal people!

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Saturday 22nd of September 2018

I very often get bored with reading so I rarely do/did until I found this blog! Sitting in once place for long periods of time are hard for me so I try to find ways to spend time outdoors, like going rock hunting. I am fortunate to have the Great Lakes at my back door that I can visit when I need to escape (when you live in MI you are never more than 90 miles from a Great Lake!). Sorry, I got distracted thinking about how fortunate I am being so close to adventures. Back to cheap fun things to do, I am a crafter by nature as my dad could make just about anything with his hands. Has anyone every heard of Kindness Rock? If you haven't google it! My grand kids and I enjoy painting rocks with inspirational messages and then leaving them at the park in unexpected places for people to find. My heart is full :) and so is my change purse lol


Sunday 16th of September 2018

You've all had so many great ideas I don't know if I can come up with more? I guess I'll just share what works for me. I give myself a pedicure, we all most likely have the stuff to do that at home. Even if it's winter, who cares if you're the only one to see your nails? Repot or divide up a plant you already have. I bought the ten for a dollar pack of blank note cards and randomly send a note to a friend or family member. Snail mail is still fun to receive. If you live in a town of any size, check your local convention and visitors bureau. Also Google "free things to do in (name of your town)". I've been pleasantly surprised doing both of the last two on what's around me that I wasn't aware of. Walk your dogs, or a friend's dogs. When my finances are worse than usual, I keep a list of all these ideas in my wallet where my money used to be. That's all I can think of for now, thank you all for sharing!


Saturday 15th of September 2018

Thanks for this post; all these ideas have cheered me up enormously


Saturday 15th of September 2018

So many good ideas...I had forgotton how much I love walking along the beach & a bubble bath, I love the puzzle idea especially Today I made homemade chilli hot chocolate it was awesome Sometimes when I feel discouraged I list things I have already done & cross them off - weird I know but it makes me feel better! Spend time outside - today it was cold & blowy here but I sat inside in the warm & watched a bird flit about in the big tree outside my bedroom window was a great mini-break Walking amongst trees - I really should do this more often Organising/cleaning makes me feel good too when I have the energy Turning up the volume on a great song on the radio


Friday 14th of September 2018

What makes me happy: * some time alone (I have a hubby and 2 young kids, so when I am free alone time it feels gooooood!) * painting my toenails * taking a long hot bath with bubbles * paint * read an interesting book (borrowed for the library) * cuddle with the kids and hubby in bed (my favorite place to be with all of them at once) * re-watching favorite tv series on DVD (I prefer it to Netflix) like Parenthood, Big Bang Theory and Modern Family * swimming (indoor pool) and floating on a noodle afterwards * driving with my favorite music blasting * dancing!! Zumba makes me very happy * kayaking (borrowing a kayak from the city program)

I am an introvert and I enjoy doing solitary activities as you can see....! I totally accept this. This fills me up and THEN I can enjoy people around me.

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