10 Fun and Frugal Ways to Stay Entertained While Social Distancing

Many of us have already spent over a month in a social-distancing quarantine. While weeks one through six may have been dedicated to working your way through a giant backlog of Netflix shows and cleaning out every closet and pantry in your house, you may be finding it harder not to succumb to the dreaded stay-at-home blues. 

Staying entertained is a great way to fight this, but there are only so many episodes of the Tiger King to binge-watch. If you are taking care of little ones, you may be finding it even more difficult to come up with at-home entertainment ideas while stuck in a never-ending cycle of hearing “I’m bored”.  So, what’s the solution? 

Some families are opting to open their wallets in the interest of saving their sanity by subscribing to the many available streaming services (Netflix, Crave, Amazon Prime, Disney+ etc.), or purchasing video game systems like Nintendo’s Switch to keep the household busy. But staying sane doesn’t have to break the bank. The truth is, being stuck inside may be an optimal time to save money on entertainment. To help spark some inspiration, here is a list of cost-effective options for staying entertained while social distancing.

  1. Stay connected with loved ones. Free video chatting apps* like Zoom, Skype, Houseparty and Facebook Messenger allow you to connect with family and friends from a distance. Virtual parties on Friday or Saturday night may help you beat the blues and provide socialization that is important for our mental health. Apps like Houseparty even have built-in digital games for the whole family to play. *Whenever downloading free apps, please do your research and read the privacy policy before providing any personal information.
  2. Travel virtually. If you’ve ever wanted to tour artwork at the Louvre or hike Yellow Stone National Park, now’s a great time to visit them – virtually! Many museums, parks and zoos are offering free virtual tours and field trips online. You can also participate in their live streams, like Australia’s Taronga Zoo’s “Otter Cam” on YouTube.
  3. Learn a new skill with a virtual teacher. Speaking of YouTube now might be a good time to use the platform’s seemingly endless content to learn a new skill. From activities like knitting to gardening to learning new languages or how to cook gourmet meals, YouTube’s Learning Section seemingly has it all. Take some time to explore what the site has to offer, or ask friends what new skills they’ve been learning and join in.
  4. Read a book. It sounds hilariously simple, but reading is a great way to pass a huge amount of time while staying entertained. If you’re craving a sense of community, free sites like Goodreads allows you to connect with other book enthusiasts and review works you’ve read. You can also enter draws to win your own free books on the site. App stores like Google Play and Amazon Kindle also offer free books for download to your electronic device, ensuring almost no end to free accessible content.
  5. Or listen to one. If sitting down and reading isn’t something that will work for you, listening to an audiobook is also an option. While Google Play does offer free audiobooks, audiobook company Audible has made their children’s books completely free to listen to. Even if you don’t have little ones, who doesn’t want to revisit the world of Harry Potter while they cook dinner? Also, if you are a member of your local library, check out their website to see if they offer access to an assortment of free eBooks and audiobooks as well.
  6. Work out. Working out may not be everyone’s favourite pastime, but there are a ton of free resources out there if you’d like to give it a try. Videos, podcasts and online classes offer a wide range of at-home exercises that help you stay in shape while being stuck inside. It may also be a great time to try a new type of exercise that doesn’t require a lot of equipment like Yoga as many instructors are offering their content online for free.
  7. Bring back movie night. Going back into your DVD or VHS archives may be a fun way to bond as a family and enjoy some nostalgia. To make the night more official, try “scheduling” the movie night, making popcorn and turning down the lights to add to the fun. For those who do have a little extra room in their budget, Amazon sells “mini projectors” that may help simulate that Friday night “drive-in” or home theatre experience. If you are feeling crafty, you can try to make your own DIY smartphone projector.
  8. Get into spring cleaning. With all this extra time on our hands, it may be a good opportunity to confront the dreaded “spring cleaning”. It may not be everyone’s idea of fun, but it’s the perfect time to go through your belongings and see what you might be to donate back to your community. Plus, the additional space may make your home feel more comfortable or decluttered.
  9. DIY crafts for kids… or adults: If you’re at a loss for what to do, try combing the internet for at-home crafts. A quick internet search of “DIY crafts for kids” will have you making your own play dough, constructing marshmallow catapults and turning pasta into “stained glass”. Of course, there’s no age limit on fun, so bubble painting may be a perfectly great way to spend an afternoon on your own or with a partner.
  10. Pull out the board games. There have been many times when a power outage has left my family divided after a particularly intense game of Monopoly. Board games provide wholesome fun that can last for HOURS. What better time to return to the “old fashioned” card games, and classics like Clue and Trivial Pursuit. If you’re short on board games, link up with a family member to do a curbside swap, see if your local games store is offering delivery or check out online sites like Amazon and Chapters/Indigo.  

While these are just some ideas to beat quarantine boredom, with a few exceptions, they are all almost entirely free. Our time social distancing provides the perfect opportunity to stay entertained while cutting down on regular entertainment spending. On top of this, taking advantage of less driving, less dining out and fewer impulse purchases can yield huge benefits for your budget, which is even more important for Canadians who have experienced job loss as a result of Covid-19.

Visit our COVID-19 Resources, our blog section or our Facebook page for more information on budgeting tips and navigating your finances during these uncertain times. 

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