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17 ways to beat boredom cheaply

You've checked your e-mail -- five times exactly in the last 15 minutes. You've already gorged on chocolate and gummy bears -- and even chocolate gummy bears. You've called Joe, Bob and Sue and every other friend you haven't spoken to in months. You've tried to fight the symptoms but feel the illness creeping up on you, full blown: You're bored ... and you're broke.

Boredom happens, let's face it. The gloominess can get deeper when you lack the means for a dinner outing, theater trip or visit to a favorite watering hole. Yet brightening a dull day doesn't have to cost anything. Simple activities, such as playing board games and getting scenic exercise, can lift your spirits and preserve your funds.

These ideas come from our readers, who answered our unscientific poll about what they did for fun when their money supplies came up dry. We give you their top 17 tips for beating boredom on the cheap.

Potlucks aren't just about food
Everybody's heard of potlucks, where people create a collaborative feast for all by contributing one dish. Extending that idea, our readers share other ways to reinvent the potluck fun.

1. Have friends bring over a dish and a board game and host a potluck game night.

2. Create a themed movie night by having friends bring over one movie from a particular genre.

Cheaper than any rental
Of course, renting a movie always ranks cheaper than a trip to the theater (assuming that you return the video on time). When the budget belt needs to tighten, think about giving these movie tips a try.

3. Hit the library -- rent movies for free!

4. Swap movies with friends.

Nature -- the way your wallet intended
Get thee outside for natural entertainment. Depending on the climate and geography of your town, you can take advantage of the landscape by going for a hike, taking a day trip to a natural phenomenon or by simply heading to the local park. Mother Nature won't charge you.

5. Go hike the highest hill in your area and take pictures.

6. Go to the park and play catch.

7. Swim at the beach.

8. Visit a waterfall within two hours' driving distance and take pictures.

9. Take a walk, and use things you find in nature to make decorations.

10. Hike in the snow, and take a lunch.

11. Bike ride.

Rainy day blues
When thunder rumbles in the distance and you can't get to the car without a full-body drenching, turn to these simple ways to entertain yourself indoors.

12. Start a marshmallow fight -- the chewy white sweets are cheap, fun and won't break anything.

13. Create a frugal treasure hunt for your kids by hiding written clues. Lead them to a piece of candy at the end.

14. Read a book -- to your family.

15. Make s'mores, using candle flames.

16. Create crossword puzzles online then share them in a family competition.

17. Research something you've been curious about on the Internet for a free educational lesson.

How about you? What do you do for frugal fun? Share your tips for bringing some zest into your life.

Bankrate.com's corrections policy
-- Posted: March 27, 2006
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