Low cost and free hobbies for your Dry January®

January 2024 | 10 minutes

Many of our Dry January® alumni tell us that they have a lot more time on their hands since cutting out the booze. And with our busy lifestyles these days, who doesn’t want a bit of extra free time? But when we’re all feeling the pinch as the cost-of-living crisis continues, taking up a new, expensive hobby can feel really out of reach. The good news is that there are some incredible free resources out there no matter what you’re into.

Online

As with everything these days, checking out what’s available online is always a good place to start. But with so much choice out there, it can be nice to have a starting point.

Community spirit
Our ‘starter for ten’ would be this free virtual village hall from the Royal Voluntary Service, boasting a packed schedule of online classes from arts and crafts to workouts. Just like our own local village halls, there’s a huge variety of activities on offer led by expert tutors and specifically designed without the need for any special equipment or much space at home.

Fancy a movie night?
Sands Films bring us our next free online activity with their exciting monthly cinema club. It won’t cost you a penny to sign up, and you’ll get to enjoy a monthly selection of classic and unusual films to stream from home (without the overpriced popcorn and noisy teenagers – what could be better!?).

Learn something new
Maybe you feel like doing something more productive with your free time? You could try OpenLearn provided by the Open University which offers more than 1,000 free courses on topics covering everything from politics and the environment to languages and sports psychology. See what takes your fancy!

On your smartphone

Finding footy near you
Big fan of the beautiful game? Or just like the occasional kick around? The free Footy Addict app can connect you with upcoming local games and teams. Just sign up, turn up and play some grassroots football with other like-minded footy fans. There are no special requirements or skill levels, and you’ll find games running across the entire country, from West Yorkshire to Kent. If you love playing football, what have you got to lose?

Connecting with others
If sport’s not your thing, there’s always the Meetup app – a well-established app designed to bring people together over shared interests. Whether you want to find like-minded people to join for outdoor pursuits, or are simply interested in meeting some new friends, Meetup creates a safe space for people to connect. You can find events for topics that interest you, join groups, or even make your own group if you can’t quite find what you’re after. So, why not create your free account and see what’s out there?

Try your hand at smartphone photography
These days most of us have a smartphone in our pockets, and even if it’s not ultra-HD quality, chances are it’s got a fairly decent camera. You don’t need to be a photography expert to take some snaps with your smartphone. In fact, the set up can be quite different and usually much simpler than regular cameras. You may find different filters, effects and angles in your device lend themselves to some awesome shots. What’s more, if you’ve got access to any green space out and about on your smartphone photography outings, there’s evidence to suggest that even just looking at photographs of country scenes can have a calming effect on our brains and reduce work stress – double whammy benefits!

Out and about

Something for nothing
Volunteering in your community can be an amazing and fulfilling way to fill your time. There’s plenty of varied volunteer roles out there when you check out the NCVO’s online opportunities listing, most including travel and other expenses to make sure volunteers are never out of pocket.

Get creative in nature
Maybe you’re someone with a creative spark? You could just dust off the old paintbrushes and pens and get going again. Or maybe you could try something different and take a leaf (or maybe a stone!) out of Stone artist Akie’s book and explore your local outdoor spaces, trying your hand at turning natural objects like shells, fallen leaves and pebbles into amazing creations. Natural art can be beautiful and best of all, it doesn’t require many pricey art supplies!

Running free
We’re sure you’ve heard of Park Run by now, but if you’ve never given it a go now could be a good time. With thousands of weekly events across the country, there’s bound to be a Park Run not too far from your door. Join in on a 5K Saturday morning run and start your weekend meeting others in your community and getting active. And if you’ve got little ones in tow, there’s also a 2K Sunday morning junior fun run for the kids to get involved in. Find your local nearest Park Run here. And for those of you who are London-based, why not check out London Sport's Get Active platform, which helps Londoners find an activity in their local area that's right for them.

At home

Hobbies from home can also be a great way to do something different without needing to fork out.

Get nostalgic
Depending on which generation you fall into (and perhaps how sentimental you’d count yourself!), you may have a treasure trove of old photos and albums in your home. Past Dry January® participants often find it useful to reflect on how far they’ve come as they progress through their 31-day challenge. You might find the exercise of going through old photos brings that lovely sense of nostalgia or conjures some fond memories that could help you battle those peskier cravings. Why not see if you can sort through your old photos or try and remember the specific dates and occasions? Could you jot them down on the back? And if you’re the kind of person that collects holiday trinkets and souvenirs, you may just have the beginning of a fantastic scrap book on your hands.

Having a good clear-out
An oldie but a goodie. Dry January® alumni tell us every year of the cathartic power of a good clear out. If you do find Dry January® has given you some extra downtime, maybe it’s time to get round to those ‘odd jobs’ around the house? You could take it step-by-step and see what you manage to strike off the to-do list during the month. It may not quite count as a ‘hobby’ as such, but the sense of achievement/ smugness potential with this one meant it had to make the list!

We hope you’ve found something for you in amongst our suggestions. And remember, we always love to hear from you, so if you’ve got your own free and low-cost hobbies and activities ideas feel free to share in the comments below. If you’re looking to reclaim some of your free time back, you could try signing up to Dry January®.

In a 2019 survey, 67% of Dry January ® participants found they had better concentration and 66% had more energy, as well as saving money and time usually sent on drinking – sounds like a perfect time to start something new to us.