6 cheap ways to stay busy during retirement

sara kendall | Improvement Center Columnist | November 8, 2016

retired couple

You've been picturing your retirement for years and envisioning what you'll do when there are no more meetings or deadlines or big projects. But now that you're out of the office, you're discovering many hobbies and travel you planned on are more expensive than anticipated. Don't let your wallet force you into becoming a recluse. Here's what you can do with a limited budget to stay busy, fulfilled, and entertained:

1. Start an "encore career"

We know, we know. You just retired and we're telling you to go back to work. But about forty million Americans are either pursuing a second career after retirement or would like to according to the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania. A second career can be far more fulfilling than your first. It's your chance to do something you really love. In fact, the research shows that an encore career gives you the same sense of fulfillment that volunteering does. The money you make in your second career might even be able to go straight into savings for that trip you always wanted to take or pay for a hobby you've been wanting to pursue.

2. Get involved in your community

This one's a two-fer! Get out there and really explore what your community has to offer, and make friends doing it. You've spent years with your nose buried in work, and now you have time to dig into all the great things your neighborhood provides. A lot of them may be free or inexpensive. Pick up a catalogue from your local Parks and Recreation department to find something you'd enjoy. Make friends who are interested in the same things, and have some great new people to spend time with.

3. Start an exercise group

If you always meant to take up yoga, now is the time to actually learn it! You don't need to sign up for private classes or join an expensive studio to learn a new skill. There are free videos online, so find someone as eager to learn as you are and get started. In fact, someone else may have already had the same idea. Check out local listings for whatever you're interested in and see if a group exists. You may get lucky and just have to show up with your mat.

4. Don't make your house your life

House rich but cash poor? Hate your neighborhood? Hate all these suggestions because you hate your neighborhood? You might want to consider moving. What would it feel like to live in a smaller, cheaper home that's closer to family or friends, or even just people interested in the same things you are? As you go through your first year of retirement, really keep an eye out to see if you've lived in your town for so long because the commute was good, or if you really love your neighborhood. If you decide to move, reexamine the above suggestions once you're in a place where you can really see yourself making friends.

5. Meet with your financial advisor

It's not the most time-consuming, here's-your-new-favorite-hobby item on this list, but you'll definitely want to set aside some regular time to make sure you're budgeting effectively, getting good advice on when to start withdrawing from Social Security, and doing everything else you can to have a prosperous, stress-free retirement. Don't delay going just because you're nervous about what he or she might say. Get a regular appointment on the books and treat it as you would your annual dentist appointment: it ain't fun, but you're doing it for your own good.

6. Discuss what you learn

Go to your local bookstore to find out about reading groups. Or if books aren't your thing, see if they have (or could help you start) a podcast group. It operates on the same premise: everyone listens to an episode of a podcast and comes prepared to discuss it. If you've never listened to a podcast before, start with a popular one like Radiolab or This American Life. If you've got specific interests, Google them to see what podcasts might be a good fit for you. You might think you're the only person out there interested in historical homicides, but actually, My Favorite Murder is regularly topping the podcast charts, so chances are a few other people in your area are listening in, too.

Now that you finally have loads of free time, don't let a lack of funds stand in the way of leading a fulfilling life. There are plenty of cheap or free hobbies, interests, and sports you can pursue right where you are.

About the Author

Sara Kendall is a freelance writer and editor living in Austin, TX with her husband and her dog. She writes about being a renter, designing your home, and other home improvement topics.