5 Fun and (Almost) Free Things to Do


It's already the second week of January. How are those resolutions working for you? I made it three days without chocolate, so I'm golden for the rest of the month.

If you're still in the "New Year, New You" mood, here are some hints for five fun, inexpensive activities to do that will improve your life. Try at least two of them before the end of the year.


1. Avoid negative people. You'll never change them, so why be around them? They will suck out every ounce of energy you have and leave you a depleted shell of wasted humanity. This rule could be awkward if the offensive person is a relative, client, or neighbor, so just reduce the time you spend with them. Delete irritating, bloviating, and whining friends from your social media accounts. This experience is delightful, liberating, and perfectly legal.


2. Plant flowers in the spring with a child. Grab a cute kid -- grandchildren are perfect for this project -- and take them to select some flowers, haul everything into your yard, get dirty, make a mess, laugh, and plant some petunias. If you don't have a yard, use some inexpensive pots and potting soil in your home or plant flowers at a nearby nursing home. Invite the sweetie pie over for tea parties throughout the summer so you can watch the flowers bloom and grow forever. Hum "Edelweiss," if necessary.


3. Explore other times and places that spark your imagination. You won't need to find your lost passport or endure airport security lines if you find a comfortable chair and a good book. Look through your collection, browse your local bookstore, or schedule a few hours at the public library. I recommend Bel Canto by Ann Patchett, Wild by Cheryl Strayed, Cold Sassy Tree by Olive Ann Burns, and All the Light You Cannot See by my friend Anthony Doerr.


4. Blow bubbles. Watching kids giggle while they blow bubbles is better than any entertainment on television. Bottles are inexpensive from craft stores or you can make your own solution by gently mixing ½ cup water, ½ cup dish soap, and 2 teaspoons of sugar. You'll need to keep the wands from empty bottles, and it's best to do this activity outside. It's okay if you secretly do this by yourself.


5. Sit still and observe nature. Free: walk to a city park and sit on a bench. Some cost: drive to a nature center or the nearest scenic place. I prefer the mountains. More cost: add a bottle of wine and bring along a good friend/designated driver. Repeat these scenarios as often as possible.

These activities don't cost much money and you don't need to download, upload, or charge anything. The only batteries required are in your car. Simple pleasures are usually the best. Have a splendid year.