How to Kill Time Without Blowing Your Budget
Two weeks ago, I had a full-fledged computer meltdown. My laptop started operating at speeds circa 1996 and deteriorated quickly from there. An appointment at the Genius Bar realized my worst freelancer fear: I'd have to part with my computer for the next three to seven days while the Mac Geniuses worked to repair it.
Being a full-time, online entrepreneur, I was professionally devastated by the news. I fumbled around on my phone, painstakingly typing out emails to clients and editors whose deadlines I wouldn't be able to meet until further notice. With that small matter of business taken care of, I quickly came to realize that without my computer and the zillions of files I had foolishly failed to back up, there wasn't much I could accomplish.
What would I do with myself? Binge watch Netflix with a side of red wine or maybe schedule some dates with the friends I hadn't seen in ages. It was a dilemma I hadn't encountered in a while, but the feeling was familiar: I needed to kill time, without blowing my budget.
Whether it's waiting for a friend who's running late or finding a way to spend an afternoon, aimless time has a tendency to lend itself to aimless spending. Sometimes minimally: a cup of coffee to enjoy while capitalizing on free Wi-Fi. Other times detrimentally: a spontaneous shopping spree born out of seemingly innocent window shopping.
Having a plan for directing your free time can be just as effective as having a plan for your spending. Though you may not know when instances of empty, unplanned time may arise, having contingencies on hand that align with your budget and personal priorities is simply good practice.
Kiss broke and bored goodbye with these cost-effective, time-efficient strategies.
Reassess and refine your goals. Down time is prime time for some quality introspection. The silence and stillness necessary to ponder big questions such as, "What do I want?" and, "What am I doing to get it?" doesn't present itself too often.
Whether it's an extra 15 minutes or a few hours, taking some time to reflect on these questions central to happiness and fulfillment is a great way to break the cycle of simply going about the routine of day to day living and checking in on big picture goals, making sure forward progress is being made and adjusting as necessary.
Write down whatever comes to mind along with next action steps for each item to get the momentum rolling in the direction of your goals and dreams. January doesn't have a monopoly on resolutions; every interval of down time offers an opportunity to reset, restart or readjust, and it doesn't have to cost a thing.
Practice healthy habits. Not enough time is the ultimate excuse for forgoing exercise, ordering in and other chronic, unhealthy habits. If you're given the gift of time, don't waste it on being bored. Instead, ditch the excuses and justifications and start a workout regimen or meal plan.
Start a Pinterest board of easy, healthy recipes. Go for a walk outside. Download a free meditation app to foster some mental clarity. Time that isn't monopolized by the pressure of responsibilities and deadlines presents an opportunity to foster habits that support a healthy, optimized lifestyle that can save you thousands over the course of a lifetime.
Give yourself a financial physical. Speaking of goals and healthy habits, let's not forget to include the occasional fiscal check-up. How are you doing on your financial goals? Do you need to make any adjustments to your current budget and habits to reach your targets? What other adjustments might serve to optimize your financial profile? Perhaps canceling the magazine subscription you're not reading anymore? Renegotiating the interest rates on your loans and credit cards? Researching better deals on you recurring bills?
Effectively using just a half hour of down time to give your finances a once over can help you put systems in place to better manage your money and stay accountable to your long term goals, even as the craziness of day-to-day living picks back up.
Volunteer. You don't have to limit your giving to monetary contributions, use moments of down time to make service contributions. There are endless ways to give back. Research organizations and causes that are meaningful to you and the tasks that you can do to contribute within the limitations of your idle time.
Learn something. Read a book, watch instructional YouTube videos, visit your local library -- using your down time to learn new things and develop your skills is not only practical, it can prove highly enjoyable and may help you connect with like-minded people, often leading to even more exciting opportunities.
In the wake of my computer meltdown, I took to Twitter to get updates on a conference I knew was happening in my hometown. With a few strategic tweets and hashtag searches I managed to score a $25 ticket to the conference and spent the next two days soaking up valuable new information and perspectives while connecting with other entrepreneurs. I even scored a Kate Spade bag during a conference giveaway -- talk about a sweet way to kill time!
Stefanie O'Connell is a New York City based actress and freelance writer. She chronicles her struggle to "live the dream" on a starving artists' budget at thebrokeandbeautifullife.com and her book, "The Broke and Beautiful Life," is now available.