A new year oftentimes means — at least theoretically — a “new you.” The turn of a calendar page gives you 12 months to try new hobbies, travel to new places, experiment with new foods, or learn new skills. But many of these so-called "resolutions" can be cost prohibitive. Most people can’t just pack their bags and travel to Europe, make a reservation at a world-class restaurant, or enroll in a college course.
However, if you’re looking to improve yourself or just do something cool and interesting in 2018, know that it can be done on the cheap. You can live an entire year’s worth of new experiences, learn new and exciting things, and pick up some quirky and interesting skills in under one year without totally breaking the bank. Becoming a world-class home cook, finding inner peace through yoga and meditation, and even fun travel is all within your reach. All it takes is a little time and (very) little money!
The phrase “best thing since sliced bread” forgets one of the actual best things in the world: homemade bread. Yes, you can make bakery-quality bread at home. All you need is a few simple steps, four basic ingredients, and a lot of patience. It’s an impressive skill to learn and will enhance every meal you cook.
OK, we’re all familiar with binge-watching TV series. But instead of watching The Office or Friends for the fifteenth time, consider watching a new-to-you, critically-acclaimed show. With a lot of couch time and plenty of popcorn, you can finally understand those Frasier references or the hype surrounding Game of Thrones.
If you already have a passion or a hobby, delve even further into it by starting a blog. With WordPress or Blogger, you can start sharing your life with others quickly and easily. We recommend starting with a food blog, of course!
If you want to get away without breaking the bank and experience something new and fun, consider heading to the great outdoors and camping. If you want to keep costs low, rent a tent or borrow one from a friend. If you find that you love roasting s’mores and drinking beer by the campfire, then you can start investing in some beginning camping equipment.
Constructing a compost bin is a great, easy way to help the environment and cut back on any fertilizer costs you may have for your home garden. And getting started is as easy as building your own compost bin and saving your compost-friendly foods such as coffee grounds, fruit and vegetable scraps, and eggshells.
Whether you’re having a romantic date over for Valentine’s Day or you’re just hosting a spectacular dinner party, you want to have one dish that is truly going to wow your guests. Perhaps you spend 2018 perfecting a cheese soufflé or a perfect eggs Benedict. It’s a more useful skill than you’d think to have a signature dish.
Sure, you can save money on groceries without clipping a single coupon, but scouring the newspapers and internet for sales and big deals can help your grocery bill a ton. This is a new skill for the new year that will make you money to spend on other aspects of your life.
Can you simply not do DIY? Make this the year that you take up crocheting, learn how to compose a killer edible gift, or turn an old wine bottle into a stunning flower case. Not only can you save money on presents for your loved ones, but you’ll also have a handy new skill!
OK, there aren’t many reasons that you’ll ever need to break into a tango or a foxtrot, but what if you do? Learn a few basic dances, such as a waltz, swing, and polka, with a partner at a local community center. It’s a fun thing to break out when you’re at a wedding and a fun date night to boot!
Are you stuck listening to the same old music that you loved in 2005? It may be time for an update to your iTunes library. Subscribe to a streaming service like Spotify, Apple Music, or Pandora and listen to unexpected genres and each week’s new releases. You never know who you may end up being a fan of!
Have you ever wondered about eating wild berries, mushrooms, and greens? Consider taking up foraging in 2018. With a knowledgeable friend and a great guidebook, you can discover a wonder of produce right in your own backyard! Just be sure to really know your stuff; the line between a poisonous mushroom and a delicious mushroom is thin.
Everyone loves fresh herbs, vegetables, fruits, and flowers. And you can have all of that at your fingertips if you pick up gardening. Research what grows best in your climate, buy a few packets of seeds, and start planting! Even if you live in a small city apartment, you can plant kitchen must-haves such as mint and parsley.
Geocaching is a real-life outdoor treasure hunt. All you need is a GPS device, a basic membership to a geocaching website, and a desire to explore. Plug in coordinates, travel to new places, and find new items and new friends.
To say the U.S. is a little politically divided in 2018 would be… an understatement. With the midterm elections rapidly approaching, volunteer with a local campaign or political party that you’re passionate about. It’s a great way to meet similarly-minded people and to make a real impact.
Who doesn’t love char-broiled burgers and perfectly-grilled chicken? In 2018, break away from your kitchen and into the yard (or park) and learn how to be a grillmaster. Knowing how to grill a perfect steak and avoid rookie outdoor cooking mistakes is a great skill, especially once summer rolls around.
You don’t have to travel very far at all to have new and educational experiences. Every state has amazing zoos and world-class museums. Visit a new spot in your nearest city; you never know what you might see or learn.
Strap on your sneakers and head for the hills. Walking has health benefits that may be greater than high-intensity training. Hiking is not only a great way to explore nature, but it is also a great stress reliever. If you’re not a hiker yet, 2018 is definitely the year to start.
No, we’re not saying you should write a “Dear Diary” post every day, but keeping a journal about your day and your thoughts has some real mental health benefits. It helps you to be more mindful, boosts your memory, and can help to jumpstart your creativity. And all it takes is a little time and a notebook!
Don’t laugh! Juggling is sort of a dorky hobby, but it can be a cool party trick. Buy a few balls, or just root around in your garage for some tennis balls. Watch a few tutorials, and soon you’ll be on your way to making bank on the street corner.
You don’t have to travel abroad or enroll in a college course to learn how to speak a foreign language. You can do it for free and on your commute. Thanks to language apps like DuoLingo or Memrise, you can speak French or German or even Esperanto.
Go to a flea market or garage sale and find a secondhand instrument; if you’re just learning, you don’t need a Fender guitar or a Yamaha clarinet. Find whatever instrument tickles your fancy, log on to YouTube, and start learning. You never know how far it could take you!
Say goodbye to sandwiches and hello to healthy office lunches this year. Starting meal prep for the week is actually really easy; it just requires eight simple steps. Before you know it, you’ll have breakfasts you can take on the go, make-ahead chilled soups for those steamy summer nights, and full dinners perfect for busy weeknights.
Meditating has a myriad of health benefits, from reducing stress to helping you lose weight. Meditation doesn’t mean that you have to go into the hills and start chanting nonsense. It can mean as little as taking five minutes out of your day and being silent with yourself. If you’re struggling to do that, free apps such as Headspace and Mindfulness can help to guide you.
Everyone loves baking cookies, right? Take advantage of this by hosting a cookie swap. This is a party where you and your friends all bring a batch of baked deliciousness and trade. You can learn more about your friends’ traditions, pick up new cookie recipes for your own personal Rolodex, and you get to eat tons of treats!
Artwork is a great way to express yourself. You don’t need a bunch of fancy acrylic paints and canvas to get into painting. Start out with a local wine and painting night. Someone will lead you in a painting class, and you’ll have a bottle of wine to make you definitely feel like you’re the next Picasso.
If foraging is a little too intense for you, don’t worry! You can still pick your own produce in a safe, controlled environment. Local farms have “pick your own” options for everything from apples to peppers to berries to oranges. These fruits and veggies are way better than the stuff you get at the grocery store, and since these places have big minimums for how much you take home, you’ll have to find new and interesting ways to eat the same ingredients.
We cannot emphasize using your state parks enough, and what better way to explore the wilderness than by having a delicious picnic? Whether you go classic with fried chicken and lemonade or decide to have something Parisian-inspired, a picnic in the great outdoors is a wonderful way to spend an afternoon.
The gym isn’t for everyone and it can be costly, but picking up a new sport is fun and can be as inexpensive as buying a jersey. Try out soccer, bocce ball, softball, or ultimate Frisbee. You never know what sport you might fall in love with or who you might meet!
Entertaining is a true joy, preparing your own party menu can be both a tall task and really, really expensive. For the new year, consider making all of your parties potlucks. Not only will you have one less thing to do on your party to-do list, but you’ll also learn some of your friends’ favorite dishes. (And your contribution can still be the star of the potluck.)
Your newspaper comes with a Sudoku and a crossword every single day; you should take advantage of those free puzzles in the new year. Doing puzzles — be they number-based, word-based, or even a classic jigsaw — helps to improve your memory, reduce stress, and can even help to delay dementia.
If the last time you read a novel to completion was in high school, this should be the year you pick books back up. A great place to start with reading more is with iconic literature. Pride and Prejudice, 1984, Wuthering Heights, and The Scarlet Letter are considered classics for a reason, and you may be surprised by what you learn from them.
Redecorating your home is a great goal to have for a new year, but getting all new furniture, artwork, and paint can be incredibly cost prohibitive. Instead of doing all that, simply rearrange the furniture and photographs in your home. You’ll find your home looking brand new with zero added cost.
You may not be able to afford to travel to Australia or France in 2018, but you can still have a real adventure at an affordable price. Consider gathering a few of your friends, finding the best weekend getaways in your area, and heading out on a road trip adventure.
Want to exercise more but don’t want to spring for the gym membership? Buy a pair of sneakers, head to the nearest park, and take up jogging! It won’t help you lose weight, but it will help to alleviate anxiety, make you stronger, and even fight depression.
Picture albums are so two-thousand-and-late, but Facebook albums seem so impersonal and can only be shared with your online buddies. Consider taking your photos and mementos and putting together a scrapbook. It’s inexpensive, creative, and a great way to preserve your memories.
There’s no better produce than fresh produce, in our opinion. Explore your local farmers market this year instead of browsing the grocery store’s vegetable section. Not only can you cut down on your grocery bill, but you’ll have higher quality fruits and veggies, too!
The stars are stunning, so you should look at them this year! Astrology clubs in many areas across the country will bring out their telescopes for some of the bigger nighttime spectacles. This year, you can see a “planet parade,” the Perseid meteor shower, and a lunar eclipse, among other things
If classic literature isn’t your thing, join a local book club in 2018 that’s suited to your interests. There’s everything out there, from true crime book clubs to feminist book clubs to YA book clubs (for adults). You can make new friends and keep your mind fresh in a book club.
Wait, you’re thinking. Talking on the phone is not a new thing. But, in an age where texting someone or simply communicating via Instagram likes is so darn easy, picking up the phone and talking to someone far away feels revolutionary. Keep in touch with those you know and love. It’s a good thing, so easy, and you’re already paying for your cell phone anyway.
Refresh your wardrobe without spending a fortune by picking up thrift shopping. Sure, you have to browse through racks and racks of less-than-stellar clothing, but if you find a few gems, it’ll all be worth it.
We can’t emphasize the fun of playing tourist in your hometown enough. Explore your iconic landmarks and tourist traps (think the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the World’s Largest Ball of Paint, the Statue of Liberty). While you’re at it, eat at a tourist trap restaurant — some of them are actually insanely good.
Volunteering boosts your sense of self-worth, gives you a sense of community, and can be truly fun. Make a difference this year by volunteering with an organization you’re passionate about. Not sure where to start? Consider these 60 ways to fight hunger in America.
Be real, how many of you have actually seen Casablanca or The Godfather all the way through? Watching iconic films is a great way to be cultured, and you can do it with very little effort.
If blogging and journaling aren’t enough writing for you in 2018, consider writing an entire book. During the month of November, aspiring novelists take part in NoNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) where they try to write a 50,000 word manuscript in 30 days. It’s a challenge, but it could be oh-so-rewarding.
You don’t need to turn it in to a whole lifestyle, but taking up yoga can help to reduce stress, improve your heart health, and fix your metabolism. And you can start for free with any number of online classes. It’s easy and can be truly beneficial.