12 Fun & Fulfilling Substitutes for Shopping

By Erica Sofrina, Author of Small Changes, Dynamic Results! Feng Shui for the Western World.

In part 4 of my series on consumerism (what it is doing to our planet, how we became addicts, and how we can change this destructive habit), I came up with a list of 12 free, fun and fulfilling things you can do instead of shop.

Shopping is filling a need and often provides a distraction from having to look at what is really making us unfulfilled. Once you get clear about what is truly important to you, you need to make a conscious choice to make more time doing the things that feed you, and less for those that ultimately bring your energy down.

Here is how to start:

  • Go somewhere that is quiet, preferably in nature. Bring a pen and journal.  Sit, relax and concentrate on breathing in and out slowly, letting the mind chatter fade.
  • Meditate on the question: What are the things that give my life meaning? You may recall things you don’t do anymore that used to bring you great joy. Maybe it was music, or art, or dancing or reading poetry or getting out in nature, or just laughing and/or playing more.
  • Make a list of these starting with the things that make your heart sing the most. Document how these activities made you feel.
  • Make a plan to do activities that cost little or no money (see ideas below) that include the items on your list. Commit to doing something on the list once a week  or, at  the least once a month.

The goal is to create a life that incorporates much more of the things that truly feed you and  much less of the things that are not in alignment with what you really care about. Once you do this, your life becomes richer and fuller and the boredom that caused you to shop in the first place lifts. We feel better about ourselves because we aren’t perpetuating the consumerism that we know is killing our planet. We start to make conscious choices about our lives and feel like we are now contributing to the solution rather than the problem.

Here are 12 Ideas you can do that will be fun, fulfilling and low cost and/or free, to start you on your journey!

1. Get the main local newspaper or go online and find out what free activities are listed in your area. You will be surprised how much you can do spending little or no money. I found listings for art in the park, free operas and musicals, crystal and flower shows, tours of organic goat farms, walking tours and so much more. Plan an outing and make it a game to see what you can do without spending any money.

2. Check out the local library and spend a few hours just reading and browsing. How long has it been since you spent time in a Library? Get a Library card and indulge your sense of exploration. There are wonderful and interesting documentaries and movies, books, DVD’s and CD’s you can listen to or watch there, or check them out for later. They also often sponsor free lectures. The best kept secret around!

3. Find the child in you again! Here are two ideas from my favorite uncle Don (age 85 ) who still has the most fun of anyone I know!

  • Invest in an inexpensive jumbo bubble blower and go to the park, take a picnic and blow enormous bubbles! You can make them out of a hula hoop using a rubber pool for the bubble mixture.Recipe: one part regular dish detergent to 10 parts water. Or find out how to make one on You Tube. Then check out this amazing and magical video of blowing monster bubbles on the beach. You will be sure to attract a ton of fun!
  • Make a small investment in an inexpensive croquet set, (find used on Craig’s list) and play ‘Nighttime Croquet” with illuminated balls and wickets. He explains : you can buy your lighted bocce balls (led lights blinking) at Spillsbury on line store, and use them as croquet balls, then make sure to scotch tape neon necklaces to your wickets so that your players know where the targets are. Neon necklaces (around 35 cents each) can be bought at any dime store or wholesale at Supreme Glow on line store.….Thank you uncle Don!

4. Invite your friends to a pot-luck picnic and have a theme dish, a’la Iron Chef. Choose one special ingredient such as cranberries or lemons and challenge everyone to make a dish using this ingredient.

5. Join a museum and enjoy the multitude of free events for members. The annual fee for many is minimal, maybe $60 tops. At San Francisco’s De Young  Museum members get in free to every exhibit, the special opening parties and weekly events. The last one I went to was a masquerade event where members got in free, were treated to two free cocktails, a performance by opera singers with roaming Cirque du Soleil type performers and mask making.

6. Join organizations of like mind. If you love hiking, join the Sierra Club. They have weekend hikes, events and you will be meeting people who value the same things that you do, enriching your circle of friends.

Next: 6 More Free & Fulfilling Activities!

7. Go somewhere in nature, take a hike, take your shoes off and walk barefoot on the grass, or hug, or climb a tree. Anything in nature will  bring your body back into balance, allowing you to get clear about the things that are the most important to you. Your joy will come back and you will enjoy the healing benefits for days afterwards, wondering why on earth you don’t do this more often!

8. If you love photography, join a photography club and participate in their outings. I once went Whale watching with a friend’s  group and we found ourselves surrounded by a huge pod of Orca’s jumping and leaping along side our boat just like Dolphins. It was spectacular!

9. Take a historic walking tour of a city near by, combining your love of walking, architecture and history. Do it self-guided or with a tour guide for a nominal fee.

10. Check out your Park and Recreation Department guide and take a class that you always wanted to take but maybe were  too intimidated to do so. Maybe it is belly dancing, or tango, or art. I have heard the most amazing stories from my art-teacher friend Candace who teaches a creativity class. Students who swore they couldn’t draw a thing came up with the most fabulous work. It started them on a rewarding new path  they never imagined could happen.

11. Take a vision board class, get in touch with your heart’s desires and watch your dreams unfold. It is always so astonishing to me how we are able to manifest what we desire when we create a visual affirmation of it. These classes are often inexpensive and you get to spend a focused period of time dreaming, envisioning and creating. Guaranteed to make your heart sing for many days afterwards!

12.Check your local book store for book signings and author lectures. You will most likely learn something, be inspired and be among interesting people. Stay for the free cocktail reception afterwards.

And….I will throw in one more- number 13: we all know that making love is (hopefully :) free, fun and fulfilling, so plan on making lots and lots more of it!

See how different your energy is after doing things on your fun, free and fulfilling list of activities, and record how long you enjoy these benefits far into the next week!

Please share with us the things you do that are free, fun and fulfilling (PG rated only please:)

Watch this powerful video, the Story of Stuff to learn more.

To read more from Erica Sofrina’s series on our Addiction to Stuff and what we can do about it- read:

7 Ways to Curb our Addiction to Stuff

The Story of Stuff and Why we Became Addicted to it

How to Downsize your Living Space

10 Tips for Creating a Zero Waste Home

The Anatomy of Clutter

Erica Sofrina is an Internationally recognized speaker, teacher and author and Feng Shui/Green Living Consultant. She makes her home in Half Moon Bay in Northern California

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Sheri J.
Sheri J.2 years ago

everytime i see my sister she has a new outfit, new shoes, and a new bag. she is living a fake life and keeping up appearance because she is trying to hide her character: she is poor at keeping in touch and doesn't respond to her emails, when i talk to her on the phone she doesn't make me feel welcomed to talk to her, she often complains she is bored, she thinks she is a princess, she treats her boyfriend like a pet whatever she wants he does, she is rude to me. i wish i can say something positive about her. our parents weren't so great in raising us so our parents contribute in molding her.

Sheri J.
Sheri J.2 years ago

my mother is a hoarder and she denies it. she's making everyone's life around her a living hell.

Sheri J.
Sheri J.2 years ago

i only shop for groceries during off peak hours before the herd of customers come during rush hour traffic. i only shop for clothes unless i need it.

Melania Padilla
Melania Padilla2 years ago

Thank you, re-shared!

Gwendolyn Krupa
Gwendolyn Krupa3 years ago

Great ideas.

Terry Vanderbush
Terry V.3 years ago


Sarah M.
Sarah M.3 years ago

So great, thank you!

Victor M.
Victor M.3 years ago

compulsive buyers!!!

Robert Hardy
Robert Hardy3 years ago

Nice suggestions. Good advice.

Jenna W.
jen b.3 years ago

Awesome! Thanks!