6 Hobbies You Can Start on a Dollar-Store Budget

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  • Social media can make it feel like hobbies are "go big or go home," but you can start many hobbies with just a few dollars.
  • Many artistic pursuits, like painting and drawing, require minimal supplies -- and access to a few good tutorials.
  • You can get outdoors with cheap-to-start hobbies like gardening or geocaching.

It can often feel like social media has ruined the affordable hobby. If you don't have top-of-the-line gear and don't want to turn your little hobby into a multimillion-dollar side hustle -- well, what are you even doing?!

Well, you (and your bank account) can relax. I'm here to assure you that your hobby can stay a hobby -- and to assure your finances that it can stay affordable, as well. 

Hobbies should be about relaxing and de-stressing, not about the hustle. (We get enough of that nonsense as it is.) You don't need your hobby to be profitable. You don't even need to be good at it. And it definitely doesn't have to be expensive. 

In that spirit, here are some ideas for hobbies you can not only start affordably -- you can start them just by going to the dollar store.

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1. Painting

Painters in movies and on TV tend to have these huge studios, with an endless array of tubes of paints and brushes, stacks of canvases, and a veritable smorgasbord of fruit bowls.

You don't need any of that. You don't even need classes, not in the era of YouTube.

Instead, hit your local dollar store (or Walmart, or Joann's) and pick up the basics. You can get little bottles of acrylic paint for less than $1 each. You'll want these colors:

  • Red 
  • Blue
  • Yellow
  • Black
  • White

From there, you can make just about any color you want, simply by mixing a little of this and a little of that. Add in a paintbrush, and now all you need is something on which to paint. You might be able to snag some tiny canvases or a pad of thick paper from the dollar store. For an eco-friendly alternative, use old delivery boxes and/or packing paper.

2. Drawing

This is quite possibly one of the simplest hobbies to start. Arguably the most expensive aspect to learning to draw is taking classes, and with so many online tutorials -- and full-blown courses -- at your fingertips, you don't even need the lessons.

A package of regular No. 2 pencils shouldn't cost much more than $1. If you want to get a bit more serious, you can get a package of pencils designed for artists that come with varying weights (darknesses). Or tap into your whimsical side with a dollar-store pack of colored pencils. 

Heck, you could even go back to basics with some crayons. Coloring books may seem childish, but you'd be surprised how relaxing they can be even as an adult.

3. Gardening

If your gardening goal is to turn your suburban backyard into a money-saving homestead -- well, you're going to need more than the dollar store can give. But if you just want to dabble in getting your hands dirty, you can do so without breaking the bank.

While the offerings tend to be seasonal, your local dollar store will likely have everything you need for a little container garden. You can find seeds, pots, tools, even the soil (though that last bit may be much more affordable if you buy in bulk at the home improvement store). Pair these supplies with a bit of internet research, and you'll be plucking basil before you know it.

4. Geocaching

Have you ever yearned for a hobby that would let you combine your love of nature with your love of your phone? Here it is! Geocaching is like a giant group treasure hunt. You'll use your phone's GPS to track hidden treasure caches. Each cache usually contains a small item or note as a souvenir of your find. 

So where does the dollar store come in? You can't leave the next adventurer empty-handed! Be sure to swing by the store (or, if you have some odds and ends lying about, grab those!) before you go out so you can replace what you find with a treasure of your own.

5. Makeup effects

More than any other hobby on this list, makeup effects is one of those things that can become very expensive very quickly. Once you start getting into molding and airbrushing and other advanced techniques, you're definitely going to need to start investing some cash.

But that's for the advanced stuff. Getting started in makeup effects can be dollar-store affordable if you're willing to stretch your creative muscles right from the beginning. Indeed, you can find everything you need for things like fake blood and gnarly wounds for just a few bucks.

6. Puzzles

In a digital world, the idea of sitting around a jigsaw puzzle has become quite old-fashioned. But it can be a surprisingly enjoyable way to spend a rainy afternoon. You won't find massive puzzles at the local dollar store -- you want Costco for that -- but you can pick up something with a few hundred pieces that will make for a manageable project.

The dollar store also has options if you'd rather tackle a different kind of puzzle instead. It often stocks books of sudoku, crossword, or logic puzzles that can be a nice way to keep your mind sharp. Or take a more relaxed approach with a number or word search, which can still help exercise your mind without requiring too much effort.

The best things in life are (almost) free

It's easy to be discouraged from starting a new hobby by the masses of "experts" all over social media. But don't feel you need to invest your life savings -- and all your free time -- into mastering something that's supposed to be relaxing. Instead, take a few bucks to your local dollar store and see what new adventures you can find.

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