Another Pandemic Winter Is Coming: 4 Low-Cost Ways to Get Through It

A woman, seen from above, reading a book on the couch.

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It's like deja vu -- but not in a good way.

Key points

  • The current COVID-19 surge is forcing a lot of people to rethink their winter plans.
  • Following tips like going to the library and getting outdoors can keep you entertained without having to spend a lot of money.

I'll admit it: I really thought that by the winter of 2022, we'd be in a good enough place with the pandemic that social distancing and mask-wearing would be done with, and that my family would be able to resume more of our usual activities. But alas, the omicron variant has taken hold and fueled a massive surge of COVID-19 cases across the country.

In New Jersey, where I live, cases have been exploding since late December. As a result, I'm gearing up for a couple of months of spending more time at home and less time with others.

As a natural introvert, I'm okay with that (and I'm also not yet at the point of suffering from Zoom fatigue, since my job isn't very meeting-heavy). But a lot of the people I know are now dreading the winter season.

Compounding the problem is our lovely friend inflation. Because everything from gas to groceries to apparel costs more these days, a lot of people can't simply throw money at the problem and spend the next few months shopping away their boredom (not that I'd recommend doing that anyway). If you're worried about staying busy during another pandemic winter, here are four affordable ways to stay occupied without having to constantly raid your savings.

1. Get a library card

I've had lots of friends insist "I'm just not a reader" over and over again during the pandemic. But a lot of people aren't readers because they're generally busy going out and doing other things. If you're planning to hunker down this winter, give reading a try. All you need is a library card to access loads of free entertainment. You can even make a modest investment in an e-reader and borrow books electronically so you don't have to leave the house in the cold.

2. Invest in an extra streaming service

Normally, I wouldn't advocate having three or four different streaming services, because chances are, you won't get great use out of all of them. But if you're planning to spend the next number of weeks largely staying home and keeping away from others, then let's face it -- you might spend a lot of time in front of the TV. If that's the case, a modest $10 to $15 investment in an extra streaming service probably won't break the bank. And it may make your nights more entertaining.

3. Take up a new hobby

A good friend of mine who, a year ago, could barely distinguish a whisk from a spatula now cooks dinner twice a week on a consistent basis. She took up cooking out of boredom, and it evolved into something she loves. Think about some of the things you've yet to dabble in, and find an inexpensive hobby that'll keep you busy when you're stuck at home. You could try taking up knitting, drawing, or learning another language.

4. Get outdoors whenever possible

As someone who's not a big fan of cold weather, I totally understand the appeal of staying home every weekend under the covers rather than braving freezing temperatures. But despite my distaste for frigid air, I pretty much get out for a long walk or hike every weekend during the winter, barring heavy rain or snow. And I definitely recommend doing the same, even if it means having to seriously bundle up. Not only will the fresh air do you good, but you'll appreciate the change of scenery.

Though I'm far from a party animal, I'm disappointed that I probably won't see much of my friends and family this winter as we ride out the omicron surge. But if I'm being honest, I'm also excited to slow down a bit and have more downtime at home. While you may not exactly be thrilled with the idea of having to endure another pandemic winter, the good news is that with the right approach and attitude, you can not only get through these next couple of months, but also enjoy yourself in the process.

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