25 FREE (Or Cheap) Things to Do During Lockdown

Whether you’re bored in the house or just need something to distract you from the never-ending news cycle, here are 25 things to do during lockdown that are completely free or cheap!

*I know the term cheap is subjective, but I’ve defined cheap as anything that costs less than $20. I’ve also placed an asterisk next to all the suggestions that are not completely free.

1. Take an online course

Many Ivy Leagues, including my alma maters Harvard and Columbia, offer free courses on subjects ranging from entrepreneurship to poetry to structural engineering. There are actually over 1400 free courses on Coursera, and some of them even offer free certificates that you can use to add to your resume to make yourself standout in what will be a tight job market.

2. Do adult coloring*

I bought an adult coloring book recently on a shopping expedition to get TKB some touch and feel books, and I’ve been surprised how relaxing it is! If you don’t already have colored pencils, this might cost a few bucks, but if you don’t need a whole coloring book, there are free coloring pages online that you can download and print here, here, and here.

3. Revisit your finances

Whether you’ve lost your job, have received your stimulus check, or now have a bit of extra money from your transportation budget, now is a great time to revisit your finances. Do you have 6 months of essential saved? Are there any expenses you used to have that you no longer do? Are you spending more on groceries? This graphic by The Budgetnista provides great guidance on what you can be doing with your money now, and The Finance Bar has been providing wonderful weekly tips to keep yourself financially healthy. You can also check out my tips for getting your money right!

4. Rearrange your living space

Redecorating doesn’t have to cost money! Move an armchair from your living room into your bedroom. Rearrange your art. Take your bedside lamp and move it to the dining room for some mood lighting. Even just moving your bed from one wall to another can have a huge impact on making your space look brand new. If you have a spare room that you’re using for storage, declutter it and create a nice home office to improve your at home productivity.

5. Send a surprise $10 gift to a friend or family member who is an essential service provider*

If you have a friend, family member, or neighbor who still leaves the house every day to go to work, whether they are working in the ER or delivering packages, say thank you in a small way by randomly sending them an e-gift card via UberEats or just via Venmo or Cash app. More points for doing so anonymously!

6. Try a free workout

Since many of us are going outside less, we’re definitely not getting enough steps in. Here is a list of tons of free workouts to get your heart moving and the endorphins flowing. After a few weeks of being unmotivated by random YouTube searches, I’ve now been alternating between this free 4 week HIIT series by BBG founder Kayla Itsines and a few minutes of customized yoga in the Down Dog app (free through May 1st).

7. Visit a museum online

Google Arts & Culture provides free online access to exhibitions and virtual tours of over 1,000 museums around the world. I actually enjoy visiting museums whenever I travel, and some of my favorites are available like the Guggenheim in NYC or the National Museums of Kenya. There is even a historical look at the Eiffel Tower!

8. Plant an herb garden*

I’ve been wanting to do an herb garden in our space since we lived in Jersey City, and I finally bit the bullet and bought some herbs and pots this week! I’m planning on doing a hanging herb garden in my kitchen, and will definitely do a tutorial in the next week or so!

9. Reconnect with an old friend

Have you lost touch with an old friend? Now’s the perfect time to pop in and say hello! I’ve had a few friends reach out and there’s something very comforting to know that you crossed someone’s mind in the midst of a pandemic.

10. Travel virtually

Although we can’t catch flights, we don’t have to catch feelings. There are cool walking tours of different cities you can watch on YouTube, like this tour of Paris, this one of Tokyo (feels so long since we visited!), and this one of Rio de Janeiro. Do you know those famous tulip gardens in Holland? There’s a virtual tour for those too!

11. Listen to a new podcast

Whether you want humor, information, or stories, there’s a podcast for you! These 15 podcasts were recommended by my Instagram community and after listening to a few, I get what the hype around all of them is!

12. Buy a new plant baby*

Plants not only make people happy, they can help purify the air that you’re breathing way more of while you’re at home. If you’re looking for a plant that’s impossible to kill, look into a snake plant or ZZ plant. If you’re feeling more adventurous, monstera, pothos, birds of paradise, or rubber tree plants are all beautiful additions to a space, depending on how much light is available.

13. Practice your winged liner/falsie application

This is my project for next week, but now is a perfect time to practice your makeup application since no one is going to see! I’ve given up on false strip lashes since magnetic lashes and individual lashes are easier to get (or get done), but I plan on getting a signature winged liner look down soon.

14. Have a virtual happy hour

We can’t go out but that doesn’t mean we can’t kiki with the girls! Grab your friends, a glass of wine, and hangout over Zoom while catching up on people’s quarantine bae developments.

15. Bake a cake… or bread

Assuming you have flour, eggs, and sugar in your pantry, bake away! You can try this no-knead bread recipe that I made a few weeks ago and highly recommend, and if you have lemons laying around, this lemon cake recipe also came out really well (though a bit sweet). Next up on my baking list are cheddar biscuits, deep dish pizza, brioche bread, and fudge brownies.

16. Learn photography

If you want to up your Instagram game, learn the basics of photography so you can take better photos. Nikon has free photography courses that cover the basics of photography, how to photograph kids & pets, landscape photography, making music videos, and more. No Nikon camera required.

17. Complete a jigsaw puzzle*

This is a great activity to do with family, especially middle aged kids. Find a jigsaw puzzle (bonus points if you purchase from a local bookstore or small business owner) and put it together as a family.

18. Practice meditation

Times are STRESSful. Decompress for a few minutes each day by using the Calm app. Even if you don’t believe in meditation, just sitting still for 5 or 10 minutes with no distractions is a great way to bring a bit of peace and resolve into your day.

19. Play games on your phone

For brainteasers, you can do crosswords (New York Times gives you access to the daily mini crossword for free) or Sudoku. I’m also obsessed with Design Home, which helps me scratch my design itch without spending all our money in real life.

20. Have more sex

I mean it beats scrolling through TikTok endlessly until 2am. Might as well do some horizontal (or vertical) dancing!

21. Start a blog*

If you genuinely want to use this time to begin a new creative endeavor, because you want to and not because you think you have to be productive right now, start a blog! Squarespace is inexpensive and easy to use, but you can read my step by step guide on how to start a blog here.

22. Hone down your skincare routine

There are two kinds of people who will emerge from self-isolation. Those who completely slacked on their skincare, and those who religiously did a face mask every night. Be the latter and hone down your skincare routine so you can have wonderfully glowing skin once we’re allowed outside again. Don’t forget that you still need sunscreen even though you’re at home!

23. Have a candlelit dinner date by yourself or with a loved one

Jonathan and I have started doing candlelit dinners every Friday, where we sit at the table (instead of on the couch where we’ve gotten in the habit of eating dinner), put our phones away, play some light jazz or slow jams, and eat as if we’re out in a restaurant. It’s been a really nice way to keep the romance alive. For a daytime date, try having an indoor picnic!

24. Support a small business who is donating proceeds towards COVID-19*

Small businesses and business owners are really feeling it right now. Support your favorite small business by doing light shopping if you can, especially if the business is donating some of their proceeds towards COVID-19 efforts. It’s a great way to kill two birds with one stone! You can even reach out to your favorite service providers, like your hairstylist or nail technician and buy a gift card or book a service in advance for whenever they open back up.

25. Sleep!

If there’s one thing that motherhood has taught me, it’s that sleep is an underrated precious commodity, so stock up on it now while you can!

What have you been doing during self-isolation? What are some other free or cheap things to do during lockdown?

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  1. Hello Ijeoma, thank you for the post. Please your subscribe pop up can you tell me how you made it or which platform or widget you used to integrate it

  2. I loved your list so much that I shared it with six or seven of my friends and then found out that you went to a college where my god sister worked I sent it to her and she was like I know she went to school here at Columbia so I enjoy your post all the time and appreciate your writing and your YouTube channel keep up the good work thanks. Monica Denise.

  3. So insightful Ijeoma! ?
    Well done. I will definitely try some of these out. I’ve been trying to get online courses to do during this season and I feel you just came through for me?
    For the baking I already did tried cinnamon buns, brownies, pizza ?, and I already I have a list of other goodies to try ?, I will definitely try your no knead bread recipe! Thank you!

  4. Great list! I especially appreciate the compilation of virtual tours. I’ve been wanting to try some of those for date nights!

    Also, this featured photo is so cool! I’d love to know what program you used to create it.

  5. s was really helpful. I will definitely be doing some of these.
    I have a question though. Please what preset do you use for your pictures or how do you edit your ig pictures?

  6. Great ? ideas and cheap! What i have been doing since the ?down is exercise daily. I go for a neighborhood walk daily about 48 minutes and sometimes I do streng training. I just subscribe to Kukuwa fitness channel in doing African? and exercising. I’m an avid reader mostly online since the library is closed. I’m increasing my spiritual growth. Riding my ? is a task going up hills but definitely not a problem going downhill. Drinking more ?, eating more vegetables, bought some seeds to start a vegetable garden but waiting on my husband to get back in to put down soil ??, doing my hair regimen more, I supposedly be making face masks ? for my grandson, providing words of encouragement to others. I’m to stay busy.