Now winter is quickly approaching, and summer already feels like a distant memory, maintaining an active social life may not seem as enjoyable or easy as it was just a few months ago.
With the nights getting longer and colder - making all those outdoor hobbies suddenly not quite as appealing - and many of us starting to save for Christmas on tight budgets, keeping busy outside of work could become an off-putting expense rather than an exciting way of 'letting off steam'.
Membership fees and up-front equipment costs for various classes and courses (from yoga to learning French) can mean that the ways you spend your spare time are also costing you quite a bit of money - and with rising bills and living costs eating into our budgets, taking a frugal approach to what you do in your free time could really make a difference to your finances.
So, with that in mind, we've come up with a list of 10 hobbies that could provide you with a bit of economical entertainment in the coming months: all the fun at a fraction of the cost!
- Consider learning a foreign language. It doesn't have to break the bank: the BBC offers free audio and video language courses online, and there are some great online dictionaries out there too that could help you pick up new words. And don't forget Google Translate if you're looking for some help with that pesky French verb…
- Try investigating your ancestry. Take a cue from TV's 'Who Do You Think You Are' and explore your family tree: genealogy websites such as Ancestry.co.uk and the online census could be a great way of delving into your past, or check out your county council records office. But be prepared: you never know what surprises you may discover!
- Can you cook? Do you want to improve your already Michelin-starred cooking skills? Channel your inner Delia or Jamie and take a look at the BBC Food website. It is a massive resource for recipes, tips and information - and it's FREE! You could even start to brush up on festive recipes in time for Christmas.
- Are you an aspiring Picasso? Painting could be a great way of using your creative energy and letting your imagination run wild. You could pick up some basic acrylic paint, paintbrushes and canvases from an arts and crafts factory shop and get started right away. Those dull, rainy Sunday afternoons could quickly become a thing of the past…
- If you like a challenge, why not get a bit 'retro' by inviting your friends round for board game tournaments? Dust off that old set of Scrabble or Monopoly and give your grey matter an extra work-out: some websites can even allow you to create your own crossword or jigsaw puzzle. (http://www.alljigsawpuzzles.co.uk/)
- As it's getting far too cold for car boot sales, why not sell your old items from the comfort of your own home instead? Websites such as eBay can let you sell your old clothes, electrical items and any other things you no longer need but other people might want - but there are sellers' fees involved, so keep an eye out.
- Why not finally get around to learning how to play that guitar you've had in the attic for years, or that keyboard you've never managed to part with? There are many interactive 'teach yourself' guides online, or you could pick up a 'how to' book or DVD from your local charity shop or library. Even Glastonbury headliners had to start somewhere…
- Why not learn how to knit? It may not have the 'coolest' reputation, but knitting circles have become something of a craze - and not just for your Granny's generation. Joining one could give you a great opportunity for meeting new people, as well as practical benefits: making yourself a scarf and/or gloves could mean you have one less 'winter essential' to budget for.
- Start a collection. Whatever you have a passion for - from stamps and antiques to music memorabilia - you can almost guarantee you'll find other people who share it. Check out online forums and message boards for like-minded communities, and share your tips and knowledge with others! Using a search engine to look for a particular hobby (e.g. stamp collecting) will bring up a wealth of information and contacts.
- Why not start a blog? Whether you want to try your hand at writing poetry, political commentary (if you fancy yourself as a bit of a wannabe-Paxman…), or just recording your daily thoughts, the 'blogosphere' is open to everyone. Websites such as Wordpress and Blogger offer free online hosting, and sites such as GoDaddy can let you check for available domain names and hosting space so you can host your own website if you wish. If this sounds a bit 'techie', have a look on about.com for a detailed beginners' guide.
A running theme throughout our 'hobbies on a shoestring' is the use of the internet, which you may find a bit confusing if you are not sure how to find exactly what you're looking for. With the amount of technical terminology that's used, and the sheer scope of the internet, it's easy to see why so many people feel they're not getting as much from the web as they could.
So, as our hidden 11th hobby on a shoestring: learn how to use the internet more confidently! Again, the BBC has a brilliant, free online course called Webwise. In this day and age, the internet can open a whole world of friendships, connections and information - and you won't ever have to trudge through the rain and snow to be told that "This week's class has been cancelled" either!