Socialising and Entertainment

Socialising and entertainment has become big business in consumer societies. People often assume that when they have some free time – in the weekends perhaps – they have to go out and spend money to socialise or to entertain themselves. This just isn’t true. With a little imagination, socialising and entertainment doesn’t have to cost much, or anything at all. This doesn’t mean, of course, that we should never spend money socialising or entertaining ourselves. The point is that it doesn’t have to cost money, or much money. And it isn’t just about the money. It is also about how we direct our free time and the way we socialise. Consumer culture has taken us down the wrong path.

  • Purchasing food, alcohol, and entertainment: Most of us enjoy going out for the odd meal, relaxing with the occasional beer or glass of wine, or seeing a movie now and then, etc. And fair enough too. The Simpler Way certainly does not imply giving up these things. It does, however, imply recognising the importance of moderation in all we do. We should gratefully absorb the best our culture has to offer, but we should not rely exclusively, or even predominately, on purchased goods or services for our entertainment.
  • Television: How a culture spends its leisure – its freedom – provides an extremely important insight into the nature of that culture. Aside from working and sleeping, most people in Western societies spend more time watching television than doing anything else. Studies have shown, for example, that the average U.S. and British citizen watch roughly 25 hours per week, and other nations aren’t too far behind. Is this really the best way to be spending our freedom? It is likely that some of this time in front of the television can be replaced with much more fulfilling and meaningful activities. Put the TV in the closet for one month. See what happens. Reinvent how you practice freedom.
  • Learn a new skill: The division of labour that lies at the heart of consumer society has resulted in us losing many basic life skills. Re-skilling can be a very fulfilling way to spend some of our free time. For example, you might want to learn how to garden organically, cook, bake bread, lay bricks, preserve food, sew, build things, bind books, paint, or learn how to play a musical instrument, etc. Unlike the passivity of TV, learning a new skill is an active challenge and can provide endless hours of fulfilment. 
  • Declutter your social calendar: Spending time with friends and family can often be some of the most fulfilling time of all. But sometimes we at risk of over-scheduling social engagements and find that there is no time for ourselves, no time to relax and just be. When you think you need some more time for yourself, learn to say ‘no’ to invitations.
  • Volunteer: What are you passionate about? Is there a way for you to share that passion with the world? It can be surprising how fulfilling this can be.
  • Reading: It is easy to think that we stop being students when we leave formal education. But the world is an infinitely interesting place, full of endlessly exciting things and inspiring people. Reading is a wonderful, enriching pastime, and it doesn’t have to cost a cent. Your local library can provide books for free. Cultivate a love of reading and you will be rich forever.

8 Comments

  1. I love folk music, dancing and playing for dancing, but the number of opportunities for this near where I live are dwindling. This is sad, because these activities really do provide environmentally sustainable entertainment and exercise for body and mind.
    All you need to dance is music, which can be acoustic, a caller, a suitable space to dance in and, of course, dancers. Folk singing requires even less than this. These hobbies are convivial, social,lots of fun and cost very little.
    I hope a new generation will make sure they continue in our communities, because they’re so much better than watching TV!

  2. I belong to a local theatre group. We spend 2 or three evenings a week during the winter preparing concerts and plays. Don’t watch TV. Prefer to participate rather than live vicariously through watching others.

  3. Potluck dinners. No need to spend lots of money to have an evening with friends. You also get to listen to your own music. A few candles. Good conversation. Can’t be beaten. And essentially free.

  4. When I feel like watching a DVD, I can almost always borrow something off a friend or the library. Also, universities and local libraries often have heaps of good films / documentaries that can be rented for free. Perhaps not the most imaginative way to spend an evening, but sometimes it’s just what I want.

    Obviously, same goes for books. No need to buy ‘em. Borrow ‘em.

  5. I think that greater prominence should be given to the value of volunteering. Quite apart from the value of being able to work cooperatively with people who share similar values and passions, it can provide a really useful way of being exposed to new perspectives, new knowledge, and new/better ways of addressing old problems.

  6. Take a walk in your neighborhood! Say hi to your neighbors, pet their dogs, buy cupcakes at the local bakery, ooh and ahh over the pretty flowers in the yards, etc. Take up birdwatching. Take your kids to the neighborhood play structures. Go ice skating if you live in that environment on an outside rink. Fly a kite. Have a picnic. The library likely has events set up for book club, reading to dogs, story time for kids, etc. – check it out! Shovel your neighbor’s sidewalk. Challenge yourself to read 1-2-even 4 books a month!

  7. greeting cards seem to be the biggest rip-off. as if you can’t say “i love you”, or “thanks” or “happy birthday” by yourself, without a megacorp telling you how to say it (and at a steep price too). not to mention, the plethora of choices requires infinite time to sort thru to find one that says something the way and with the tone you want.

    so, consider making your own by hand, or perhaps with a computer program on your own computer. you can spend your time thinking about what you really want to say, rather than sorting thru a bunch of kitsch to find something remotely acceptable.

  8. I make my own beer and share it with friends. A good skill to have. :)

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