This past year, I moved into my first apartment. There were several surprising things about this process, the foremost among them being the price of a rug.

There I was, with what I thought was a decent budget of $50, scanning the dregs of Craigslist for the cheapest of the cheap. Even on Craigslist, my options were more or less limited to doormats and runners with unidentifiable stains. On the next tab, I stared longingly at trendy Persian area rugs and natural Kilimanjaro runners in bright shades running for thousands of dollars.

Having lived in a dorm with a meal plan for most of my early adulthood, I was suddenly confronted with the horrible truth: things cost money. And I was poor. In light of my revelation, I began to furiously configure ways in which I could do more with less. In my quest to remain in my meager budget, I picked up several hobbies which allowed me to recreate things I yearned for on store shelves. Not only did this save me a lot of money in the end, but it changed the way I spend my money to this day.

Rug Hooking

As aforementioned, my tussle with a rug for my room was one of the most challenging aspects of decorating the apartment. I had almost given up, when, by chance, I found a video of a woman rug hooking on Youtube. The concept is simple: you pull loops of yarn through a woven base material like burlap with a crochet-like hook. This allows you to create beautiful hand woven designs, not just for rugs but for pillows and other textiles as well.

Sewing

This is one of the first and most vital hobbies I picked up. I bought an almost new Singer beginner sewing machine for sixty dollars from a woman down the street, stole a bolt of leftover fabric from my mom, and took to Youtube to teach myself the ins and outs. This is probably my most useful skill, and one of my favorite hobbies. Though I quickly learned buying fabric could be almost as expensive as purchasing whatever pillow case or dress I was eyeing, my sewing skills allowed me to alter my own clothing. Thrifting is a pretty popular hobby, but few people see the thrift store for what it really is: a giant, cheap, fabric store. I shop the larger clothing items, eyeing only fabric and maybe style, depending on what I'm making. Then I can seam rip the fabric apart into large sections, launder them, and start a new project for about $3.00. Learning how to sew myself has also changed the way I shop. Now, I examine stitching, construction, and material. I always ask myself "but could I make this"? And if the answer is yes, I don't buy it.

Thrifting

As I mentioned before, the thrift store has revolutionized how I make my clothing. Similarly, it has almost single handedly furnished my apartment. There's really nothing more satisfying than finding a great piece at the thrift store for less than twenty bucks. It's more difficult, sure, but that's why it becomes a hobby. I've established a ring of local thrift shops that I visit weekly, and sometimes daily. Stopping in frequently is the key to catching good items right as they come in.

Gardening

Though my gardening experience is perhaps more unconventional than most because of where I live, one of my favorite hobbies is visiting the local plant store on the weekend to survey the in-season plants or pick up a new succulent. My roommates and I spend half our time in the kitchen, figuring out creative ways to fit herbs and succulents into our small space. Some of our favorite solutions include saving cute soda and beer cans, drying them, and then cutting the top off of them to make small, colorful planters.

Painting

Though this hobby has less of a monetary benefit, it probably contributes the most, at the risk of sounding cliché, to my inner peace. I spend my most tranquil afternoons watching painting tutorials on YouTube and playing with my paints in my room. I bought a pack of gouache paints from the local art store, which I enjoy because of their matte finish and near poster-like effect.

Obviously, these are the hobbies that improve my life, though they may not reap the same benefits for others. It's always important to consider capital costs and learning curves when adopting a new hobby, because it's easy to get suckered into buying all sorts of products you don't actually need to start. Take my advice: start with the basics, find some tutorials you enjoy, and don't buy a thousand dollar rug.

Author's Bio: 

Shawn is always looking for natural ways to live a healthier and more productive life. When she's not trying out new green smoothie recipes or hiking in the local mountains, you can find her sharing ways to optimize your body.