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26th March 2023

Cheaper than chips: Budget friendly alternative activities to try at home

Looking for something different to do on a Thursday night that doesn’t involve paying for pints, cinema tickets, or overpriced pizza? Lifestyle’s here with some budget-friendly activities for you to try out on your nights in.
Cheaper than chips: Budget friendly alternative activities to try at home
Photo: Florian Klauer @ Unsplash

Blown through your student loan again? Are Factory Mondays finally starting to lose their charm? Perhaps you’re experiencing the teeniest bit of Covid nostalgia as you fondly remember themed cocktail nights, house Come Dine With Me, PowerPoint evenings, and sigh at how creative you used to be. Despair no longer because I’m here to reignite the embers of your imagination with some alternative, super-cheap activities to try at home!


Housemates and/or other company may well be an enjoyable addition to these activities however are not essential for the successful completion of all activities.

Alcohol is absolutely NOT a requirement for any of these. However, I’m of the opinion that there’s nothing like a vinegary bottle of wine from Fallowfield’s favourite off-license to free you from your inhibitions and get those creative juices flowing.

Vinyl Bowls and Shelves

Budding musician? Looking to expand your dating pool beyond rugby boys and manifest bringing a real-life Indie Boy back to yours (guilty)? Simply born in the wrong generation and can’t relate to all the philistines who favour AirPods over the un-replicable sound quality of vinyl? Oh, have I got just the thing for you!

Vinyl bowls and shelves, baby!

Photo: Matilda Child @ The Mancunion

Various different techniques can be used, so I’d recommend quickly googling the process to decide what’s best for you. But the method I use is:

  • Pop to your local charity shop and grab any record. Withington’s Oxfam has loads of super cheap ones.
  • Place your record in or over a bowl that corresponds in size.
  • Cover the record in boiling water, using kitchen tongs, and pull, push and prise the record into whatever shape your heart desires.
  • Repeat until you’re happy with the results.
  • Top Tip: Singles make the perfect-sized jewellery trinket bowels!
  • To make a shelf, simply dip the bottom of the record in water and bend upwards. That’s it.

Simple, effective, practical. Guaranteed to impress housemates and hook-ups alike. It’s a great activity to do with friends however, I do also give you my full permission to gate-keep to your heart’s content. We can’t all be the most ~effortlessly cool~ in the house after all.

Candle Painting

Paint ‘n’ Sip is tried, tested, and true. Whether you and your mates produce individual masterpieces, switch canvasses every five minutes or work on one big piece, it’s a great night and I’ll never deny that. However, there’s only so much space on the living room wall on which to display said masterpieces, so, in a twist on the classic, the spicy margarita of craft if you will, I offer you – candle painting.

The principle is exactly the same. Grab your acrylic paints, (wine), and paintbrushes and simply substitute canvasses for some cheap long-stem candles, as seen in Home Bargain, Poundland, or Savers and get to work.

Whether you favour patterns, wavy lines, fruit, or something a little more challenging, they’re a great way to add a touch more colour to any room in the house. For anyone that’s recently heartbroken, I’m sure there’s some way of twisting this into a breakup recovery thing. Maybe paint their likeness and slowly watch your ex’s face burn? Or not… cherries look cute too!

Eco tip: You can recycle your wine bottle as a candelabra.

Balloon Debate

If you don’t immediately know what this is, I’m sorry. If you ever had to face me in one of these at school, I’m also truly sorry. Balloon debates are fantastic and hosting a house debate night should go straight on your bucket list.

The premise is this: you’re all stuck in a sinking hot air balloon. In order to stay afloat you must eject one person from the balloon each round, rounds continue until one sole survivor/victor remains. You can argue your own cases or pick characters – celebs, significant others, musicians, historical figures, or different Manchester clubs and pubs. The possibilities are endless.

This could be your opportunity to live up to that nostalgic, romanticised idea of university as an intellectual playground full of academically motivated peers with whom you contemplate life’s meanings. It’s also a chance to voice your unpopular opinions and have a pointless, but passionate argument that isn’t going to offend anyone. Got some hidden resentment building up because a certain someone never helps take the bins out, but frankly can’t face broaching the subject again? Don’t bother, just absolutely destroy them with your superior intellect and powers of persuasion.

Is it healthy? Who knows. Is it fun? Absolutely.

Friendship bracelet Making

Photo: Matilda Child @ The Mancunion

Some say clingy, I say charming. Secretly, who among us wouldn’t feel just a little bit touched if they received one of these colourful labours of love? Friendship bracelets are perhaps the sweetest way to celebrate the co-dependency between yourself and your favourite flatmate. They also massively elevate the bohemian/ hippy/surfer /interrail-chic look that it’s time to dust off again now that spring has officially sprung.

All you need is embroidery thread. You can pick this up anywhere – Home Bargains, The Works, Tiger, probably Poundland, and Amazon have various sets of 50 colours for about £5. Hop on YouTube and find yourself a tutorial.

For those of you that are a bit rusty, I’d recommend starting with a three-colour candy stripe pattern. Once you’ve got the technique down, go wild with patterns, colours, whatever. Maximum cringe could be achieved by making one in UoM’s purple and gold.

Added bonus: If you struggle to sit still during film night or are prone to providing unsolicited running commentary (personally I think mine improves the viewing experience) friendship bracelets make the best fidget toy.

Continuing with the primary school- core…

Hide and Seek / Sardines

Delay your eye rolls for just one minute and humour this absolute stroke of genius suggestion from my housemate, Freddie. I’m not going to waste space explaining how either of these game work and instead simply ask, why wouldn’t you give it a go?

Pres? Afters? Tuesday night? How many hockey players fit under a double bed? There’s a drinking game in there somewhere.

What would 7-year old you think if they knew you were living in a house with your best mates and hadn’t played hide-and-seek at least once? Besides being hilarious the unexpected perk of these games is that hiding behind your sitting room sofa might finally compel at least one person to finally retrieve the hoover and mop from the cellar.

No matter how good you think you are at hiding, the reigning champions at university will always be the communal cleaning products.

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