Updated on 06.12.07

Eight Free Things That My Family Uses In The Community

Trent Hamm

Whenever I hear people in my community complain that there’s nothing to do or that everything is so expensive, I wonder whether they even realize how much amazing stuff there is to see and do in this town without spending a dime. Here are eight wonderful free things in our community that we use for our enjoyment on a very regular basis.

The library We are nearly fanatic patrons of our local library, from our son having a blast in the children’s library section to our own fulfillment of our reading tastes. In fact, most of the books I talk about on The Simple Dollar come from this local library. Among all three of us, we visit the library twice a week or more.

The playground The center of town has a large playground with swings and slides. Rarely does a day go by where our son isn’t almost begging us to go there. The most amazing (and perhaps somewhat disconcerting) thing is that we very rarely see anyone else using any of the equipment, though we know that the community has a lot of young children in it. I can scarcely believe that in a town with dozens of young children that there is no one at the community playground on a warm summer’s evening.

The village green Near the playground is an enormous open grassy area with a few trees scattered about. We have picnics here on a regular basis where we spread out a blanket and enjoy a meal together in the beautiful outdoors and build nice family memories together. Just last week, my son and I had a picnic there and we chased a cricket for about a half an hour – he kept chirping and then moving away then chirping again.

The trails Before our son was born, my wife and I explored all of the walking and bicycle trails within a fifteen mile radius of our apartment. They’re utterly beautiful places to walk, jog, bike, enjoy nature, and get some exercise, and they’re quite nicely maintained.

The swimming pool Our town had a tax initiative to build a nice swimming pool for the community – and it is a very nice one. They offer free swimming lessons in the summer and for much of the summer there is a paid lifeguard on duty during the day. It can get crowded at times, but I’ve been there regularly when I’m the only person in the pool.

The shelter house Near the village green, there’s also an enormous shelter house with twenty picnic tables inside and a number of grills around the edge of it. Thinking of having a small family reunion or something? Call town hall and you can reserve it for free, and it’s almost always available during the week for impromptu things. We’ve had dinners in there many an evening, enjoying some delicious burgers straight from the grill.

The basketball court In another part of town, there’s a community basketball court that’s maintained. Quite often, the high school basketball team meets there for impromptu practicing, but there’s almost always a free hoop available. All you need is a basketball and a friend and you can have fun and get exercise for as long as you like on a nice, quality court.

The people I’ve mentioned before many great reasons to get involved in your local community, but one of the best ones is the people themselves. You meet all sorts of interesting people, make new friends and contacts, and learn all kinds of things on countless useful topics – and it doesn’t cost a dime.

Some of these things might not be available in your community, but there may be many things that are. Spend some time looking around and you’ll be amazed at the wonderful free things you discover.

Loading Disqus Comments ...
Loading Facebook Comments ...
  1. Brett McKay says:

    If your community has a university in it, you can often attend free cultural events like ballets or plays. Many universities also have free movie nights at their student union that are open to the public. You can also catch free lectures or guest speakers at colleges.

  2. 60 in 3 says:

    A lot of communities will have free sports facilities. Around here, there’s a large complex with multiple baseball fields. People set up leagues or just come out to play.

    Also, there are a variety of volunteer organization you can join. A lot of them offer activities that can be quite fun and can be done with the whole family.


  3. Many cities also have free cultural events. In NYC during the summer there were a ton of free concerts in the park and the movie screenings at Bryant Park. In Los Angeles there are free events held downtown through the Grand Performances organization…Just search for “Grand Performances program in Los Angeles” to find out more info. Last year they had a screening of An Inconvenient Truth, great puppet shows for kids and afro-cuban musicians…

  4. kim says:

    This may not be free, but my family gets tremendous use out of a family membership at a children’s museum. Not only is it good for a whole year of admission at our home museum, we get reciprocal admission at hundreds of museums nation wide. When ever we travel, we are sure to hit all of the museums that the pass covers!

  5. Cheryl says:

    I second this post! The library is full of FREE and FUN…ours has many events from readings, puppet shows, movies, and magicians! And I am constantly scanning the local paper for free concerts and events! Our local parks all now have a dog park, where your pooch can enjoy the free as well!

  6. Trent, can you write my wife and email and convince her to get a library card? She simply refuses to do it and says she’ll never get one.

  7. Ryan says:

    The library rocks! Even if you don’t like to read, almost all libraries now loan out DVDs and CDs. Many libraries also offer free computer classes to the community, and sometime libraries will show movies as well. If you have children, there are lots of great free programs for them at the library. Thus, there truly is something for everyone at the library!

  8. Amy Haden says:

    The library is fantastic! I haven’t bought a cookbook in years (they’re all at the library & I can xerox the recipes I want to try). And like Ryan says, they have audiobooks & CDs (that you can listen to in your car), and movie DVDs. And usually if the local library can’t find something you want, they can borrow it for you from another library. I take out a gym bag worth of free stuff from the library weekly — couldn’t live without it! And our local library has an annual book sale where I pick up reference books (and others that I want to own) for pennies.

  9. Steven says:

    I LOVE the Chicago Public Library. Since I retired, I am there everyday. I’ve enjoyed the visiting authors, the book discussion groups, the free movies, and the fact I don’t have to pay money anymore for newspaper and magazine subscriptions.

    And it is a great place to meet people. I’ve joined the Friends of the Library – a support group.

    The library is the place to be!

  10. Amy says:

    How can you not want a library card? I still remember the excitement of getting my very first library card when I was six years old. I’ve had library cards in three different cities, all of them allowed me to reserve books online from any branch, and have them waiting at my local library for pickup (when I first started doing this, it was in a DOS operating system where you had to tell the modem to dial the library directly). I read two or three books every week, but only buy five or six books for myself every year.

  11. Art Dinkin says:

    Not only are all these activities free (well, our community pool charges admission but it is quite reasonable) but they all add to the quality of life and value of our community. Imagine the impact on real estate values if the local government suspended all amenities!

    Iowa has a great bike trail system. Our house is only two houses away from an entrance to a system that could take you hundreds of miles without ever crossing a street. I like to run and my family goes for walks together.

    Thanks for the reminder to get out there and enjoy the quality and character of our own “backyard”.


  12. Kevin says:


    With six of your eight ideas related to parks and recreation, you have summed up what those of us in the field are working to advance-community wellness, reducing obesity, promoting family activities, and enjoyment of parks, trails and open spaces. The benefits truly are endless. Take advantage of parks and recreation opportunities in your community-many are free or low-cost.

    For eight months now, I have been trying to guess your hometown-somewhere between Ames and Mason City? Keep the clues coming.

  13. Trent Hamm Trent says:

    Kevin: I live in the northern half of Iowa. I occasionally throw out a mix of real clues and red herrings to keep the guesses flowing.

  14. Party says:

    LA Shakespeare Event!

    From my blog post:http://la-thecityofangels.blogspot.com/2009/06/reserve-seats-now-shakespeare-festival.html

    This is a great FREE event for people who like enjoying plays, or just a chilly night under the stary night in LA. Reservation for free tickets began a few days ago, but I think there may be some remaining seats available. So hurry to check out the link below and go to the “Main Stage” tab and “buy” – researve the tickets. I went to the last year’s event, too. It was very fun!
    I am going this year, too. See you there~. What a nice way to enjoy the summer night and free.

  15. Tracy says:

    In my community, we’re very fortunate to be able to hike along rivers and streams or take a stroll on the beach. This adds up to hours of fun. Besides a picnic or campfire, children can build sand castles or mud pies, throw (or skip) rocks, collect shells or driftwood, or identify the wonders of nature! Thanks for the tips, I enjoy your posts!

  16. Elderly librarian says:

    Once again, you don’t have to actually visit the public library (or the local community college library or a branch of your state u. library) to access their magazine and reference databases online from your home computer. Just call and ask them which access codes are needed. You pay taxes for this service. (Well some people are outside of the library taxing district, but they could buy a non-resident card) Each library may have a different “selection” of databases with different subjects for your reading pleasure. I always wonder why this is never mentioned on national tv. It’s because no one would “profit” by it.

  17. dlm says:

    The library has *new* books not just old used ones. I used to think they had nothing as new as buying but I was wrong. And you can request any book online and just pick it up – you don’t have to spend time there if you don’t want to.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *