Updated on 04.06.07

Five Minute Finances #21: Look At Your Community Calendar

Trent Hamm

Five Minute FinancesFive Minute Finances is a series of tips on how you can save significant money or reorganize your financial life in just five minutes. These tips appear Monday, Wednesday, and Friday on The Simple Dollar.

Quite often in the evenings, my family looks for activities to do together. Sometimes we’re frugal and we go to the park – other times we’re not so frugal and we go to the bookstore or to a botanical garden with an entrance fee or the like. The important (and healthy) thing is that we are spending time together, right?

Well, it turns out that almost every night in our local community, there’s some sort of free entertainment going on: a farmer’s market, a municipal band concert in the park, a play on the town stage, a free concert by a local band in the park, a planning meeting for the town festival, a basketball game at the local high school, a community dinner for the fire department, and so on. These events are all either free or else offer a deep discount (like a freewill donation at the fire department dinner, where $5 in the pot gets dinner and contact with people in the community).

If you want a ton of free entertainment, there’s a ton of it to be found in your local community. The only problem is that it can be difficult to be aware of what is going on. There’s a solution to that: call your city hall and also give a ring to your chamber of commerce and ask for a community calendar. In many cities, a weekly or monthly community calendar is printed and given away freely, which lists community activities of all kinds. Circle some that you like and attend them – you can’t get a bigger savings than having an entertaining evening for free.

Even more important: your local community can be a valuable resource, and this is a great way to get to know them. I’ve discussed the financial value of being involved in your community before, but when you pair it with activities that are free to begin with, you’re actually throwing away opportunities and wasting money by staying at home or going out to shop in the evenings.

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  1. Christine says:

    I actually did this a while ago. My college is in a really small town, and people complain that nothing goes on. But they don’t look at the (suprisingly well designed) website! I’m looking forward to Middle Eastern food for sale at a church on May 6, and a Herb and Plant Fair soon after that ^.^

  2. corey says:

    This is absolutely true. In the Seattle area most of the museums offer free nights through out the month. It is possible to visit great museums every weekend. This was also true when I lived in San Diego. It’s a great place to take the kids, and you might actually learn something. Avoiding the gift store skillfully placed at each exit, could be another post all together.

  3. plonkee says:

    I just discovered last week that the Unitarian Church near my office has free classical music concerts on Friday nights. I’ll be putting that in my calendar.

  4. Stephen says:

    This is something that my wife and I do. I have been checking our small cities Recreation page over the past week as I know that the new calendar is supposed to go up really soon. We have been eyeing some fitness and other classes that we would not mind taking.

  5. Ken says:

    When our children were young, we found that some of the high end events that do charge (symphonies, operas, musicals, etc) allow people into their dress rehearsals for free. The performances are still good because they’re ready for opening night, the atmosphere is more family friendly, and the time of the rehearsal (afternoon vs 9 pm shows) may even allow you to keep your children’s bedtimes intact.

  6. carrie says:

    I live in a small town of about 4000. So there really isn’t that much for families to do. The closest city is fifty miles away, and that in itself is costful because of fuel prices. Also, this time of year it is about 100 degrees. I guess we could figure out things to do at home.But then there is the tendency to get cabin fever once in awhile. If you have any suggestions pertaining to my situation it would be greatly appreciated. The article was a good though, thanks.

  7. Mary says:

    While I agree with many of your observations–I do have a news flash for you–many of the things you listed as “free” are not free in my community. High school sporting event???? Forget it–$6.00 per person to get in–even if your child is playing (you can buy an annual pass, but at $50.00 per adult we stopped doing that as soon as our children were done playing). Of course students get in free with their ASB card–but we had to pay for those at the beginning of every school year–in fact, they had to buy one if they wanted to participate in the school sports program!!!

    And the free dinners, nope, at least $3.00 per person (although it’s usually called a donation). The free concerts in the park and art museum nights are great, as are the gallery walk nights. But it’s amazing to me the number of things that used to be free that now come with a price tag.

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