Check the Community Calendar (171/365)

A decade ago, I would often find myself bored after work.

Mind you, I wasn’t even married at that time. Children were still several years away. I was steadily dating my wife with plans to get engaged with her, but that hadn’t happened yet, either.

Sarah had her own commitments, as she was new at her job and was almost overwhelmed, so I found myself alone a lot of evenings.

Some evenings, I’d just work late out of a lack of anything better to do. Other evenings, I’d go out on the town by myself or with coworkers, spending money on drinks and appetizers. I went golfing a lot, dropping money on clubs and balls.

In other words, when I was bored, I usually just did the first thing that came into my mind, regardless of whether it cost money. Usually, that first idea did cost money.

Check the Community Calendar (171/365)

Of course, that was a giant mistake. Many of these things became my routines, and eventually I found myself in a real financial hole.

So, what do I do when I have an open evening today? The first thing I do is look for a lot of options and then I choose among them. I don’t just go with the first idea that comes into my head.

The challenge with this approach is finding those options. How do you know what’s available to do?

That’s where the community calendar comes in handy.

A community calendar is simply a listing of the events going on in a community. Community groups submit their events to the community calendar so that they can be found in one central place.

For example, you might find high school or college sporting events, concerts, public lectures, meetings of civic groups, and sign-up dates for sports leagues in a community calendar. They’re basically giant lists of things to do, from which you can pick and choose.

The best part is that a lot of the items found on a community calendar are free or at minimal cost. They’re run by community groups who are volunteering time, effort, and resources to make the community a better place.

For me, the real value is in looking at community calendars not just from my own community, but from ones nearby. I’ll look at what’s going on in other towns near us and use those as possibilities in deciding what to do.

As a result, we might spend one evening going on a guided tour of a historical area, spend the next evening going to a free concert, and then enjoy a free youth soccer game that our kids are participating in. We’ve been on winery tours, bicycle tours, and farming demonstrations. It’s all been free.

When you look at what’s available in all of the communities near you, you’ll find a plethora of free things to do. The key thing is to always examine lots of options instead of just doing the first thing that comes to mind.

This post is part of a yearlong series called “365 Ways to Live Cheap (Revisited),” in which I’m revisiting the entries from my book “365 Ways to Live Cheap,” which is available at Amazon and at bookstores everywhere. Images courtesy of Brittany Lynne Photography, the proprietor of which is my “photography intern” for this project.

Trent Hamm
Trent Hamm
Founder of The Simple Dollar

Trent Hamm founded The Simple Dollar in 2006 after developing innovative financial strategies to get out of debt. Since then, he’s written three books (published by Simon & Schuster and Financial Times Press), contributed to Business Insider, US News & World Report, Yahoo Finance, and Lifehacker, and been featured in The New York Times, TIME, Forbes, The Guardian, and elsewhere.

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