Updated on 09.09.14

The One Hour Project: Discover And Catalog Free Events In Your Community

Trent Hamm

Almost everyone loves to get out of the house sometimes and do stuff. The only problem is that many of the ideas that we come up with for doing stuff cost money. I know that this is often true, even for me: I think of going out and golfing or going to a bookstore, both of which are destined to trick me into spending money that I shouldn’t be spending.

One solution that has worked well for me is to make a big list of free events in the community and use that as a regular reminder of free things that are going on. I have a long list of the things to do that are always free (parks, libraries, etc. in the town), as well as all recurring events (community concerts, farmers markets, etc.) and irregular events (festivals, etc.). Then, whenever I get the desire to go out and about and do something, I just scan the list for something interesting – if I find something on there that intrigues me, then I’ve suddenly found entertainment that doesn’t empty my pocket.

Constructing a Community Events List

Visit the website of your community and of ones nearby

These will usually provide you a list of parks, libraries, community festivals, and so on for your local communities. It’s a great starting point for finding interesting things to do.

Visit city hall in your community

Ask for a copy of the community calendar and also look around for postings about free events.

Contact the park and recreation service

Ask for a schedule of events and a list of resources available. I found tons of things going on and resources available that I had no idea about.

Visit the library

Almost all libraries have a schedule of events that talks about book clubs and other things going on in the community. Plus, library bulletin boards are treasure troves of information, and libraries have tons of (basically) free books, CDs, and DVDs that you can check out.

Get a copy of the local newspaper

This is actually the best function of many small town newspapers – informing people of upcoming community events and other things going on. It was through the local newspaper, in fact, that I got involved with the school board.

Obviously, some things will never be of interest to you – and feel free to exclude those. I would include everything that even might have a glimmer of a chance, though, because you might pick up the list at that very moment when you’re in the right mood for a particular activity. For me, that means I include all of the city council meetings, all of the school board meetings, the sports games of the local high school, and so on.

For me, this list of free (and nearly free) events has saved me a significant amount of money over the last several months, and it’s also led me to meet a lot of interesting people in the community and forge some new friendships. You don’t have to go drop some cash whenever you leave the house – and you might be surprised at the variety and depth of things available to you.

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  1. Marina @ Sufficient Thrust says:

    I keep a “calendar” tag in del.icio.us where I save links to local community calendars. On the first of each month, I quickly scroll through those links and add upcoming events to my Google Calendar.

    I used to keep a physical calendar and log events with color-coded Sharpies (i.e. blue for musical events, green for hikes) so if I was in the mood to go out one night I could glance over and choose. However, since I live in multiple states at the same time now, that’s no longer feasible.

    I also love Meetup.com for free or really cheap events in the area. In fact, I check for Meetup events on topics of interest in cities that I’m just visiting for a few days.

  2. frugalmomma26 says:

    This idea saved my finances and my sanity … when I was raising my two sons and operating an in home daycare. We visited so many story-hours at the library, that they new us all by name. We also took advantage of events at the community museums as well as the college museum. Like you said … it is nice to put everything down, because you just never know what you, the spouse, or the kids will be interested in when the time arrives.

  3. Lu says:

    Great ideas! I have been doing this in order to make my calendar for things my son and I can do since I will be a stay at home mommie soon… Hadn’t thought about going to the city hall!

  4. Lisa says:

    I just moved into a new community that has a wonderful library system! Not only are there the print materials for loan, but they also have a section on their website where they offer Audiobooks for free download. Yay!

    I also have been using your tip to look into the community activities. I am going to a free bulb planting seminar next month. I’ll have access to a Master Gardener for FREE!!!

    Thanks again for all your tips. And, congrats on the new daughter (kisses from me!).

  5. Avlor says:

    I do this to keep the kiddos occupied and getting out and about. The local library here has a wonderful story time for kids. Toss it all into my google calendar and I can see what things we can attend. (with 2 kids my calendar is REALLY full!)

  6. Christine says:

    I also do just a simple google search for “free things to do in ____________.” Fill in the name of your city or state, or a place you plan to visit. A lot of people have done the work for you. It’s GREAT!

  7. And please share with friends! A friend of a friend does this in our area, and I was fortunately to receive a copy this spring. It was terrific.

  8. Meadowworks says:

    Don’t forget to check for free events in communities/town that may be a short drive away. We’ve found many free concerts and festivals in nearby towns

  9. Evelyn says:

    Craigslist.org has a section for ‘Community Activities’, many of which are free, in every community where they have listings.

    Craigslist also has a good ‘free’ section of things people are giving away.

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