Our family has been going through a transformation from a paycheck-to-paycheck family to a family that has money in the bank. While I wouldn't say we are extreme frugalists, we do try to save as much money as we can, yet still provide excellent entertainment and learning opportunities for our family. Like J.D. (and many others!), we have struggled with finding that balance where we allow some fun while working to increase our financial health.
When it comes to entertainment, I think we are close to finding that balance. We do allow some money in our budget for that type of spending, but not much. We supplement our spending by enjoying as many free activities/events in our area as we can. But where do we find them?
The internet turned out to be a great resource for us and I thought I would share what I've learned with you. Of course, internet sources vary greatly depending on where you live so this is a generic list that I hope can be helpful to everyone. By all means, if you have suggestions, feel free to share with everyone in the comments!
- TV & Radio Stations — Most of our local stations have an online community calendar. While not everything listed has been free, I have found some great gems.
- Newspapers — Our newspaper's online version has a community calendar. They also sometimes post articles about free events (they tend to be right before the event so they are last minute finds).
- Hospitals — I never knew our local hospital sponsored so many free activities to promote good health! The free activities around us are often geared towards kids but the whole family is invited.
- Cities/Towns — Municipalities around us have event pages to promote what is happening. Free concerts around us are pretty popular.
- Local Tourism Sites — Our local tourism sites have given us ideas regarding free places to visit and explore in our area. They also have a calendar that we check for free events.
- Bookstores & Libraries — When it comes to finding free presentations by authors or literacy programs for children, bookstores and libraries are the place to look.
- Sporting Goods Stores — I was surprised when I came across a local sporting goods store with a calendar of events. One near us sponsors things like free get-together bike rides.
- National & State Parks — some state parks in our area have free nature programs and hikes for families during the summer.
- Schools & Colleges — One school in our area has an online newsletter on their website that includes upcoming local activities for families. I've found quite a few free things to do from that. The local college advertises free seminars and concerts. Both of these are usually more active during the school year.
- Historical Societies & Museums — In my experience, there is usually a fee for events sponsored by historical societies and museums. However, at least once a year the ones near us have a free open house and some link to free historical seminars at other locations.
- Target Stores — They are sponsoring free and reduced fee activities this summer. The activities are in major metropolitan areas, but if you are near one there are some great offerings. For example, admission to the Portland Children's Museum is free on the first Friday of the month.
- Search Engines — I've found a few obscure free things to do just by searching for “free events [my town]” or “free activities [my town]” on Google.
The sites I find are bookmarked and checked weekly. The small amount of time I spend to check them is worth it since the free activities and events we attend feel like little splurges to us. They are fun and they are free!
Lynn is a long-time reader of personal-finance blogs. She is the CFO (Chief Financial Officer) of her family, and is working hard to increase her financial health after years of many poor financial choices.