I’ve moved so many times within the past five years that I’ve lost count. While moving to a new city is always a bit harrowing, my stress doesn’t ease even after I’m settled. It’s often the newness of the place and experience that gets me worried, as I am not sure how much it will cost me to adjust to the local scene.
Being the frugal type, I always look for a cheap solution whenever I’m in an unfamiliar situation. I’ve even got a list of things to do after moving to a new city.
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1. Go to Your Local Library
Your local public library isn't just for the bookish. It's also a great source of entertainment. (Some libraries even let you borrow musical instruments. How cool is that?) It has the most useful information on events and programs available locally (most are free or super cheap).
When I moved to Jacksonville, Florida, I searched out a library specifically for kids' activities. It had a calendar of free activities and meet-up groups. Other libraries may have bulletin boards where area businesses and community groups post events. I’ve even found food fairs (with free food!), movie nights, and discounted rates at various restaurants.
2. Find Farmers' Markets
Farmers' markets are another source of free entertainment. They feature local businesses, food samples, and even outdoor concerts. You also get to meet locals and chat with them about other no-cost activities. I’ve been to dozens of farmers' markets and have gotten invited to farm tours and other places I could go to for free. Even if you’re not buying produce and you’re just going for the free music, nobody will kick you out. So what have you got to lose?
Much like farmers' markets, flea markets are a gold mine of area residents willing to share their knowledge. For example, I stumbled upon a flea market the first week I moved to Jacksonville. My family and I ended up staying there for hours listening to a church choir, eating cheap food from the produce stands, and chatting with our new neighbors.
3. Take Advantage of Facebook
Yes, it’s a time suck, but you can find a wealth of information on Facebook (move over, Google). Start by searching for activity or mutual-interest groups in your area. For instance, if you’re a parent, look for mommy groups. Many of these groups post deals and events.
You can always ask for recommendations for things to do in your area, and many people will be glad to help.
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Even if you don’t join Facebook groups, you can search for local events. You may have noticed that news of them pops up from time to time in your sidebar. If you’re like me, once you click on one of those links, you end up in a black hole of information. Set the location so that Facebook’s algorithm will tell you what’s happening locally. If you express any interest in the results, it will also find related events.
I sought out a playgroup for my son, which I thought it would also be a great way to meet other parents. I ended up joining two Facebook groups and getting to know five families who lived in my area. They’ve shown me where the best parks are and told me about free movie nights at churches and free admission days at museums.
4. Go to the Local Gym
Local gyms and yoga studios usually offer free classes or introductory prices to first-time customers. You may also be able to visit health fairs where outdoor classes are available at no cost.
Many yoga studios partner with spas or other holistic centers to give discounts or hold free events. I recently went to a studio where I found out about gratis sessions at a holistic medicine school. I chatted briefly with the owner of the yoga studio and he offered me a few free classes as well as a discount for a massage at a local spa. Students I spoke with at the studio also pointed me to free yoga classes in public parks and donation-based classes.
5. Get Outside
Love nature? Enjoying the outdoors is a great way to spend time with your family and friends as well as get some exercise. Search online for events at state parks, such as Get Outdoor Days in the summer, for which no entrance fee is required. There is also a program called Every Kid in a Park that gives free passes to fourth graders. All they need to do is complete a simple activity to qualify.
Your city might have walking or biking trails that you can take advantage of. You should be able to find biking trail maps or even information about guided walking tours online. Print out a map or download it on your phone and you’re ready to go.
6. When in Doubt, Look to Coupon Sites
Sites like Groupon, Living Social, and Our Deal can be great sources for cheap or heavily discounted activities. When you’re tired, stressed, and maybe new to an area, you’re going to want an easy way to find some entertainment.
For example, when I was trying to find a reasonably priced date-night option, I visited Groupon to look for restaurants.
Instead, I found a $15 deal for tickets to a comedy club and free appetizers. We not only ate a pretty good meal, but also laughed our butts off for an hour, all for less than the price of two fast-food meals.
These six strategies have always helped me settle into a new community at the least possible cost.