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The Simple Dollar

Community groups offer inexpensive recreation

Community groups are a big win for a frugal person, Hamm writes.

By Guest blogger / October 12, 2012

Brian Pleytez and Jacinta Johnson work in radio studio at the Challengers Boys and Girls Club in South L.A. Hamm recommends volunteering at a local community group as an enriching, cost-free activity.

Robert Harrison/The Christian Science Monitor


After discussing relationships the last few weeks in this series, we’re going to shift gears and look at ways to spend your free time without spending money – often in ways with a secondary benefit as well.

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The Simple Dollar is a blog for those of us who need both cents and sense: people fighting debt and bad spending habits while building a financially secure future and still affording a latte or two. Our busy lives are crazy enough without having to compare five hundred mutual funds – we just want simple ways to manage our finances and save a little money.

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Almost every town or city you visit has quite a few social organizations of various kinds.

In our town, for instance, there’s a book club, a thriving parks and rec department with tons of athletic programs, several churches, and a food pantry, just to name a few.

Go to the nearest city of any size and the options explode. There’s a community theatre, a community band, a Lion’s Club, the Knights of Columbus, a Toastmasters group, computer clubs, book clubs, gaming clubs … the list is almost endless.

If you go to Des Moines, the nearest large city, the river of options becomes an absolute flood. You can find some sort of group for almost any interest or passion you might have.

Most of these groups have a few things in common. They collect together people with a common interest. They provide a group setting for activities that are difficult to do alone. They cost very little (often nothing) to participate in.

Community groups are a big win for a frugal person.

How do you find these organizations?

The best place to start is the website for your local community. Many such sites will provide a partial listing of the community groups available in your town (depending on how well the community is organized, the list is often quite complete, but it’s never perfect). You might also want to check the sites of nearby cities and towns.

When you find a group you’re interested in, look for a point of contact. Many groups have a website that you can find or, at the very least, have contact information on your city’s website. Start there.

Don’t be afraid to ask for more information. It does not mean you have to join. It simply means that you’re interested in the group and want to know more.

Don’t be afraid to give it a whirl, either. Find out when the next activity is and simply go. Tell the person who seems to be in charge that you’re new and that person will likely explain what’s going on and will probably introduce you to others in the group.

Community organizations can be a great source of social enjoyment, self-improvement, and entertainment, and they often cost nothing to participate in. It’s something well worth taking advantage of.

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. 

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