Larry Crowe/AP/File
Grilled Nectarines with Blueberry Preserves are shown being grilled in this June 2007 file photo. Organizing a block party is a great way to eat well on a budget and spend time with neighbors, Hamm writes.

Block parties: A free, fun way to meet your neighbors

Planning a block party isn’t hard, Hamm writes, and it also doesn’t have to cost you much at all.

When Sarah and I first moved into our home in 2007, several neighbors stopped by to greet us and drop off small housewarming gifts. One of them also brought a flyer inviting us to a block party to take place in a week or so.

I attended the party (along with our only child at the time – Sarah had another commitment) and found it to be a great time. I got to meet all of my neighbors as well as some other people that lived in our neighborhood. I also got a meal for myself and my son while only having to bring one low-cost side dish.

At the time, our son was still only one year old, so he watched a large group of older children playing in the yard but didn’t ever join in, preferring to stick by his father. Today, of course, this would be a different story.

Since then, there have been a few additional block parties in our area. Each one has been just as fun as it was in the past.

Planning a block party isn’t hard, and it also doesn’t have to cost you much at all. Here are some suggestions:

Plan it during a dry and warm time of the year. Naturally, you can’t always avoid wet weather, but you can choose a time where the chances are relatively low. When you hand out a flyer describing the party, mention an inclement weather plan.

Make flyers. Mention the date and time of the event, what you want each person to bring, and who is invited (I suggest limiting it to people within two blocks of your home, likely along your street).

What should you have people bring? I’d suggest that they bring a lawn chair and ask them to RSVP. When people RSVP, ask them to bring an additional item, such as a side dish or an addition to the main course (a pound of ground beef or a package of bratwurst or something like that) or something like paper plates.

Clean out your pantry. Naturally, you’ll want to have items on hand to cover for people who don’t bring items. For that, clean out your pantry and assemble a small amount of food.

Borrow any equipment you need. Need a table or something like that? Don’t be afraid to ask a neighbor for that item. They’ll almost always be glad to help.

Be a good host. Greet everyone that attends and try hard to introduce people to each other and get conversations going. That’s what this is all about, after all!

What are the benefits? First, it’s a spectacular way to get to know lots of neighbors very quickly. Second, it doesn’t end up costing all that much. Third, it often gets the ball rolling and convinces others to host similar block parties, which are very low cost for you. In other words, it’s a wonderful use of your time.

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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