When I began my debt-freedom journey one of the biggest issues that I worried about was how my life would change.
Now, let’s think about that for a moment.
I was financially overextended, stressed out, and dealing with chronic anxiety from all of the debt that I was dealing with. But, my biggest concerns were:
- Would I lose the lifestyle that I had paid too much for?
- Would I have a somewhat normal social life during the debt repayment process?
Like many people, I spent a lot of money on going out to eat, trips, fashion, and fun. I thought that paying off debt would mean an end to all of that.
I soon discovered that I could have had all of those things in my life — if I reimagined how those wants would have a place in my life without financing them with debt.
Fortunately for you, I’ve figured out a ton of ways to have an amazing life doing pretty much the same stuff as before for free (or cheap) without affecting the quality of my experiences.
Get free stuff: how this works.
First, you actually have to believe that there are cool, fun, free, and amazing things that you could be enjoying right now!
I continue to be amazed by all of the free stuff that I get to do on a monthly basis. Tequila tasting and class? Check! Mixology class? Check! Professional development workshops? Check! Free travel? Check! I’ve done them all.
Now, you’re probably wondering: where on earth I’m finding all of these free events and resources?
Before I begin looking, I make sure that I am very clear about the free stuff I’m looking for. I’m specifically interested in the following types of free goods and services:
- Experiences that enhance my social life.
- Ways to educate myself for free.
- Professional development opportunities.
- Delicious meals
- Coffee (ahem)
I do not look for the following free goods and services:
- Fast food-I don’t eat it.
- Professional services such as hair care. I’ll pay for that or do it myself!
Once I know what I want, it becomes very easy to get free stuff I’m looking for. I will be candid and say that it the bigger the city you live in the easier it is to find free goods and services. However, there are freebies everywhere, so don’t count out your small town.
Your network doesn’t have to be huge, but, it helps to know people.
Spend some time actively meeting new people in your community at least once a month. Volunteer, attend regular meetings, basically be the person who shows up regularly, is helpful and shares cool tips and information with the people that you’re meeting.
Likewise, they will share similar information. I can’t tell you how many great deals I would have missed out on if I didn’t have the network that I do. Just having that network has clued me into awesome musical performances, cool classes, and insider tips and deals.
I’m officially obsessed with this amazing resource.
If you’re not familiar with Meetup, it was created in New York City after the aftermath of the 9-11 attacks. It was a way to create and grow community.
Since then, it has morphed into a way to an incredible community building resource internationally. Here are examples of some of the free things that I’ve attended via Meetup: mixology classes in Denver (and may have gotten really drunk), hiking in the Blue Mountains of Australia, and digital marketing classes for my online business to name a few.
You can even find people for activities like book clubs, board game nights, and diner’s clubs. With meetup, you can find cool things to do and meet interesting people without spending a lot of money.
How does Meetup work? Well, it’s free to sign up for 95% of Meetup groups. Some group organizers will have a small fee to sign up, but I’ve never seen anything over $5.
The wonderful thing about Meetup is that the group leaders get group pricing for the different events that they put together. You get discounts, or even split the bill, making it cheaper for everyone.
In larger areas, for larger meetup groups, it’s also possible to connect with sponsors — like the large whiskey producer that provided the free mixology class that I attended. Free booze and lessons on how to mix up? Score!
In the past couple of years, I began paying more attention to the Facebook Events being shared in my feed.
I was amazed to find that there were so many free and inexpensive things to do in my town. I discovered that businesses often create one-off free events to get people to come in their doors and hopefully get enticed into continuing to come back for more.
Some events were to celebrate an anniversary or special event such as the Aspen-Snowmass 50th anniversary. They sold $6.50 lift tickets for a day of skiing. I’m on the lookout for other ski resort anniversaries in the upcoming years.
From live music at a local venue, to lectures in the park, to team trivia nights, to free help with your taxes, pay attention to Facebook Events. When you mark that you’re interested in something, you might be surprised that similar events appear in your feed. Many of these events are free or cheap.
Your city probably hosts a ton of local events that you may be unaware of. Spend some time researching free or discounted days at the following places:
- Recreation centers
- Botanical gardens
- Coworking spaces
Because it’s the beginning of the New Year this is a fantastic time to spend half an hour looking for free fun for the year to come. Put the events on your calendar now!
Plus, Google is a great way to find promo codes. Before I buy something online, I do a quick search to see if I can get a percentage off — or even get free shipping.
I enjoy volunteering as much as the next person, I just think people spend time thinking about the value of their time. Basically, I’m at the point where I want to get paid for everything that I do.
That said, volunteering is a great way to gain access to festivals, sporting events, and more. Want to check out the music festival? Volunteer to help set up the stage, doing some cleanup, or collect tickets. I know EMTs who volunteer in their off-hours to be available about sporting events and concerts. They get free admission and most of the night is usually slow.
However, I encourage you to spend some time thinking about the value of your time and the event that you would like to attend. Sometimes, it’s worth it to just pay the money and have a relaxing experience.
Create an Event.
This year I plan on creating the events that I would love to attend. I would also like to be paid for them as well (we’ll see how that goes).
Depending on the type of event that you’re creating this could be a huge time commitment. Again, don’t do this for free if it’s something that you should be paid for.
But, if you can organize a big enough event, you might be able to get sponsors and others to pick up the cost. Have fun, raise your stock in the community, and maybe get paid, too. That’s not bad for a day’s work.
Enjoy the journey as you find awesome events to attend throughout the year.
I love how I’ve saved thousands over the past year by spending a brief amount of time each week to find ways to continue to enjoy the same quality of life without going broke.
You can, too. It turns into a quest — one you can achieve with a little effort.