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I have a 2 year old son and a VERY limited budget, but I hated that a lack of money could be a barrier to us going out and having fun! Weekends would roll around, and I would be out of ideas as to what we could do that was free or cost very little. What I finally did was gather information about places to go and things to do that are free or low-cost in our area. I then typed up a master list of all the information about the places or activities that I would need.
This time of year, many places where you live probably offer special holiday activities that are perfect for making family memories! We are lucky enough to live near the Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium. Every year, just after Thanksgiving, they start their Zoolights exhibit. The zoo is open after hours and much of it is decorated in beautiful lights. And at certain times, you can see Santa dive with the sharks. :) We go to this event every year. If you look, I am sure you can find a neat place to start a new holiday tradition.
I live in Kenosha, WI, a great area, almost right in between Milwaukee, WI (30 minutes away) and Chicago, IL (about an hour away). When I was a teenager, I remember complaining about there not being anything to do in town. But now that I'm older and a mom myself, I realize just what a wealth of things there are to do here in our area!
This past summer, there were so many free or low-cost activities going on that it was impossible NOT to find something to do. We have a great, almost brand-new, public museum that offers free family activities, a brand-new dinosaur museum, art galleries, and a trolley that runs by the lakefront (we are pretty much situated right on Lake Michigan). In addition to that, we had at least two free outdoor concert series going on every week, a civil war era reenactment camp, more church festivals than I can tell you about, many outdoor farmer's markets with crafters, etc., and special festivals and events such as Woofstock, which benefitted the local humane society, and special outdoor "movies under the stars".
Our lakefront is great too, with walking paths, playground areas, small animal-shaped statues that shoot out water for the kids to run through, and a few nice little coffee shops where I can get a treat of a coffee for myself and a cookie for my son for under $3. I could go on and on, but my main point in all of this is, look around your own town for free or low-cost things that your family can do. I was very surprised to find that, once I started looking around, there were literally dozens of things to do! The best part being, most were free or almost free! It's kind of neat to be "a tourist" in your own city, and makes you feel connected to your community.
By Lisa from Kenosha, WI
This holiday it won't take money to create great family memories. There are so many family activities that can be done for less. So, forget about the expensive Martha Stewart decorations and the Rockettes on Broadway. Instead, pull together some real family memories.
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I am not usually a pest, but I am a Apartment Manager here in Rohnert Park. At one time this was assisted living. But not for a few years. It's a regular complex. We only have one bedroom units, so there are very few kids, we have adults mostly from 21-91. I don't have a creative bone in my body, but, I am trying to get some low-cost or no-cost activities here. To help the moral of the people. The young people kind of go their own way, busy with College, and work. The older people are lonely and bored. So there is my delima. Not trying to toss it in your court, but I would appreciate any suggestions?
Here are the things I do.
1. Get your digital camera, take pictures of birds, insects, or flowers, and identify each one. Make a scrap book. Person with the most ID'd animals gets to be "Master of Birds" for the apartment complex (or Master of Bugs, Master of Flowers, etc.)
2. I offered to do a free nature walk and ID all the plants and flowers I knew, but I got no responses. I think people don't understand that many cool-weather flowers are already out by Apr 15.
3. I like to go to parks and try to catch snakes. Best time is Apr 1-May 1 when the snakes are coming out of hibernation and mating.
4. I do geocaching, finding hidden treasure. But this requires buying a GPS, about $100-$400. Otherwise there is no charge to get coordinates for hidden treasure in your area. See geocaching.com.
Geocaching is fun because it's challenging and gets you walking out doors. It can be done all year round but some caches are harder to find if covered in snow. Cache boxes are often ammo boxes or tupperware containers, but can be as small as a film canister or lip balm tube.
5. A bunch of us gardeners do a plant swap. We trade plants, no cost for anyone. It is actually started via a Yahoo Group for gardening in Michigan. You bring some plants to trade and everyone puts their plants in a "pot", or common area. In Round 1, everyone picks 1 plant. In Round 2, everyone picks one plant, and so on. If you brought 10 plants, you get to have 10 picks. And there are always extra plants at the end to be given away to anyone who wants them. Great way to spruce up the apartments, outside and on the balconies.
I got the following for free: 4 kinds of mint, Jerusalem artichoke, spider wort, garlic, day lily, borage, bee balm, and more.
6. Bike riding is fun and good exercise. I try to find a new park sometimes.
7. Walking is fun and good exercise too. While you're at it, bring a trash bag and pick up garbage along a street.
8. Or try to beautify your area by planting perennial flowers, they will come back every year. Get them free at a plant swap.
Hope this helps.
I LIVE IN LOW-INCOME HOUSING AND BELIEVE ME IT CAN GET BORING. ONE GROUP SET UP A PARK WALK TUESDAYS AND THURDAYS. THEY GET A TEE-SHIRT AND GET EXCERISE WHILE LOOKING AT THE BEAUTY AROUND THEM. IN OUR TOWN WE HAVE A "SENIOR" BUS AND EVEN THOUGH I AM NOT A SENIOR I CAN TAKE IT. IT COSTS BETWEEN 5$ 5.00 AND $ 7.00 TO TAKE THE RIDE WITH OTHER SENIORS/DISABLED TO THE MALLS AND OTHER STORES. IN OUR COMMUNITY ROOM THERE IS ALWAYS AT LEAST ONE JIGSAW PUZZLE GOING. A LOT OF THE PUZZLES ARE DONATED. THEY ALSO HAVE A GROUP THAT KNITS AND CROCHETS IN THE COMMUNITY ROOM AND ARE ALWAYS WILLING TO SHOW A NEW PERSON THE ROPES. WE ALSO HAVE BOOKS DONATED AND THEY ARE AVAILABLE FOR EVERYONE TO READ AND THEN DONATE BACK. IF YOU HAVE THE ROOM GET DVDS OR VIDEOS OUT OF THE LIBRARY TO SCREEN FOR EVERYONE. OUR LIBRARY SYSTEM IS LINKED WITH MANY LIBRARIES AND WE CAN ORDERS THOOUSANDS OF TITLES. ALSO SEE IF THE LIBRARY WOULD LET YOU GIVE A SHORT COURSE ON THE COMPUTERS TO LET THE PEOPLE SET UP AN E-MAIL ADDRESS. THEY MAY NOT BE ABLE TO BUY A COMPUTER BUT THEY WOULD BE ABLE TO USE ONE FOR FREE. I DO NOT KNOW IF THIS IS OKAY FOR YOU, BUT BY OUR COMMUNITY ROOM WE HAVE A "SHOP" WHERE PEOPLE PUT IN THIR THINGS TO SELL. THE ONES THAT RUN IT GET A PERCENTAGE AND THE SELLER GETS THE REST. I ALSO DO NOT KNOW IF YOU REDEEM BOTTLES AND CANS BUT WE HAVE CONTAINERS IN THE HALL TO COLLECT AND THE MONEY COLLECTED FROM THE SHOP AND THE REDEMPTIONS GO TOWARD THE COMMUNITY. WE HAVE HAD A CHRISTMAS PARTY AND A FOURTH OF JULY PARTY AND SMALL GIFTS ETC. GOOD LUCK.....HEATHER
When I managed apartments I started a monthly birthday party, also a monthly potluck. I had a pot of coffee going every morning in the rec room for those who wanted coffee hour. I put together a monthly newsletter, anyone could contribute. They had to keep it clean. It was quite popular. We collected cans and bottles and the money went to the community.
Try a "coffee morning". You just have people come out and have a morning coffee and a chat. You can have it once a week or more if you get a good turn out. If you have a budget to pay for coffee, great! If not just pass the can around and encourage people to toss in coins for supplies. I used to do this as a new mom in the UK, it is very popular and gives people a reason to get up and get out of the house which can jump start their day. Good luck!
what about bringing out the old photos. they enjoy seeing themselves. etc.
you could also have a girl/boy scout troup come and play games with them.
If you have a meeting area or commons area, why not have a monthly birthday party for whoever would like to come. You can buy large decorated sheet cakes very cheaply ( Costco, Winco, Sam's Walmart, etc.) and have say the 10th of every month be a birthday celebration and invited all the tenents and you could provide tea, coffee, or cheap punch to accompany the cake. Bunches of balloons don't cost much either to decorate with. An apartment owner does this in my area and the tenents love it and feel like he is showing some interest in his tenents other than just collecting the rents. Soon or later you have covered everyone and their birthday by having the monthly birthday get togethers. It would also give the tenents a chance to meet and visit with each other.
I just sent the message about a monthly birthday party for the tenents. I forgot to mention that it would be special if you took a group picture of each month of birthday people ( the ones that actually are celebrating their brithdays that month), and post them in the activites room or give each of them a copy of the pictures- very low cost.
If there's a volunteer service in your community, call them. There might be some musicians, pianists, etc. who would he happy to come on a weekly basis, or whenever it could be set up, and volunteer to play some music or have a sing-along. (If you have an activity area such as a dining room for group gatherings.)
Or maybe some of your residents would be interested in doing volunteer work themselves with materials that could be brought in, or utilize a county bus system (usually at a minimal cost for senior citizens) to transport them to and from a volunteer center if they'd prefer and are able to get out. Like filling baskets, assembling and folding newsletters, addressing envelopes, stocking food pantries, etc. There are usually a lot of volunteer activities they could help with according to their capabilities. This makes them feel needed and worthwhile, which they are; and is a big morale booster. Maybe a day care with a small group of children could visit your residents and bring books to share, etc. One apartment complex I know of had a Bingo game every Saturday, and they would each bring a prize for the winners, but the rule was that the prize had to be something they didn't go out and buy for the game; like something they had but didn't use much... anything from a nic-nac to a box of cracker jacks, or a hand crocheted pot-holder. I would begin by checking resources in your community/county, like a Commission for the Aged, who could probably help provide you with other valuable resources which are available to bring some activity to your apartment residents.
Potluck dinner once a month
Flower arranging class (contact local florist or gardening center)
Health fair (contact local hospital or college)
beauty or makeover night
contact your local churches to see if they have a praise band or other group that would give a free concert: Our children ring bells at local senior centers
Arrange speakers on gardening, crafts, cooking, etc. (poll your residents about what they are interested in) contact local colleges or use some of your residents to speak
How about a talent show put on by the residents
Or a contest of any kind for each season
Holiday parties: Easter egg hunts, Christmas caroling, Halloween costume party, July 4th "parade", Get creative with some more unusual ideas (national icecream day-make your won sundaes, etc)
A humor night: Joke telling contest, watch a funny video. Comedy club
Older folks love to have someone to chat with-serve tea and coffee for a chat
Game night-play board games or cards (this is a BIG one is our family as young kids and grandparents can play together)
Monthly happy hour-BYOB and a snack to share (if appropriate for your community)
Political candidates can come and discuss pertinent issues
contact your local fire department. They will do fire safety training for free
Police department will do free personal safety training
Contact local martial arts, dance studios, and cultural centers for free demonstrations-very entertaining
Your local zoo might send a docent with some animals. Also try raptor rehabilitation
You'll have to invest some time making phone calls-so I recommend starting a binder or keeping a steno with who you called and when (what the offer and cost if any). You might be able to offer this service to other apartment managers at a slight fee...
Lastly, don't be disappointed if the first few are poorly attended. People have a hard time breaking their old habits of doing nothing! Keep plugging away
You may want to have door prizes...contact local business and ask for a donation
Good luck-Sounds like great fun!
How about a checkers night? Or a book and magazine swap night? Plant a community garden and have whoever want to add a plant or flowers?