Recently Moved? These Tips Will Help You Explore Your New City on the Cheap

A woman looks at the building structure of a building in downtown St. Petersburg, Fla.
Pauline Bourque, of Montreal, Canada, looks at the building architecture on Central Avenue during a walking tour in downtown St. Petersburg, Fla., on Dec. 7, 2017. The tour costs $10 and it can be an affordable way to get to know your new city. Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder

Since leaving my childhood home in New Jersey, I’ve moved around quite a bit.

In the span of 12 years, I’ve lived in six different cities in four states — Virginia, Mississippi, Georgia and back to New Jersey — before finally settling in St. Petersburg, Florida, eight months ago.

I’ve learned to get acclimated to a new place quickly, though I must admit, it can take a little while before a new town really starts to feel like home.

One barrier to adjusting to a new city can be the cost. Moving is already a big expense — especially if you’re enduring a cross-country relocation.

It can be tempting to fall into a boring routine, just going from home to work or school and back again, since visits to all the local attractions and neighborhood bars and restaurants can be a burden to your bank account.

But unless you want to feel out of place and disconnected to your new home for months, it can be worth investing time and energy into exploring and experiencing your new city. The good thing is you can do that without investing a lot of money.

Get Informed

In the same way an orientation period can help you get grounded when you start college or a new job, learning more about your new city may help you adjust.

Good places to start include your local visitors center, tourism bureau and chamber of commerce. These organizations market your city to outsiders and can be a good source of knowledge when it comes to learning the ins and outs of your new place.

Some may have free pamphlets, fliers or publications that highlight local attractions, community programs and annual events that take place in your new town.

Gaining some basic knowledge of the history of your new home can also help you establish a better sense of belonging. The public library may have books on your town’s history that you can check out for free.

Local museums and programs put on by historical societies and preservation groups are also good resources — though admission might come at a cost.

Get Immersed

A tour group becomes a silhouette as they walk through an enclosed walkway in downtown St. Petersburg.
Peter Belmont leads a walking tour group around Central Avenue in downtown St. Petersburg, Fla. Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder

Acquiring knowledge is great, but when you move to a new city, you’re going to want to actually experience it.

One simple way to do that? Take a walk.

Walk through your city’s downtown or other neighborhoods of interest and check out the local businesses, street art or signs in storefronts that you’d miss driving by in a car.

If your new town is big on tourism, try finding a walking tour where a guide can point out all the quirks and hidden gems. It’s important to note, guided tours sometimes come at a cost. In my new city, St. Petersburg Preservation and Florida CraftArt regularly host walking tours.

If you want to go your own route, GPSmyCity is an app that helps users navigate cities for self-guided walking tours.

You can also experience your new town inexpensively by exploring free public parks and beaches or by attending local festivals that don’t charge at the gate.

When visiting attractions with entry fees, check sites like Groupon and LivingSocial for discounts or contact the venue to see if they have reduced-admission days or discounts for residents. The Salvador Dali Museum and the Museum of Fine Arts in St. Petersburg both offer reduced fares on Thursday evenings.

Want to check out that hot local restaurant with all the great Yelp reviews? Take advantage of happy hour specials, stick to ordering appetizers or small plates or choose to dine at lunch instead of dinner to avoid overspending.

Get Involved

Older women participate in a chair yoga class at a library in St. Petersburg, Fla.
Karen Slosser participates in a chair yoga class at West Community Library at St. Petersburg College in St. Petersburg, Fla. Library programs are an inexpensive way to get to know your new city. Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder

While an address may make you a resident of a place, engaging with your neighbors makes you part of a community.

Local libraries often host a variety of classes at low cost or for free. They can be a great opportunity to meet others while participating in a hobby you enjoy.

The St. Petersburg Library System hosts book clubs, knitting and needlecraft clubs, and sessions to practice chair yoga and guided meditation. It also holds children’s storytime events at which stay-at-home parents can meet other families in the neighborhood.

Volunteering is another way to meet and connect with new people — plus you’ll get to make a positive difference in your new town. VolunteerMatch and the United Way can help you identify volunteer opportunities that are right for you.

Meetup, a social networking platform, is also an outlet to get involved with folks in your new area. You can search for local groups based on common interests and join them on various outings, some of which are free.

What to Watch Out For

The quest to become acclimated to a new town can make you feel like a tourist from time to time, and that’s totally OK. Just don’t fall for any tourist traps.

You don’t have to do everything in one weekend, so spread out your adventures and take the time to assess your spending.

If your aim is to experience what makes your new city unique, take a pass on spending money on stuff you can get anywhere. That chain restaurant is going to be the same every place you go. That can also generally be said about the mall, the movies, the zoo, the aquarium and most amusement parks.

Finally, make a reasonable budget and stick to it. That’s the Penny Hoarder way!

Nicole Dow is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She loves experiences that come with a low price tag.