Santa Cruz is generally an expensive place to live (at least in terms of housing prices), but "with a little help from our friends", we can share and enjoy the city without spending much money. And remember, if you use free services but have some dough, spread the love and good karma to keep services free to the people who need them most.


  • Food Not Bombs shares free vegan meals every Saturday at 4pm in front of the Santa Cruz downtown Post Office
  • Click Here to see Metroactive's Homeless Dining Guide
  • Though Dumpster Diving may be illegal, many grocery stores and bakeries throw out lots of food on a regular basis.
  • Trader Joe's typically gives out free samples of a selected food item (changes day-to-day) and small cups of coffee.
  • Costco gives out various free samples. It also puts out free muffins and coffee during first hour of operation. You need a Costco card to get in, but that can easily be bypassed.
  • The Santa Cruz Farmers' Market, as well as many other farmers markets, give out free samples of tasty local produce.

Every Tuesday is Local night everywhere in Santa Cruz. Some deals:

Wednesday night deals:

  • A) All you can eat Pasta at Upper Crust Pizza & Pasta on Mission Street
  • B) Joe's Pizza and Subs (1207 Pacific Ave) has $2 cheese pizza on Wednesdays

All You Can Eat Buffets:

  • A) May's Sushi (1800 Soquel Ave) has AYCE sushi under $22 for lunch and under $25 for dinner 7 days a week
  • B) Real Thai Kitchen (1632 Seabright Ave) has an AYCE buffet from 11am-3pm Monday through Friday
  • C) Ocean City Buffet (431 Front Street) has an AYCE lunch and dinner buffet 7 days a week.  Prices change after 4pm.
  • D) Sitar Indian Cuisine (1133 Pacific Ave) has an AYCE vegetarian buffet 7 days a week for under $12
  • E) Maharaja (270 Soquel Ave) has an AYCE lunch buffet from 11:30am-3pm 
  • F) Bangkok West (2505 Cabrillo College Dr #4) in Aptos has an AYCE Thai lunch buffet from 11a-2:30p Monday through Friday
  • G) Miyako Sushi (1820 41st Ave #G) in Capitola has an AYCE lunch buffet from 11a-2:30p Monday through Friday
  • H) Round Table Pizza (2690 41st Ave) in Capitola has an AYCE lunch buffet from 11a-1:30p Monday through Friday

Community Dinners



Computers for Public Use

  • Santa Cruz Public Library At the central branch, computer use is free if you have a library card. If you don't have one, it costs $1 for 20 minutes of internet time.
  • McHenry Library on the UCSC campus has computers on the entry-level floor which do not require a username or password, and school policy is to let all members of the public use them for free.
  • SubRosa has two computers available to the public.
  • Ultramat Laundromat and snack bar

Free Wifi Hot Spots

See: Wireless Internet for a comprehensive listing.




For a more complete listing of museums, see the Museums & Attractions page.


  • UC Santa Cruz holds many musical and theatrical events which are open to the public for free.
  • FREE TWILIGHT CONCERTS IN CAPITOLA all summer every Wednesday evening from 6-8pm at the Bandstand by the seawall with room to dance, or bring a picnic dinner and sit on the beach or grass.

Parks and Outdoors

Sports and Exercise


  • The Santa Cruz Hostel in the Beach Hill area rents bunks for $28 per bed, per night for adults (this option is for NON-Santa Cruz County residents only). They are closed to guests & the public from 11am-5pm.
  • Camping is a rather expensive option (if you go legal with the State Parks). It runs $35 a night for car camping. Backpacking is cheaper.

Health Services

  • The Santa Cruz AIDS Project offers free, confidential HIV testing for at-risk individuals. (Your "risk" is assessed at your appointment, and is based on if you have experienced or have been exposed to any of the risk factors they look at.)
  • Planned Parenthood offers free and low-cost reproductive and primary care. You can apply for FamilyPACT funding for free reproductive care, birth control and contraception and you can also use private insurance or Medi Cal.

Clothing, Furniture, and Material Goods

Free Stuff


  • Santa Cruz County Freecycle A network of people in the Santa Cruz area which operates through a "gift economy" ethic, offering, requesting and receiving goods with absolutely no strings attached or money involved. Also visit
  • Craigslist Free Listings: Santa Cruz
  • Keep your eyes out for "free boxes" around town, especially around the times when leases tend to expire (Mid-June and the end of August)
  • You wouldn't believe the stuff people throw away.
  • Santa Cruz Free Skool usually hosts a free-for-all exchange day about once per quarter. Check their current calendar to find out where and when.


  • You can receive a free 2.5 gallon used oil container for recycling your used oil and filters by calling (831) 420-5220. You can place the container next to your regular curbside recycling bins for pickup.
  • Sometimes you may be able to get free automobile fluids at the Second Chance Store (see the Home Improvement/Gardening section below)

Home Improvement/Gardening

  • The Second Chance Store at the Santa Cruz Resource Recovery Center occurs every Saturday from 7:30am to 3:30 pm. Here you can receive (and donate) free usable household products that have been donated for disposal, even though they are still usable. Common items include house paint, adhesives, stains, cleaning supplies, garden/auto products, caulk and aerosol products.


Misc. Cheap Stuff


Also see: Saving Money on Textbooks

  • Santa Cruz County Head Start "A comprehensive child development program for children birth to five years of age and their families", including many free programs for low income families with children and children with disabilities.
  • Santa Cruz Adult School Offers some free classes (such as GED preparation, computer skills, English as a Second Language, etc.); other classes offered for a fee.
  • Watsonville/Aptos Adult Education Offers some free classes (such as GED preparation, computer skills, English as a Second Language, etc.); other classes offered for a fee.
  • Santa Cruz Free Skool
  • SubRosa has a collection of radical books, as well as a posting area for local radical events and actions.




  • Walking is free and fun! The city puts out a variety of self-guided walking tour brochures to teach people about the history of Santa Cruz.
  • At the Santa Cruz downtown information center, you can pick up a brochure with walking tour instructions to view the downtown public art. You can also pick up the other walking tour brochures there as well.

Also see: Walking


  • The Bike Church A tool cooperative and do-it-yourself repair facility for bicycles.
  • FREE access to cycling routes throughout the county are available on the Santa Cruz County Cycle Club web site at:  Look under the 'rides' menu for the 'Rides Library'. You can download the routes with route sheets and maps. 

Also see: Cycling

Birthday Freebies and Perks

  • Video Video will give you a free video rental during the month of your birthday.
  • On your 21st birthday, many local Bars and Nightclubs will give you a free drink. Frequently people will go barhopping to all the local places and be drunk for free by the end of the night.

Programs and Deals for Minors (Under age 18)

Programs and Deals for Teens (12-19)

  • Santa Cruz Teen Center offers teens recreational activities such as basketball, pool tables, Wii, X-Box 360, outdoor activities, foosball, movies, internet, and music. The Teen Center also sponsors dances, band nights, special events, day and overnight trips, sports, and outdoor events in addition to daily activities.

Programs and Deals for Seniors

  • The City of Santa Cruz program Downtown Seniors offers low cost classes and resources, as well as free blood pressure screenings.Check the current Parks and Recreation Guide at for time and location.
  • The City of Santa Cruz offers a free self-defense class for women age 60 and above at no cost. Check the current Parks and Recreation Guide at for time and location.
  • Ask for the senior discount at Dharmas Organic vegetarian restaurant to save an additional 10% Order the small burrito and it is less than $6 for a full meal with salad. Or go to their web site and subscribe for FREE to their weekly email List for a discount coupon of $5 off a $25 purchase.

Programs and Deals for Students

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