City East (CBD)

The East End is the pricey part of town, but it doesn’t have to be if you know where to go. The big cultural institutions – the State Library of SA, SA Museum, Art Gallery and Botanic Gardens – all offer free entry to at least part of their exhibits. While it’s not free, there’s at least one other affordable entertainment option in this area, with the Palace Nova Cinemas showing films at a discounted ticket price of $8.50 every Monday. Eating and drinking are harder to do without spending too many dollars, but Fancy Burger has the best burgers in town for about $10, while Zen House offers good, cheap vegetarian food, and Dumplings R Us will get you a warm meal for less than $9. 

City West (CBD)

Sure – plenty of things in the West End sound lovely, but not everyone has the kind of cash required to visit fancy wine bars, laze about in cafés all day or even buy mountains of Yum Cha. If you’re less-than-flush, there are still plenty of options for you in the West End. You can soak up some culture for free at the Samstag Museum of Art which is part of UniSA’s City West campus and is open Tuesday through Saturday. Or you can get entertainingly sweaty on one of the Adelaide City Council’s free basketball half courts – the most popular ones seem to be located in Whitmore Square. Of course, food is always going to cost you money but with just $8 you can get 15 steamed pork dumplings from Dumpling King, which has outlets on King William Street and Moonta Street. And if you’re wandering past the Central Markets near closing time, you’d be well advised to redirect your feet into the market where you’ll find several stall holders selling produce cheaply to avoid throwing it out.

Eastern Suburbs

Those short of cash aren’t too badly off in this part of town, but you do need to know where to go to make the most of your dollar. Norwood Parade is spotted with cheaper eateries that hide in between the bigger restaurants. Our pick is Yanni’s Yiros, where you can get a filling meal for about $10. Entertainment can come cheap out east as well. A good start is Scammel Auctions. Here, a weekly auction of second-hand furniture and bric-a-brac is held – usually on Mondays. Sure, you might not have enough money to buy something, but live auctions are exhilarating nonetheless, especially if you can convince some of your wealthier friends to throw a bid in here and there. Kent Town’s back streets also offer a little bit of cheap entertainment in the form of the street art adorning many of the back alley walls in the area.

Inner South

Yes – the inner south is a wealthy area, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t a few things to do for free. Haigh’s Chocolates is an illustrious South Australian company that have conquered markets interstate and undeniably make the best chocolate ever (yes, we are biased). What makes Haigh’s even more awesome is that their Greenhill Road factory hosts free tours every weekday from 9am-2.30pm and on Saturdays from 9am-1pm – don’t forget to call 8372 7070 to make a booking before you arrive. Another local attraction is the Waite Arboretum, a chunk of 30 hectares of land that has been given over to plants. The Arboretum is open to the public year-round during daylight hours so wander through to check out the more than 2,300 species of plants to marvel at the diversity of South Australia’s flora.

North Adelaide

North Adelaide is connected to Adelaide by a free connector bus that loops from this suburb to the city until 8 pm every weekday. By taking this bus, you avoid the trauma of riding a bike or walking up Adelaide’s only hill, while still getting a free ride. The next cheapest thing to do in North Adelaide is window shopping – which is a bit frustrating, but can always lead to some productive discount Internet buying later once you find a size and style that works for you. Those keen on fitness may want to consider running the University Loop, a tree-lined 2.2km circuit with distance markers every 200m. For something more relaxing you might prefer the nearby Piccadilly Cinema – an art deco theatre that sells tickets for the (slightly cheaper) rate of $11.50 on what they call ‘Super Tuesday’. A cheap meal isn’t easy to find in the area, but the Bakery on O’Connell’s generous-sized pies will stave off starvation for less than $5 until something more substantial is located.

Inner West

One of the nicest pastimes in the west – that just so happens to be free, is a bike ride along the Linear Trail, which you can follow all the way from the city to the sea if you’re so inclined. And if you do make it to the coast you can always take your bike on the train back to the city, so don’t worry too much about sore legs. Another cheap transport option out west is the tram, which runs for free between the city and the Entertainment Centre. Right by the end of the free tramline is the West End Brewery; which comes alive at Christmas when its section of the riverbank is turned into a dazzling display of lights. The variety of vintage and op shops spotted throughout the western suburbs are also a good chance to stock up on clothes and teacups without emptying out the bank balance.