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Money | Life


The dictionary defines summer as “the warmest season of the year.” Of course, our individual definitions depend on our lifelong seasonal experiences. Still, we can agree that summer’s warmer weather, longer daylight hours, and school vacation brings us all an opportunity to relax and enjoy some fun.

As a single mom, finding activities that were inexpensive yet fun for my school-age children was challenging. When an amusement or water park was not in the budget, I needed something affordable. On one particularly hot day, I suggested a walk to the convenience store, where each of us bought our favorite snack, before coming home to enjoy our favorite board games together in the air conditioning. That “adventure” started our tradition of having fun together without spending a lot of money.

We shared many budget adventures, eventually becoming a blended family needing to adapt our inexpensive fun within our age spread. The beach, miniature golfing, a ride for ice cream on a hot summer night. We always found universally fun activities – for singles, couples, and families—regardless of age.

Our repertoire of low-cost activities adapts easily to your own circumstances and interests.

Attend a Farmers Market—the fun is in walking around, enjoying the many free samples offered. With no admission fee, even a small purchase will not break the bank.
Plant shopping
Visit a local garden center—wandering around the flowers and trees on display is interesting, even if you aren’t into gardening. Also, many local fruit farms offer “pick and pay” plans.

Plant flowers from seeds—kids love having their own individual plants to cultivate and watch grow. This is a great activity to share with grandparents, too!
Outdoor Fun
Enjoy outdoor concerts or movie nights—many towns offer concerts or movies “under the stars” for little or no cost. Bring chairs, snacks, or a picnic dinner – this can be a family event or an inexpensive date night at any age. Or go to your local drive-in, where the cost of admission covers the whole carload!

Discover your own city and stateAAA Tour Books are a great resource, not only for out-of-state travel, but also for destinations right in your own state. You’ll find local delights such as public gardens, picnic spots, and hiking or biking trails within driving distance. And check out your town’s Parks & Recreation website for local events such as free art shows, antique car shows, or craft fairs. The costs associated with these activities are minimal, yet entertaining, at any age.

Create a scavenger hunt event—keep it simple, using things you see every day. The treasures can be discovered by individual players, or a family can work on the list together. Finish with a low-cost pizza or ice cream party, bringing everyone back together with stories to share.

Go to the library—many offer summer reading programs for children and adults. Weekly visits keep kids engaged and reading, while audiobooks appeal to older family members. A real money saver: many libraries offer admissions to museums, aquariums, or zoos – use your library card to sign them out for free!
Food with friends and family
Host a potluck—have everyone bring a dish to share for time together. Couples can make it about romance by cooking together one evening.

Draw with sidewalk chalk—your driveway becomes an art installation, and everyone is expressing their artistic side. Of course, a friendly game of hopscotch, with dollar store prizes, works well too.
Backyard water fun
Enjoy backyard water games—keep a stash of dollar store squirt guns, make up some water balloons, or just turn on the sprinkler. It is a great way to cool off, and it's fun! (We once made a homemade slip n’ slide with our garden hose and vinyl painter’s drop cloths.)

Summer fun on a budget is achievable!  I must have done something right, because years later, when money was not as tight, I asked my adult children what we should do on a summer vacation day—an amusement park, a movie, the beach?  Unanimously, without hesitation, they chose…buying snacks and playing board games in the most air-conditioned room in the house.