Welcome to the first Personal Finance Network Group Writing Project: The Summer Fun Guide! At the end of this article, you’ll see the links to my fellow PFNers’ own articles that talk about frugal summer fun ideas. In my edition, I’ll point out a number of frugal fun ideas for kids.
Now you might ask “Clever Dude, what do you know about kids when you don’t have any of your own?”. Well, I’m glad you asked, because I have an answer! Not only did we host 5 and 7-year-old girls this past holiday weekend, but I also have the power of the internet to guide me to more fun ideas! And I have my own opinions of each that I’ll insert so that you can bash me as usual for my naivety and idiocy. Sounds like fun already! Now to the frugal fun:
Frugal Summer Fun for All Ages
The following ideas can be fun for toddlers, teens, or well, me:
1. Community Pool: Although we have our own pool, I wouldn’t call it “frugal” considering the yearly cost of maintenance, much less the installations costs. But many people have memberships to community pools for anywhere from $0-$40 per year, give or take. Sure, you might have to battle for space with 30 other swimmers, but it’s a cheap, sometimes relaxing option. Some pools even offer swimming lessons, aerobic classes and other water sport events.
2. Reading Books: Sure, you can read a book any time of the year, but in the summer, you can sit by the pool, on the front porch or back deck, or in the shade of the tree at a park. And what’s more frugal than getting your books from the local library? And if you’re too young or lazy to read, many book stores and libraries offer story times.
3. Local Water Parks: When I was young, I loved when my parents took me to the local water park. It was cheap for them and they had fun along with me too. While I don’t visit water parks as an adult (because I feel obligated to use my own pool first), water parks are still fun for all ages!
4. Museums: In D.C., we’re a bit spoiled with the free Smithsonian museums, but many cities (even small ones), have inexpensive and even free museums. It might not be as grand as the Met or Guggenheim, but you can still spend a couple hours in museums dedicated to local events and histories. For example, I’ve been to the Johnstown Flood Museum numerous times, and it hasn’t gotten old yet. Even our local Rockville, MD has a couple interesting museums. I found Google has a nice feature where you type your city, state and “museums” and it’ll bring up a list. For example, “Tulsa, OK museums“.
5. Movies: Although I would advocate getting outside or at least staying active, sometimes you just want some down-time. With the cost of gas, many Americans are now going to their local theaters to see a movie. However, I recommend snacking beforehand and avoiding the snackbar prices. And I also recommend seeing matinee movies or using discount tickets (for example, through the Entertainment book).
6. Church Activities: Even if you’re atheist, you can still have fun at church events like potlucks, fish dinners, BBQs, crafts and many other activities. Our parish carries the Catholic Register, where we find dinners at local churches that will fill our bellies for under $5-7 each with good, home-cooked food, and we get the bonus of meeting and networking with new people!
7. Visit the Zoo: I could literally spend hours (and have) at the zoo. The National Zoo is free (part of the Smithsonian), great exercise and great fun!
9. Pick Your Own Fruit or Veggies: What’s better than eating a fresh strawberry? Knowing that you actually worked for it…by picking it yourself! Check out PickYourOwn.org to find farms near you that allow you to pick your own produce.
10. Visit a State Park: Get outdoors while the weather is nice! Find your own state’s parks here.
12. Camp! Either send your kids off to camp (and give yourself some much-needed rest), or go camping with the whole family to a local state park or even in your backyard. My family camped pretty often when I was young, and I loved it every time. Feeling the lake mud in my toes while swimming or roasting S’mores was the best thing! Now lake mud seems nasty, but kids still love it!
13. Plant a Garden/Flowers: Some people might view this as work, while others find total joy and serenity in yard work and gardening (I do). While your garden can get pricey if you opt for raised beds, power tillers and other expensive equipment and setups, you can still keep it frugal by just relying on manual labor. To me, there’s no nicer or more rewarding exercise than toiling away in the yard, unless the mosquitoes are out.
14. Go Play in Traffic: My family always told me to do this, so it must have been OK! Wait…let me rethink this one.
15. Water Battles: Assuming you’re battling with balloons and water guns in a grassy area, not only is a water battle fun, but you’re also watering the lawn at the same time!
16. Exploring Nature: I can’t count the number of ways you can enjoy the outdoors, even in just a little plot of your backyard. Just digging a small hole will yield a plethora of bugs and plants (i.e. weeds, at least in our yard) that you can look up on the internet. You can also go through the woods or trail area and identify trees, plants, flowers, small woodland creatures (stay away from the big woodland creatures), or even bird-watch.
17. Walking/Jogging: Going for a walk around your neighborhood streets or local trails provides both exercise and something interesting to look at (just don’t peek into your neighbor’s bathroom window). Walking/Jogging are the best bang for your exercise buck because most people can do either in what they already own.
18. Board Games/Jigsaw Puzzles: If you don’t already have a closet full of games, you can find cheap used ones online or at your local thrift shop. I’m recommending board games rather than video games because there is more personal interaction with board games.
19. Picnic: Whether you just take a bag of snacks to your patio table or pack a picnic basket for the local park, picnicking is frugal as long as you’re not dining on caviar and fine cheeses. Just pack some sandwiches, but make sure you follow proper food safety and hygiene so no one gets a food borne illness.
20. Volunteer: Soup kitchens, Habitat for Humanity, helping the elderly neighbors mow their lawns or do housework. The list goes on and on. Call your church, local government office or ask friends about what you can do to give back.
21. Play catch: This timeless summer classic is always a good time. Just grab some baseball gloves for kids and toss a ball in the yard or head to the nearest park.
Now I’d like to hear some of your own frugal summer fun ideas!
More Frugal Summer Fun Ideas from the Personal Finance Network Members:
– Money Ning has cool frugal ideas to stay away from the heat
– Four Pillars tells us how to pack lightly on a plane, especially if you have kids
– Blunt Money talks about planning a vacation at home (aka “staycation”
– Squawkfox gives us 10 frugal ways to get/stay fit this summer
– Canadian Capitalist points out some good money movies to watch this summer