Summer is just around the corner, which means getting creative so the kids don’t go stir crazy. Sometimes that equates to spending a lot of money to keep everyone entertained.
Our family doesn’t go on many vacations, but we do love to wisely invest in a great summer. And with a little investigating, you’ll find the possibilities for free and cheap fun are endless.
Check out free story hours at libraries and bookstores, crafts and activity days at local parks, church programs and sport camps, vacation Bible school, inexpensive movie programs at the theaters, reading programs, ice cream treats and so much more.
Here are a few ideas to make summer memories fit snugly in your family budget.
Go to Happy Hour
Cost: $.50-$2 per child
Take advantage of happy hour drink specials that many restaurants now offer. Sonic, for example, offers a happy hour between 2-5 p.m. where families can enjoy half-priced drinks. Steak ‘n Shake is another restaurant that offers cool, refreshing milkshakes for half price between 2-4 p.m. Inquire at your local restaurants to see if they offer summer drink specials, and allow your kids to enjoy a fun summer treat within your budget.
Tip: At Sonic, two small slushies for my children and a large Diet Cherry Limeade for me costs a mere $2.18. Grab a fun to-go drink and head to the local park for under $3!
Host a Happy Hour
If you don’t feel like venturing out and want to enjoy slushies and milkshakes at home, they’re easy to make with a blender and a few items that might be already lurking in your kitchen! My kids love to indulge in homemade treats at home, and pairing them with fun in the sprinkler and our inflatable waterslide is both fun and budget friendly.
Play at the Park
Going to the local park to spend the afternoon is nothing new, but it could be if you explore another town’s local park. Pack lunch, snacks, drinks and sunblock, then enjoy a day of free fun. We love to load the scooters, a ball and a Frisbee to create even more fun in the sun. Consider pairing these outings with a little geocaching to expand upon the adventure and exploration.
One thing we look forward to in the summer is the opportunity to roast foods over the backyard fire pit (with a lot of adult supervision, of course). Stock up on hot dogs and s’mores supplies, and you can have a fun night together that doesn’t cost much. I also love to keep the fire going after the kids hit the sack and turn it into a fun date night for my husband and me.
Visit a Museum
Free admission days are offered occasionally at local museums, although sometimes you have to brave crowds to take advantage of them. Check museum websites to find out when free days are offered, and if they’re not, call your local library and ask if it offers free museum passes. Don’t forget to pack a picnic lunch to enjoy on the museum grounds or in transit to your destination.
Tip: If there’s a museum you’ve always wanted to visit, but it doesn’t offer free admission, take part inNational Free Museum Day, sponsored by the Smithsonian. Some of our best museum outings were enjoyed because of this day, plus we got a chance to explore other areas in our town.
Go Berry Picking
Cost: $5 or more
One of our favorite things to do in the summer involves picking berries. We usually buy about five-dollar’s worth, then go home to create something in our kitchen as a family. Last year we went blueberry picking, then created new recipes the kids had never tried before. We dined on homemade waffles with blueberry syrup and even made blueberry simple syrup to flavor soda and tea. With a variety of fruits available for picking, the possibilities are endless.
Tip: Visit Pick Your Own for more information about places to visit, and take advantage of fresh produce that is in season.
Running through the sprinkler offers fun, free relief from brutal summer heat. A good old-fashioned sprinkler or inexpensive sprinkler toy can keep kids entertained for days. We also recently discovered that our town offers splash pads and fun new sprinkler parks. The cost to visit these is typically free if you’re a resident of the city, and they can be a great way to keep cool in the summer. If your backyard sprinkler is starting to lose its luster, visit your town’s parks and recreation website to see if you can find a fun new place to keep cool!
These are just a few of my favorite ways to save money without sacrificing summer fun, and I’m sure you’ll find even more when you start looking for opportunities in your neighborhood.