How to Have a Blast Without Splurging During the Summer: 23 Low Budget or Free Ideas to Inspire You



It’s time to nail down your summer plans! I always get excited this time of year, deciding which adventures the kids and I will have. This summer will be a little different as we prepare to send my 8 year old daughter back to school in the fall, we need to be more conscious of the budget. Private school tuition is not to be taken lightly! This year, I need to make plans that are low-cost but fun, which isn’t always easy with all the tempting fun in Southern California!

How to Have a Blast Without Splurging During the Summer:

  • Water Parks: Last year we purchased a season pass at Soak City. While the one time cost is an expense ($67 per person/$60 for Junior or Senior), the cost per use is potentially low if we use it enough. With Dive in Movie Nights and regular day use, we can use our passes frequently and get our money’s worth. Our plan is to go at least 3 times per month and pack a lunch. Since my daughter has T1D and Celiac, they allow us to bring food in.  What water park, zoo or amusement park do you have near you that will be a great summer day trip? Pay once, enjoy all summer long.
  • Our local library offers Story Time for the little ones several times a week. For my kids, we just enjoy going to the library and browsing on hot summer afternoons. Yours may offer crafts, author signings or bargain book sales. Check it out.
  • Local Malls offer a variety of activities. A local mall near us, Victoria Gardens, offers concerts in the park, free movie in the park and has a great pop-up water area where the kids love getting wet.
  • In our city, many churches offer low or no cost VBS for kids. Some are in the day, some are in the evening so there are options to fit your family’s needs. Vacation Bible Schools are a great place for your kids to interact with other kids, keeping their social lives alive.
  • Play Dates are still prime activities. My kids love to get together with friends and make crafts, have water gun wars or camp out in the backyard. Bring out the portable bbq pit after the sun goes down to roast hot dogs and s’mores!
  • Geocaching: A free real-world outdoor treasure hunt is a really cool family activity! I’m excited my son is earning a merit badge in it for Boy Scouts so we can have fun while helping him meet one of his goals. Learn more on The Official Global GPS Cache Hunt Site.
  • Grow a Garden: using heirloom seeds, grow some yummy veggies that your kids can take pride in raising. Get the pumpkin seeds planted for Halloween carving!
  • Movie theaters offer $1 movies for kids (cheaper than a rental!).
  • Bowling: Check your local alley for kids bowl free programs.
  • Market Night: Farmer’s Markets and Market Nights are great family entertainment in the summer evenings, plus you can get yummy, fresh fruits and veggies for summer salads!
  • Scholastic Learning: Yes, it’s summer but it’s super important to keep your kids’ minds active. Create a chart, encourage flash cards, reading and writing each day. Give rewards.
  • Create a movie: Take your time and make this production last all summer. Working on it a few times a week. Write a script, visit thrift store for props (or make them), design costumes out of what you currently own, have rehearsals, invite the neighbors and family to watch on performance night. Don’t forget to take a video for lasting memories.
  • Along the same lines, if your kids are musicians, write and practice songs for a concert. Have the lead singer learn choreography to dance to the song(s).
  • Go on a picnic at the beach, in the mountains or living room floor (any place you can get out of the heat!)
  • Build a fort! My daughter loves building a fort in her room and sleeping in it when she doesn’t have school. It’s amazing how many hours can be spent playing in a cool fort made of sheets and pillows!
  • Take spare change found in the cushions, in drawers, on the car floor and go get a Slushy. We love that they have a sugar-free option for my daughter!
  • Do a weekly manicure with your daughter. What kind of fun art can you create?
  • Spend time weekly with your son creating a model car, rocket or robotic bug.
  • Design a scavenger hunt around the house and take turns hiding the treasure.  Surprise your kids at the end of the game with a small treasure of gummy bears or a new book.
  • Create a dream board together of where you want to go on summer vacation next year.  Let the kids help cut and paste pictures.  Create a savings can for spare change, yard sale money and other money that comes in unexpectedly during the year. When everyone contributes, your kids will feel great knowing they helped plan and pay for the trip.
  • Map out a road trip across your state (or just a few towns over, whichever you have time to actually take). Let the kids choose where to stop. They’ll have to research ideas and it will keep them busy for hours.
  • Support the local minor league baseball team.  It’s so much cheaper than major league and makes for a fun family night out.
  • Take a field trip to eat the BEST ice cream EVER! (find a nearby town with a unique ice cream shop)

The possibilities are endless! If you work, enlist your child care specialist to do some of these activities. Do what you can on evenings and weekends. With kids, the activity doesn’t have to cost a lot. They just like to experience new things. Creating excitement around the simplest things often gets you the most enthusiastic reaction.

With so many great things to do, be sure to make a calendar of events for your family.  Highlight one fun activity a day. It will give the kids something to look forward to and hold you accountable for getting out the door. I know for myself, it’s easy to let the day pass and pretty soon it’s over 100 degrees and no one feels like going out. Get up and get going for a summer of adventure!

Please share your low-budget ideas in the comments below!

There to help you. That’s getting to a better State.

Compensation was provided by State Farm via Glam Media. The opinions expressed herein are those of the author and are not indicative of the opinions or positions of State Farm.

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