With Memorial Day weekend coming to a close, it’s time to prepare for the summer ahead. With the (hopefully) wonderful weather over the summer, what can you do that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg that the whole family will enjoy? What frugal things can you do this summer?
Now that we are a family of three, it’s important to us that Little Guy experiences fun and exciting things. He’s one year old, so no craziness like Disney World or a globe-trotting trek. We still aim to be frugal here!
We enjoy simple, yet still awesome activities over the summer! The activities on this list of frugal things to do this summer are:
- Inexpensive – less than $50 per activity, but mostly they are free
- Exciting – they won’t put your kids to sleep!
- Doable – no dragging around your entire house to each activity and very little prep for each one
I’ve broken down these frugal things to do this summer into two sections: Outdoor and Indoor. Here in Oklahoma it can be blistering hot and tropical, then the next day it is cool and breezy. Having options for summer activities is a must with crazy weather!
Frugal Outdoor Activities
1 – Camping
What would summer be without camping? I love camping with my husband (and now my kiddo!). It is quite time away from technology and completely immersed in nature.
The best thing about camping is that it is the ultimate frugal thing to this summer. And every summer after that. Many families already own tents and basic camping gear. If you don’t have your own, ask neighbors and friends to borrow their equipment. Borrowing something instead of purchasing it is a great frugal win!
You’ll need to put in about an hour of research if you don’t know of any good camping spots in your area. A quick search on your state’s travel website or the National Parks’ site should give you all the information you need to get going. Most state park sites go for $10-$30 a night depending upon the campground. National Parks are a bit pricier, but totally worth it.
Estimated cost for a 2 night trip plus food and fuel – $40-$60
Looking for a more intense camping trip? Go to my review of what we did to get ready for two weeks in Yellowstone and Grand Teton here.
2 – Splash Pads and Pools
Gone are the days of the common public pool it seems. If you still have one in your neighborhood or town, that’s awesome! If not, splash pads are a great second.
Pools and splash pads are frugal summer activities for two reasons: minimal equipment is needed and you can spend all day there.
Swimsuit, sunscreen, water bottle, and lunch? Check!
Estimated cost of 1 fun pool or splash pad day – $0-$5 (to cover the cost of sunscreen and food brought with you)
3 – Create a City Park Passport
Tulsa is home to one of the most AMAZING free city parks in the country. Our suburb also has some pretty great (but not even close to being as awesome) parks.
Create a simple Google doc as a “Park Passport” and list all of the parks in your city or town. Put a space to write the date you visited. Add a few lines so your kids can a “review” of the park. Or print my FREE park passport below!
Estimated cost for 1 day at the park – $0-$5
4 – Enjoy an Outdoor Concert
Tulsa has a well-connected and deeply rooted arts community. We have an awesome public green space downtown and over the summer weekly concerts begin.
We bring a big blanket to sit on and some snacks. That’s all we need to enjoy a wonderful afternoon full of live music!
Estimated cost – $5-$10 (parking, fuel, snack)
5 – Try Hiking and Nature Scavenger Hunts
There are lots of nature trails and hiking trails just waiting to be discovered by you and your family! A quick search should show you how far away trails are and the difficulty of each trail. Trip Adviser is actually a really great resource for honest reviews of how difficult a trail is.
To make it more fun (especially for younger kids), create a nature scavenger hunt. Or you can just download and print mine for FREE!
Estimated cost – $0-$5
6 – Have a Picnic
A picnic is another wonderful frugal thing to do this summer. You don’t even have to go anywhere! You can picnic out in your backyard or just dine on your patio.
Estimated cost – just the price of the groceries you prepare
7 – Walk to get Snow Cones (or to the Gas Station for Icee’s)
Growing up, the 7-11 was about half a mile, if that, from our home. My brother and I would walk there all the time during the summer to get drinks and snacks. Now, I live just blocks away from a snow cone stand. Yum!
Take the whole family on a mid-afternoon walk to get a nice, cold treat.
Estimated cost – $10-15
8 – Go to the Zoo
Going to the zoo can get expensive. The best way to enjoy the zoo all year without breaking the bank is to purchase a pass. The zoo near us is just $79 for an annual family pass. Bigger establishments like the Denver zoo, cost over $100 for a family pass. Whereas small zoos, like the Alameda Park Zoo in Alamogordo, New Mexico costs less than $10 for the whole family to go.
Don’t fret at the high cost of an annual pass if it is something your family would actually use. We had to go to the zoo a total of just SIX times to have the pass pay for itself! We go to the zoo about 2-3 times a month so the pass is definitely worth it.
9 – Volunteer at the Animal Shelter and Walk Dogs
No guarantees you won’t bring a good boy home with you, but volunteering at the animal shelter warms your heart and gets you out of the house. Heck, any volunteer work should warm your heart!
This free and frugal activity gives so much back to often times overcrowded shelters.
Estimated cost – $0
Frugal Indoor Activities
10 – Go to the Museum or Aquarium
This is another frugal summer activity that can be as cheap or as expensive as you want it. Most local history museums are free on a regular basis. Some museums and aquariums only ask for a donation. Others have free days or free “extended hours”.
A quick search should show you what is close by and what the admission price is. This is another opportunity to purchase an annual pass if you think it is something your family would use.
Estimated cost – $0-50 (fuel and variable ticket prices)
11 – DIY a Water Table
If you have babies or toddlers, they’ll love a water table. It really doesn’t matter how fancy it is. Our Little Guy likes mud puddles, so he is thrilled when he sees the water table I DIY’d.
All you need is a plastic tub (we used a tub we already had that is missing its lid), scoops, plastic animals, sponges, and water! Really you can put anything you want in a water table or tub. It is whatever keeps your little one entertained.
Estimated cost – $0-$10 depending on supplies purchased
12 – Make Your Own Bath Bombs
If you don’t mind making a mess and have a few hours, bath bombs are a great DIY. I don’t personally have an awesome recipe, but Tweak & Tinker has a tutorial that I love. I didn’t use a bath bomb mold, but used a measuring cup instead to press my mixture into. It worked great!
Estimated cost – $5-$15
13 – Host a Dessert Tasting Party (or a “whatever food or drink you want” tasting party)
Potlucks are an awesome frugal thing to do this summer. It doesn’t even have to be a dinner potluck. Plan an afternoon with friends tasting each others’ desserts (or whatever you decide to make). Make it a contest if your kids are involved and vote for the best dish!
Estimated cost – $5-$15
14 – Join Your Library’s Summer Reading Program
Most library systems have a summer reading program for all age groups (even adults). Gone are the days of filling in a booklet with the date and book you read. It’s all online for most libraries. Lots of programs even offer prizes and coupons at the end!
Estimated cost – $0
15 – Find Other Programs at Your Local Library to Enjoy
We love our library! They offer loads of activities every week for us to enjoy. I take Little Guy to story time and let him play with the other kids afterwards. Our library also has adult writing classes and financial literacy classes as well. They have something for everyone. Don’t be afraid to ask the librarian what’s happening this summer!
Estimated cost – $0
So enjoy your frugal summer – you deserve it! Spending less will allow you the time to stop and connect with the people you love the most.