Why (frugal) fun with the kids this summer?
My family is working on a goal: we’re saving up a down payment for a home. So I’ve been flexing my old frugal muscles and trying to minimize expenses everywhere.
Of course, that doesn’t mean I don’t plan on having fun this summer. Summers are made for relaxing, especially when you have kids. Here are some of the ways we plan on having fun on the cheap this season.
Be a tourist in your own town
How many free and inexpensive amenities does your town offer that you’ve never even investigated?
I know I’m guilty of overlooking things right under my own nose.
Do a Google search for name of city + cheap fun with kids, or something similar, and I bet you’ll come up with a dozen or more blogs that list ideas. Here’s one from SouthernSavers.
Macaroni Kid is one such newsletter that delivers free and cheap family-friendly fun right to your inbox.
In the summer, kids get thirsty very quickly.
All too often I’ve gotten in the car and immediately heard cries for water (odd, they weren’t thirsty 5 minutes ago when the kitchen was nearby!).
Bring along water bottles (reusable of course) with plenty of ice.
Packing a lunch (or buying popsicles at the grocery store instead of the ice cream truck) requires a bit of planning ahead but can save you money each time you leave the house.
Look into season passes
For a family, season passes are almost always going to be the best deal for cheap family fun.
My family can only visit the zoo once before we’ve paid for the cost of the pass.
Investing in a pass also makes the decision of “what to do” easier.
One summer I took the kids to the zoo several times because we had a pass.
Another benefit: there isn’t the same stress to see everything in one day, because we know we could come back next weekend.
Check your local library
Some libraries have one-day passes to major recreation areas like zoos or theme parks. Ask your librarian! Also take advantage of all the fun, educational summer programs your library offers for free. This summer I’m taking the kids to interact with the local K-9 police dogs, tour the inside of a fire truck and learn safety tips from firemen, and a few other programs, all free courtesy of the library.
I’ve been telling my 15-year-old son about geocaching for a while, but it wasn’t until a friend of mine actually encouraged him to locate a cache while we were at a local park that he officially got bit by the geocache bug. Geocaching is free (all it takes is a free phone app), fun and even a bit dangerous and exciting – watch out for muggles!
Free or cheap summer movies
Some large movie house chains offer free or very cheap kid movies all summer. Lines tend to be very long as day care facilities and summer camps take advantage of these, but if your kids are old enough to wait, this is a fun option. Maybe meet up with friends so your kids can chat while they stand in line?
Water, water everywhere
Backyard sprinklers, neighborhood pools (or your own), free splash fountains, water blasters purchased for under $5 each – nothing says summer like getting wet!
Earn some money
Since for many of us, summer means no school, this often frees up some time to earn some cash. I have several friends that dog-sit and dog-walk and make a very nice income doing so, using Rover.com (think Uber for pet-sitting). Working moms may need help with childcare in the summer. Summer is a great time to sell your outgrown kids’ clothes online because many people stock up before school starts.
Take advantage of yard sales
Summer is definitely yard sale season. Since being frugal requires planning ahead, try to anticipate what your family will need in the upcoming year, and keep a list on your phone of items you want to scout for at yard sales. (Impulse shopping, even at yard sales, is not frugal!) I buy everything from clothing to books and homeschooling curriculum to sports equipment/bikes to household necessities (plates and glasses, constantly needing replacing in a large family with several kids!) at yard sales at steep discounts. Keep an eye out for items that you can “flip” on eBay, Amazon and Craigslist as well. High-end educational toys (Melissa & Doug) and name-brand, clean clothing sell well online, and are legion at yard sales.
Hiking, biking, walking, visiting parks and gardens – usually free and what better time to enjoy these fun frugal activities than in summer when the weather is beautiful? Encourage your kids to keep a nature journal or host a watercolor en plein air in your backyard for your kids and their buddies.
Something that can help you stick to a budget this summer: Personal Capital provides tools you need, for free, to manage your finances. Create a budget, figure out your net worth, calculate what you need for retirement, and make sure you’re keeping on track with savings.
How do you have fun in the summer on the cheap?