Summer Fun on a Budget

We’ve got 12 tips for summer fun on a budget!

Too often summer goes so fast that before you know it, the kids are back in school and schedules fill up with sports, lessons and other activities. If you’re looking for some cheap, fun activities to do with your kids during the summer, read on for a dozen ideas.

Some can be done in the evening and all can be done on weekends, so whether you work full time or have the summer off with your kids, pick and choose a few of your favorites from the following list and turn them into summer traditions!

  1. Plant a garden as soon as school is out, and your family will see the fruits (or vegetables!) of your labors by the end of summer. If you don’t have a backyard or much space, many vegetables can be grown in pots on a deck railing or even inside. Head to to get started.
  2. Read all about it when you join a summer reading program, like one your local library system might offer (check Other organizations that offer rewards for reading over the summer are Chuck E. Cheese (, Scholastic ( and Barnes and Noble ( For additional summer reading programs check out “Get Your On!” featured in this issue.
  3. Do the drive-in. Head to to find your nearest drive-in movie theater, then pack up some chairs and a cooler of drinks, wrap some hot dogs in foil and pop some popcorn before you go.
  4. Get wet. Take a swim at your local pool or beach. You could also go jump in a lake (with life jackets), set up a cheap backyard pool or hook up a sprinkler to a hose.
  5. Go to a park you haven’t been to before. Wait for the perfect windy day, then head to a wide-open space for some kite-flying fun. Parks are also great for their playgrounds, for hide-and-seek and for an evening game of flashlight tag.
  6. Pick some fruit. Blueberries, strawberries, peaches, apples or whatever you can find in your area or at a nearby pick-your-own farm make for a fun day. We like to go at dusk when it’s cooler and fewer people are around.
  7. Act like an animal. No kid is ever too old to enjoy a trip to the zoo! Don’t overlook small zoos that may be a bit of a longer drive from your home. Check out
  8. Camp out. Camping doesn’t have to be a big ordeal. In fact, it can be as simple as setting up a tent in your own backyard (or Grandma’s or someone else’s if you live in an apartment). Don’t forget the flashlights, snacks, sleeping bags and scary stories!
  9. Chill out. One of my kids’ favorite parts of summer is our ice cream dates. You can simply grab a cheap soft serve cone on the fly. If you’re looking for healthy, try out one of the new flavored frozen yogurt places where you can add your own toppings. Check out our Good Stuff column for some delicious ideas. Another option would be to borrow or buy an electric ice cream machine and make your own ice cream in any flavor you like!
  10. Catch a fish. Buy (or borrow) a rod, reel and bait and head to any small or large lake to fish off the bank. Keep the fish for dinner or throw them back. (You may need a fishing license, so check first with your state.) Fishing provides a great opportunity to just hang out and talk with your kids.
  11. Hit a carnival or fair. If a carnival never comes to your town, consider making a weekend trip to a fair. Every kid will forever remember the games, the attractions, the greasy food and the fast rides.
  12. Tee off. An evening game of miniature golf is a great way to top off the summer. Make the game competitive and keep score, or just play for fun.

Not everything you and the kids do this summer has to cost an arm and a leg. There are always ways to come up with summer fun on a budget and keep the additional stress of financial concerns at bay.

Read more tips for Summer Fun with the family!