by Sherry Huang
Summer has arrived! If the long days and warm nights have you dreaming of a long vacation, but your bank account or your boss says otherwise, don't worry. This summer, try these fun budget-friendly ideas that everyone can enjoy. And the best part? You’ll be maximizing fun while minimizing your expenses.
There’s nothing quite like experiencing warm sand and toe-tickling waves, but you don't have to take a week off to hit the beach. If you live within driving (or train) distance, take a dip in the sea nearby. Some beaches are free while others require a small parking or entrance fee. Landlocked? Look for nearby lakes or ponds with designated swimming areas. If that's not an option, stop by an indoor or outdoor public pool instead—usually with affordable admission fees.
Local bulletins boards, tourism departments and recreation centers have calendars chock-full of cheap or free activities. Check their websites for outdoor concerts, movie nights and local events. Visit local attractions like botanical gardens and arboretums, museums and historical homes, farms and vineyards, or wildlife preserves and zoos. Check their websites or contact them directly for reduced-price or free admissions on certain days. Also, don’t forget that your local library, community center, and churches also offer free events and programs, says Cherie W. Lowe, a budget expert also known as The Queen of Free and the author of Slaying the Debt Dragon.
Ice cream and popsicles make any summer day better. So, why not make a party of it? Buy a few brands and host a tasting party. Invite guests to vote on which ones make the best versions of favorite flavors. Or throw an Ice Cream “Sunday” Party--make sundaes on Sunday. You supply the ice cream while guests bring their favorite toppings or cookies. It's less expensive than dinner at a fancy restaurant and more fun too!
Most rinks are still open during summer—and there’s no better place to retreat from the heat. Admission and skate rental fees are usually easy on the wallet, especially if you’re a local resident. Or cool down indoors at a bowling alley. Ask about group discounts and promotions with reduced fees, or package deals that include shoe rental plus food and drink for a flat fee.
Become an amateur astronomer. Certain constellations and planets shine brightest from June to August, so see what you can spot in the summer sky. Look for summer sky star maps or other guides online. Search for parks that offer free starry-night group walks or those that host stargazing nights for amateur astronomers. Even if you don't have a telescope, avid stargazers are often willing to share their telescopes for a look at the night sky. Or keep it simple. Stay at home and watch the sky in your own yard.
While the weather’s still warm, plan a day on a hiking trail to breathe fresh air and connect with nature. National, state and city parks, as well as nature preserves often have accessible trails designed for easy or moderate level hikes. Stay active while soaking up the golden sun and spotting new flora and fauna.
Get to know your neighborhood by going on a walking or bicycling tour. Look for official guided tours, or create your own by tracking places on a personalized Google Map. “If you’re a history buff, take a walking architectural tour of buildings in your town to learn about the time periods in which they were built,” says travel expert and creator of MyBuckleMate, Meghan Khaitan. Local websites or newspapers often list farmers markets, craft and street fairs, carnivals and festivals to explore.
How can you camp without spending a dime on gas? Pitch a tent with sleeping bags, and spend the night in your background around a campfire, says Andrea Woroch, a money-saving expert. Roast hot dogs or melt marshmallows for s’mores. You can play classic board games or tell scary stories by flashlight. Chase and capture fireflies, or watch a movie on a tablet or laptop (it’s okay to have some technology!). Don't forget the popcorn.
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