15 Cheap Things to Do Before the Summer Is Gone

by Jennifer Holder on 30 August 2012 7 comments
Photo: Weed Whacker

You guys, I have bad news. Summer is almost over! And although I secretly think that fall is the best season in the world (boots and scarves are my favorite), I can’t say I’m ready to say goodbye to this sunshine. So, what to do before the sun starts going down earlier and the A/C is turned off? Simple — go outside.

Below, I’ve put together some cheap (but mostly free) last-ditch efforts to make the most out of the gorgeous sunlight. (See also: 25 Ways to Have Cheap Summer Fun)

1. Fairs and Festivals

Two words: Ferris wheels. Soon they’re going to be put back in their boxes and stored in a nearby trailer park (or wherever it is Ferris wheels hide for the colder months). Take advantage of every opportunity you can before summer is over to go to the fair and see your city from above, throw balls at impenetrable targets, and people watch. You might see a little more skin and a few less teeth than you were hoping for, but you can’t deny the hilarity of it all. And who knows, maybe you'll win your sweetheart a giant panda...

2. Theme Parks

Roller coasters! Fake castles! Splash rides! I love a good theme park, but the bad news is most of them are overpriced. The good news is you can generally find two-for-one deals or special days when it costs a little less for the fun. Be sure to look on the park's website for discount information and check with your boss for any deals offered to your company.

3. Free Outdoor Movies

If you are anywhere near a big city (from Denver to Minneapolis to Pittsburgh), this is a must do. Scout it out — there’s got to be one somewhere in a park. And most likely, they’re not all over yet. Sometimes the movies are even new releases! And if there isn’t one in your area, throw a blanket up, rent a projector (with friends' monetary donations, of course), and have at it.

4. Free Outdoor Concerts

Summer concert series are popular throughout the world. Most of the large, outdoor festivals are over now, but you can still take advantage of a select few concerts, generally for free. Be on the lookout for after dark specials sponsored by breweries. They'll be in a lot of the same cities that have the free outdoor movies, but you might be surprised. Music is easier to come by than movie rights, so a ton of smaller towns offer downtown concert series at no cost.

5. Water Sports

I don’t normally swim all summer — I didn’t grow up with a pool or take trips to the lake. But my best friend lives in apartment complex, and I’ve swum every single Saturday this summer. When the warm weather ceases and the pool closes, I’m going to be unbelievably disappointed. Also, the lake, river, and ocean are at the perfect temperature right now for a dip, kayaking, canoeing, or stand-up paddle boarding. Take advantage of any water sports in your area before it's too late!

6. Read in the Park

I read far more in the summer for leisure than I do any other time — I guess it's a habit I picked up from being in school. More time off in the summer, more time to read. Then again, there's nothing like soaking in the sun on soft grass and catching up on the latest bestseller (or if you're like me, the classics). Grab a good book, a blanket, and some sunglasses and head out to your park. If you don't mind an occasional whizzing Frisbee or barking dog, you'll be able to sink into another world in the middle of your neighborhood.

7. Outdoor Theater

Whether you’re in New York for Shakespeare in the Park or in Portland for Star Trek in the Park, you're probably close to some sort of outdoor stage. Or if you live near a drive-in, drive over and watch a summer blockbuster in the car with your friends. While pricier, they make for a much more fun date option and you can bring your own food (and sometimes alcohol — if you're not the driver, of course).

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8. Dry Your Clothes in the Sun

This is the time to forgo the dryer and put your clothes out on the line. Not only will it save you energy costs, but as long as you don’t let the clothes sit out in the sun too long (don’t forget about fading!), it’ll save the life of your wardrobe. Plus that natural fresh air smell really can’t be contained in a bottle of Febreze.

9. Work on Your Tan

This is probably the most obvious one. Soon I'm going to be as pasty as the Microsoft Word background I’m typing this on. And while I don't mind being asked if I'm allergic to the sun (yes, people ask me that), a slight tan does give me the illusion of "health." I don't condone tanning beds, so if you want to get some last minute sun in, go for it!

10. Exercise Outside

Running outside is obviously free, but a lot of cities offer free park classes like yoga, tai chi, or Zumba. Look around in your town (or surrounding area) to see if you can catch one before they’re all over. Also, the aforementioned Frisbee in the park is always fun, and since football season is starting, it's time to practice tossing the ball around too. Just because you've got a fantasy draft doesn't mean you can't play in real life, right?

11. Eat and Drink Outside

When I lived in New York, I always got so excited when the tables and chairs were placed outside and umbrellas started popping up. It meant summer was close! So if you're going to grab a beer with friends or lunch with your coworkers, pick a location outside. Best part — you don't have to use your "indoor voice."

12. DIY Projects

If you’re like me, you have a “found” object in your house that you’ve been meaning to paint or update all summer. Soon it’s going to be too cold to stand outside and do it, so grab whatever it is you've been meaning to redo and get to work. It'll take far less time than you think, and you'll be glad to have that extra closet space when you pull out all of your winter coats again.

13. Pedicures

Ladies (okay, fine, men too), you’ve only got a few more weeks of toe-showing left. And since giving yourself a pedicure is far cheaper than purchasing one, grab a pumice stone and get to work. You may be putting your feet away soon, but that doesn't mean you have to hide them now.

14. Grill Out

Soon the propane tanks and charcoal are going to be (safely) stored away and the "men" are going to hang up their barbeque forks for one more year. Granted, you'll probably keep the grills out during most of football season, but eventually it'll get too cold, so fire it up, put some meat on, and enjoy the last bits of summer while you can.

15. Fish

I know fishing can be expensive if you're not a seasoned fisher(wo)man, but if it's something you like to do, get some time in before it's too late. Unfortunately, I can't add much advice to this particular subject because the only "fishing" I ever did was when I was little and tried to grab minnows in the creek by my aunt's house (yes, I'm from Tennessee), but if you live near a lake, go for it!

What do you want to do before it's too cold?

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Guest's picture

Great ideas! I love fall as well, but it's a good idea to soak up summer while you can. These are great inexpensive ways to do it :)

Guest's picture
Scoutmaster

Expanding on #5....We LOVE to go tubing down a river! I'll drive 3-4 hours just to check out a new river that we haven't tried. Just bring your picnic lunch/snacks and enjoy.
Cost: Gas to get to the site, & any food/drinks.
Priceless: The feeling you have floating down the river with a cold drink in one hand & fresh fried chicken in the other, watching the world drift by.

Guest's picture

Have that garage sale! It was too hot most of the summer. Nows the time before people stop going!

Guest's picture

Great ideas. My best tip for saving money and time during the summer dovetails well with #14, grill a lot of meat and veggies and freeze them down for the coming weeks. With the grill you can do volume which helps save time.

Guest's picture

Soak up as much Vitamin D as you can before the winter comes!

Guest's picture
Dave

re #14: There's no need to put the grill away in the winter. I use mine all year round. And no, I'm not in the south, I'm in the mountains of Colorado. It does help that mine is right outside the back door, under a porch roof.

Guest's picture

Good list of ideas to get out and enjoy the nice weather. It starts to get so cool in the North around mid-september that you have to take advantage of every last day of sunshine until you're stuck indoors until about April. My favorites on your list are outdoor concerts and grilling out.