25 Ways to Have Cheap Summer Fun

Photo: seeveeaar

Looking to enjoy your summer without breaking the bank? Check out the following ideas for frugal summer fun. (See also: 9 Places to Go to Beat the Summer Heat)

1. Get in the Water

We can’t talk about summer without mentioning pools, right? Whether you have a pool in your backyard or in your community, this is not only a way to have fun, but swimming laps is also great exercise. No pool? No problem! Break out the hose and get a packet of water balloons for a few dollars or less.

2. Have a Picnic

Even if your job requires that you work year-round, you can still have picnic lunches with coworkers during the workweek or with friends on the weekends. Assign each person a drink or food item to bring, and have a great meal without an exorbitant cost.

3. Run a Car Wash to Raise Money for Charity

If you want to beat the heat, why not do it in a way that will also help out others? Hosting car washes is a popular summer activity, and the only costs you’ll incur are for soap and water.

4. Have a Bonfire

For this, all you need is some wood and a fire pit (or place you can safely contain a fire without wildfire risk). Get some friends together and cook hot dogs and s’mores for less than a couple dollars per person, if everyone chips in.

5. Garden

Have a green thumb? Summer may be a dry season for some states, but gardening and landscaping can still be done on the cheap if you have the tools available (or can borrow from a neighbor).

6. Pursue Photography

Summer is a wonderful time to try your hand at photography. Whether you're taking pictures of family events, nature, vacations, or just hanging out with friends, photography is an affordable way to have fun and capture these memories for years to come.

7. Get in Shape

It’s going to be hot this summer, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get out and exercise. Biking, running, hiking, or sports can all be done for very little to no money if you have the equipment already.

8. Visit an Art Gallery or Museum

Many museums and art galleries offer free or low-priced admission fees. Take advantage of a valuable cultural experience and escape the heat at the same time.

9. Read or Write a Book

Summer is a great time for reading on the beach or by the pool. Or, if you have an idea for a story in mind, why not use this season to put your thoughts to paper?

10. Study a New Language

Thanks to the internet, studying a language has never been easier. There are also several affordable apps for those with tablets or smartphones.

11. Take a Community College Class

A summer class at your local college probably won’t cost you more than a couple hundred dollars (much less in some locales).

12. Learn to Knit or Sew

Knitted clothing isn’t too popular in summer, but why not start preparing for the winter months now? Sewing is also useful year-round, and it won’t cost you much to get started with a needle and thread.

13. Rough It

Camping isn’t always dirt cheap, but if you’re boondocking with your motorhome or camping on public lands, it can be a frugal vacation for many families. Or consider pitching a tent right in your own backyard!

14. Play Team Sports

With the days getting longer, the kids are going to want to be outside more. Either sign them up for a team sport (basketball, soccer, baseball, football, street hockey, etc.) or play with family and neighbors. There are also many adult sports clubs currently in existence or forming for the summer! Whether you want to play tennis, soccer, basketball, etc. — there are usually teams out there (some clubs are for all ages). Check your local parks and recreation website or search on Google to find some great clubs in your area.

15. Learn Magic Tricks

A well-performed magic trick can be a lot of fun. There are several websites, videos, and books you can find on the subject and some tricks can be done with simple goods from your own home.

16. Help the Kids Run a Lemonade Stand

A good way for kids to make money during the summer is opening a lemonade stand. It can be fun and a good learning experience in personal finance (you can never start too young). If not lemonade, then consider animal balloons, if your kids are willing to learn how to make them.

17. Host a Family Game Night

Have board games or video game consoles? Organize a family game night.

18. Go to a Matinee Movie

Many cinemas offer cheaper ticket prices on Tuesdays and for morning shows during the week. A few hours in a cool, dark theater can be a welcome change from the blistering heat outside.

19. Volunteer

If you’re looking for some opportunities to serve your community, check for local postings or on Volunteer Match.

20. Prepare a Budget Meal

Even if budget meals are already a common habit for you, challenge yourself to spend less than you do normally. Maybe try more coupon clipping or grow more of your own produce.

21. Become a Masseur

Experiment with different massaging techniques on your friends or spouse. You might be able to convince them to give you one in return.

22. Have a BBQ Potluck

Grilling is another favorite pastime, especially during the summer. If everyone pitches in a dish, you can have a huge meal without the usual cost.

23. Go Couch Surfing

Want to travel but not pay a fortune for accommodations? Then check out CouchSurfing for a free place to stay while on the go!

24. Catch Up on Your Favorite TV Shows

Hulu and Netflix offer cheap streaming options. Some free episodes are also available online from the official network sites or iTunes.

25. Have a Garage Sale

Cut down on the “stuff” in your life, make money, and have fun while doing it.

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Meg Favreau's picture

I LOVE BBQ potlucks. I'm bummed that I don't have space for a grill at my current apartment, but some friends I recently did a potluck in a park. It was possibly even better than having it at my place -- there was lots of room to spread out, and everyone helped clean up.

Guest's picture
Thrifty Writer

The library in my hometown always had activities, and even more during the summer. Free yoga classes, foreign film festivals, etc. And you can always spend a hot day in air conditioned comfort, scoping out the magazines.

Guest's picture

What great ideas! You could have fun all summer long with just this list. I come from a family of 5, so we were always looking for things to do outside together. Because there were so many of us (and our friends), we were more easily able to do your #14 (Play Team Sports) than other kids I knew growing up.
I had never heard of that "couch surfing" before either... looks pretty neat!

Guest's picture

i hate when people say to take a class during the summer. not that i'm trying to attack you. it's only that summer is the one time of year that has nothing to do with school, and that's partly what makes it special. you have utter freedom rather than being tied down to a learning schedule

Guest's picture

Great list. We love going camping and can't wait to start the journey this year. The great thing about camping is once you have a tent or camper, you have it the next time you go out. The more you go, the less you paid for your equipment over the long run.

Guest's picture

Thanks for posting so many fun and inexpensive summer ideas! I've included it in ReadyForZero's Monday Shout Outs for this week: http://blog.readyforzero.com/monday-shout-outs-summer-savings-edition/. Your article was perfect given this week's topic - how to save and earn extra money this summer. I'm personally very excited to try out the Volunteer Match website you linked!

Guest's picture

community college classes in Chicago are around $400. Same thing with learning massage therapy. Not worth it, comparing it to other things on the list