Summer Fun Can be Cheap
August is almost over, and that means there’s about two good months of summer left if you’re in a northern climate. Live it up before the cold and snow rolls in, and the regret that comes with it for not getting outside and having some fun while you had the chance.
Unfortunately, a lot of traditional outdoor summer activities can really cut into your entertainment budget. A round of golf, day at the amusement park, the ballpark, and outdoor concerts can run between $50-$100 per person. And other than going for a walk or sitting on your porch, there aren’t really any truly ‘free’ things to do when you factor in transportation costs.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t have some fun.
Here’s a list of 10 outdoor summer activities that will cost you no more than $10. Many of which, you’ve probably done at some point, but may have forgotten how cheap and fun they really were.
1. Pick Berries
U-Pick berry farms are awesome. You get ripe berries right off of the vine for 25-50% of what you’d pay in the store, you support a local farm, and you can have fun doing it. Two tips: Wear a mosquito net or bring bug spray (I got eaten alive the last time I did this), and try to find a local farm that does not spray insecticide on their berries.
Total Cost: $9 for 3 quarts
2. Dog Park!
If you have a dog (and even if you don’t) the dog park can bring hours of cheap entertainment and socializing – with humans AND dogs. Unless you have a super-submissive dog that is always getting beat up or an agressive dog that is always beating up others, it’s hard to leave the dog park without having a good time. Just make sure to bring plenty of cold water to keep your dog hydrated and cool, plus a poop bag (or three).
Total Cost: Free
3. Potluck BBQ
Invite your friends or neighbors over for a backyard BBQ. If you’re the host, buy $10 worth of hot dogs and burgers and use Google Docs to create a collaborative sign-up sheet with a list of stuff that people can choose to bring so that you have everything covered.
Total Cost: $10
4. Fly a Kite
If you’re a jaded, bitter adult, this may sound ridiculous. If you’re not, there’s something that brings the kid out in you when you get that cheap $7 kite you bought from Meijer or Wal-Mart up in the air for the first time.
Total Cost: $7 for a cheapie
5. Bike Ride
Mapping out a good bike ride to places you haven’t biked before is never time poorly spent. I have recently re-discovered by love for bike riding as a means of transportation to and from work. Going new places, getting that exercise, and building up a good sweat is a great way to spend a weekend afternoon in the summer.
Total Cost: Free, minus the wear and tear on your bike
6. High School Football Game
High school football will be starting up soon and whether you recently graduated or not, it’s pretty good Friday night entertainment at a cheap price (if you like the game of football). Be careful though, those $4 cups of soda will really get ya.
Total Cost: $10/pair of tickets
7. Take a Dip in the Community Pool
Not every community has one, but those that do can provide a day of fun. My city has a 50 meter lap pool with a water slide. Admission for adults is $4/each and kids 3 and under are free. Don’t forget your towel, sunglasses, and sunscreen!
Total Cost: $8/pair
8. Walk a Dog or Comfort Cats at your Local Humane Society
Before we brought home our wonderful duck tolling retriever from our local Humane Society, my wife and I would volunteer dog walk every weekend for about a year. It was a great way to stay-in-shape, feel good about yourself, and give the animals a temporary reprieve from their stressful shelter environment. Most shelters also have ‘cat comforting’ as well (imagine being a cat in a shelter full of hungry, barking, stressed out dogs).
Total Cost: Free
9. Bottle of Wine at Sunset
I’m not advocating getting busted for public open alcohol container, but if you don’t have a view from your yard, you’ve got to go somewhere, right? Just make sure you have a way to get home safely.
Total Cost: $6-$10 for a decent bottle
10. Build a House
Habitat for Humanity is always looking for additional volunteers to help build houses. In doing so, you are demonstrating good will in your community, getting outdoors and meeting other like-minded folks, and learning or refining some pretty handy skills.
Total Cost: $3 for a good pair of work gloves
What cheap fun summer activities have you done this summer?
I knew that your blog would be great! I especially like the berry-picking suggestion. It reminds me of my childhood! Of course, at this time of year in Illinois, the berries and peaches are almost done, but soon it will be apple-picking time. You should suggest to readers that they invest in some really fun (and really cheap) fall activities like picking apples or pumpkins – especially if they have kids!
Man, that picture of the cat in the shelter just tears you up!
@ Serena – thanks! Now, if you could just tell me how to freeze and de-thaw them in a way that doesn’t sap out all the juice.
@ Joe – doesn’t it though?
@ G. E. – Well, when my family and I pick berries, we generally intend to bake or make sauces (great on pancakes!) with them. So we can them. In their juices. And they’re delightful! Pumpkin can be canned, too. Apples, I would recommend freezing after slicing, and use them for pies and tarts. Or sauces for pancakes.
Can’t you tell I make a lot of pancakes in my house?
Making homemade popsicles is a fun activity that can save you some money in the summer time. Ice cream and popsicles from the ice cream truck can cost up to five dollars, so save your money by pouring juice or yogurt into an ice pop mold and popping it in the fridge.
Our local animal shelter charges volunteers a one-time fee of $25 to help out and a mandatory 2-hour orientation session. While I understand that they have to cover costs of training materials or staff to show you the ropes, it seems a bit prohibitive to people who want to just go and walk some dogs or clean litterboxes when they have an hour of spare time on the weekend…