Cheap Summer Fun for Families On a Budget

Summer fun activities

Are you wondering how to entertain and teach your kids this summer without hurting your long term financial goals like paying off your mortgage faster or saving for retirement? The great news is that there are so many free and cheap things to do that your kids (and you) will probably end up exhausted from all the activity.

You can have fun with your family even on a reduced budget! Here are some ideas to get you started:

Host a Parent Swap Day

The fact is, you know other parents who have skills and ways of doing things that are completely different from you. So why not swap their kids with yours for the day? Perhaps one parent is a whiz in the kitchen and can teach your kids how to bake a cake. Or another parent works out in the garden, and can teach your kids about compost piles. Meanwhile, you can figure out something to pass onto their kids such as sewing or basic photography.

If nothing else, this is a great way to add some variety to your child's life (in fact, they'll probably feel like they are going to a camp for the day!).

Enjoy the Great Outdoors

Did you feel cooped up this winter? Now's the time to take full advantage of the great outdoors, least of all because doing so can be really cheap. Here are some ideas:

  • Get a National Park Pass: If you live near a National Park, then it's a great idea to buy a membership pass that you can use all year. Don't want to splurge on one? Most National Parks have very affordable one-visit passes, and some even have discount days.
  • Free Pool Play Dates: Be sure to take advantage of your neighborhood pool, and set up play dates with friends and family. Don't have a neighborhood pool? Set up a play date with someone who does!
  • Free Outdoor Theater Performances: There are many free outdoor theater performances over the summer. Check your area for any, and see if you can pack a picnic to take with you. Hint: if you're looking for a summertime date without the kids, swap a night of babysitting with a friend, and bring along a blanket with some wine and cheese. Kick back and enjoy your free performance under the stars!

Find Free and Ridiculously Discounted Activities

Are day camps completely outside of your budget? That is not a problem because you can literally piece together your own day camps through free and ridiculously discounted activities.

Let me get you started:

  • Free and Cheap Store Events: Several national chain stores offer free kids' activities throughout the year, such as building wooden projects in Lowe's Free Build and Grow program, Home Depot's free weekly workshops, $2 Michael's Kids Crafting Classes, Lakeshore Learning Free Crafts for Kids, Disney Store's Free Summer Play Days ...and the list goes on and on.
  • Dollar Movie Theater Showings: Regal Cinemas is probably the largest national movie theater chain to offer a program of weekly kids' dollar movies. This summer through Summer Movie Express, enjoy movies like Free Birds, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2, and The Croods.
  • Free Bowling: Register your kids and they can get two free games of bowling daily throughout the summer.
  • Free Storytime: Check out your local library and bookstores for a schedule of free storytimes (even Pottery Barn is offering a weekly storytime). Don't feel like going anywhere? Barnes & Noble actually hosts online storytime with voice recording and animation from authors of various children's books.
  • Free Roller Skating: Register for a free skating pass, and find participating roller rinks near you on

Are you still wanting to send your child to a day came but don't know how to find one within your budget? A few sites like that put together a list of discounted day camps have sprouted up in recent years. You never know what you might find for your area at rates starting at just $25! For military kids, check out this listing of free or discounted camps. Here's another tip: be sure to search for your area/camp of interest + day camp + discount/coupon. You never know what you might find.

What are your ideas and plans for cheap or free activities with the kiddos? Please share so everyone can benefit.

Amanda Grossman is guest blogger for ReadyForZero and a professional freelance writer who specializes in personal finance topics. She also runs

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