Ten Affordable Summer Activities

1. Organize a potluck block party

2. See a matinee

3. Have a picnic

4. Walk around a mall – with a pedometer to track steps

5. Soak up the free, cool air at your local coffee shop

6. Go berry picking or visit a local farm

7. Join the library to take advantage of no or low-cost events

8. Volunteer for an organization or cause you believe in

9. Take a class at a community college

10. Visit a museum on “free” days


While the days of summer may indeed be lazy, they can also be hard on the wallet. Pricey vacations, increased energy bills, and the cost of keeping kids occupied can easily surpass even winter’s notoriously expensive gift season. If you want to make the warmer months enjoyable and economical, read on for some cool money-saving suggestions.

Make it a cash-only vacation
Want to get away? If you haven’t yet set any cash aside for your desired trip, think long and hard before charging it. According to a recent survey, the average vacation costs roughly $2,250. Put that on plastic, pay only the minimum requested payment, and with a typical interest rate of 15 percent it will take just over nine years to repay and add over $3,200 to the price – more than doubling the cost of the trip!

If going into that kind of debt for a vacation sounds about as fun as food poisoning, consider the alternatives. You could downsize your holiday to what you can afford now, or delay gratification and save for something more extravagant. Waiting has other advantages as well – traveling in the autumn or spring is usually cheaper (winter often sees a spike in prices again), and you’ll avoid the crowds.

When estimating the cost of a trip, remember the wise traveler’s adage: bring half as many clothes as you think you are going to need – and twice as much money.

Employ the kids
If you have teenagers who haven’t yet worked outside the home, the start of summer is the perfect time to introduce the idea of a real, paying job. School may be out, but they will learn an invaluable lesson: the value of the dollar. The direct financial benefit to you is the decreased amount you’ll have to shell out for camps, movies, and other expenses you’d normally cover to keep them stimulated and entertained.

Help first-time jobseekers find interesting, age-appropriate employment. It could be anything from light gardening, such as pulling weeds and mowing lawns, to babysitting, dog walking, or working at the local mall. Rather than just handing over the classifieds, help them make and distribute flyers, complete applications, and prep for interviews. Be aware though, that if your kids want to work at popular stores, they’ll need to apply early. Competition for good shifts at preferred retailers is stiff in many communities.

Buy what you need, sell what you don’t
Whether you call them yard, garage, or tag sales, summer is when such homegrown shops are as common as dandelions. They are also the perfect place to pick up items that are okay to be bought pre-owned. Make a list of what you need, and be on the lookout for incredible bargains. Sports equipment, such as tennis rackets and skis, can be bought for a fraction of their original cost. Same goes for house wares. Be careful though – it’s easy to walk away with an armload of unnecessary “treasures.”

Even better, have a sale of your own. It provides you the opportunity to rid your home of clutter, and you can make a surprising amount of money in just one day. The proceeds can go toward your dream vacation.

Get healthy for cheap
There is simply no better time of year than summer to eat healthily for next to nothing. Roadside stands and supermarkets alike offer the freshest produce for amazingly low prices. You can reduce your grocery bill dramatically by stocking up on seasonal fruits and vegetables, and making them the bulk of your diet. Freeze or preserve what you can’t immediately use.

If the upcoming bathing suit season is causing heart palpitations, rather than hitting the gym, why not workout outside these next few months? Consider opting out of your club membership (if you can) and taking advantage of the temperate weather by walking, jogging or bike riding. It is free, after all.

Reduce your energy bill
You know that using the air conditioning less will keep your energy bill down, but there are many other ways to save money without having to swelter. Who holds the key to the best energy-saving advice for your particular region? Your local gas and electric company. Contact them today to learn simple and effective ways to keep your bills to a minimum.

For many, the summer months are the most wonderful time of year. You can make it even better by adopting money-smart strategies – with very little energy required.

The 500 Best Ways for Teens to Spend the Summer: Learn About Programs for College Bound High School Students
by Neill Seltzer (Princeton Review, 2004)

No parent wants to hear the complaints of a bored teenager, particularly in the summer. There’s just nothing to do? Hardly. Discover the hundreds of ways your young adult child can make this season productive and fun for very little money by reading Neill Seltzer’s The 500 Best Ways for Teens to Spend the Summer: Learn About Programs for College Bound High School Students.

Seltzer covers virtually every travel, educational, employment, and volunteer option that is available to today’s teens. If waiting tables at a local restaurant is not your child’s thing, then perhaps mountaineering in the Rockies, conducting wild animal research, or teaching in Nepal is.

This manual explains everything you need to know about each program, including the cost, benefit, location, and how long your child will need to dedicate to it. Even better, Seltzer reveals how each of these stimulating and exciting activities can translate into a more desirable college application too.

While The 500 Best Ways for Teens to Spend the Summer is not exactly bedside reading, it is direct and informative. You can’t ask for a more comprehensive guide to helping your kids achieve an enriching summer.