summer fun on a budget

103 Great Ideas for Summer Fun on a Budget

Summer is here and school is out (or will be soon)! We all know the novelty will wear off and the summer boredom will kick in shortly. 

I like to have some things planned throughout the summer to keep boredom at bay. But, I also like to keep it budget-friendly because stuff is so expensive!

So, if you’re like me and are looking for fun summer activities that won’t drain your bank account. Look no further! Here is a hefty list of summer fun on a budget that the whole family will love. 

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Table of Contents

​Indoor summer fun on a budget

Here are some indoor budget-friendly ideas for the whole family.

1. Family game night

Pull out your favorite board games and have a family game night. Here are some games we love to play:

2. Bake together

Bake something together. Whether it’s chocolate chip cookies or a new recipe you want to try, baking is a great way to bond.

3. Homemade ice cream

Making ice cream is the perfect warm-weather activity. You can make it in an ice cream maker or in a bag. Add any topping you want and make your own sundae!

4. Build a fort

Forts are so much fun. Here are some of my favorite ways to make forts.

  • Use blankets, sheets, and furniture to make an old-fashioned fort!
  • AirFort uses a box fan to blow up. 
  • Makeado construction tools allow kids to use their imagination to build the best forts from leftover cardboard.

5. DIY manicures and pedicures

My girls are obsessed with nail polish and makeup. We bought a manicure and pedicure set from Olive & June and it’s like getting a professional manicure and pedicure at home without spending a ton of money!

6. YouTube makeup tutorials

Learn different makeup techniques using YouTube. 

7. Make a pizza night

We love to have nights where we make pizza on our grill. We make the pizza dough and put all the toppings we like on it. 

8. Bird feeders

Bird watching can be so much fun. Here are a couple of DIY bird feeders so you can attract all kinds of birds.

9. Read a book

Find a new book series or reread your favorite series by yourself or as a family. This summer we are reading the Harry Potter series because it’s my favorite!

10. Time capsule

Making a time capsule is a great way to hold on to all those precious memories and look back on them in the future. 

11. Movie nights

With all the streaming apps we have, there are tons of movies to watch without having to purchase or rent one. All you need is some popcorn and enjoy! You could get an inflatable screen and projector for an outdoor movie night in your own backyard.

12. Dance party

Have Alexa play your favorite dance party music and have a dance-off!

13. Plan your family’s dream vacation

You may not be able to go on a family vacation this year, so sit down and play your dream vacation. It can be so much fun to dream about the future.

14. Free museum days

Many museums have discounted or free days. Some local libraries have programs where you get free tickets too.

15. Cheap movie theater day

Many movie theaters have summer programs where they show older movies for cheap. It’s a great activity to do on a rainy or unbearably hot day.

16. Free building workshop

Sign the kids up to learn about basic carpentry and become mini-DIYers. Lowes and Home Depot have monthly in-store workshops for free! And it’s year-round, not just for the summer months.

17. Make Jelly

Make some delicious homemade jelly. It’s easy and you’ll have a load of jelly you don’t have to buy.

18. Vacation Bible School

Vacation bible school is a great way for the kids to learn religion (if you’re into that) and for you to get a couple of hours of free time. It’s usually free through the local churches, you just need to sign the kiddos up.

19. Tour your local fire station

Call your local fire station to set up a tour. You can even get a group together for even more fun!

20. Factory Tour

Find a factory near you to tour. You could invite friends and make it a “field trip” because it’s always better to go as a group.

21. Summer reading programs

Sign up for summer reading programs and kids get rewards like a free pizza or a book.

22. Crafting workshop

Michaels Camp Creatology is four weeks of summer crafting every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. The cost is $5 and all supplies are included. 

23. Visit an animal shelter

Visit your local animal shelter and love on all the animals. Better yet, volunteer and spend time with the animals at the shelter. 

24. Video game marathon

Pick some of your favorite video games and have an all-day (or weekend) video game marathon! Fortnite is a favorite in our house.

25. YMCA

The YMCA is a monthly cost but for all that they offer, it really is a good deal. The Y offers so much! You get free childcare when you workout, open swim times, classes, and discounted summer camp with free before and after care. The list goes on! Can you tell I am a huge fan of the YMCA?!

26. Kids Bowl Free

Kids Bowl Free is a national program where kids ages 2-18 can bowl two free games every day during the summer months. 

There are over 1500 participating bowling centers throughout the United States, Canada, and many military bases (in the U.S. and overseas). For a small price, you can upgrade to the family pass and the adults of the family can have some fun too! 

Related: Kids Bowl Free Summer Bowling Program for 2023

27. Kids Skate Free

Kids Skate Free is a program that helps kids stay active by offering free roller skating passes. There are 145 skating rinks participating throughout the U.S. After you pay the $4.99 per child fee, you will receive 2 passes per week for each kid registered. 

28. Visit your local library

Libraries offer a ton of free summer activities for all ages in the family. Most libraries have a summer reading program that has free activities daily and prizes for books read. They also offer adult activities like knitting, game nights, and book clubs. 

29. Bass Pro Shop/Cabelas

Visit a Bass Pro Shop or Cabelas near you. They have a ton of cool things to look at from aquariums to taxidermy. They also offer summer events, so make sure to check them out!

30. Dollar Tree trip

Take a trip to the Dollar Tree. Let the kids earn a couple of dollars and then spend it. 

31. Tie-dye shirts

Grab a pack of white t-shirts and a tie-dye kit and get creative making custom t-shirts.

32. Scrapbook

Make a scrapbook of all the summer fun you’re having. You can get cheap supplies at the Dollar Tree.

summer fun on a budget

Outdoor Summer Fun on a Budget

The best frugal family-friendly activities for the great outdoors.

33. Geocaching

Who doesn’t love a treasure hunt? Take the family on a quest with the geocaching app.

34. Pokemon Go

Do your kids love Pokemon? Download the Pokemon Go app and become a real-life Pokemon hunter!

35. Farmers Market

Visit a farmer’s market to pick up some seasonal produce. It’s so much fun to go and walk around, but also saves you money on groceries!

Related: How To Save Money On Groceries Without Using Coupons

36. Picnic

Kids love picnics! It doesn’t matter if it’s at the park or in the backyard. All you need is some finger foods, juice boxes or water bottles, and a blanket!

37. Sprinkler fun

Set up the sprinkler and let the kids run through. It’s hours of fun for them!

38. Start a garden

Gardens are great because 

  1. you save money on groceries.
  2. it teaches kids a life skill.
  3. and it’s so much fun!

Kids get to play in the dirt, learn about the life cycle of the fruits and veggies they planted, and try new recipes with the crops they grow.

39. Learn a new skill

Set out to learn a new skill. Here are a couple of ideas to get you started.

  • sewing
  • foraging
  • a new language
  • gardening
  • budgeting
  • cooking
  • baking

YouTube is a great FREE resource to learn all sorts of new things!

40. Go fishing

Grab your fishing poles and find a lake, creek, or river to go fishing at.

41. Rock painting

Kids love to paint. Rock painting is a fun way to be creative. You can paint them for your flower garden or hide them around your neighborhood or town for others to find.

42. Splash pad

Splash pads are another fun water activity for those hot summer days. Find a shady spot and let the kids run wild!

43. Frisbee golf

Disc golf is a fun and challenging game that sparks friendly competition. It helps with hand-eye coordination, balance, and gross motor skills. Most parks have disc golf baskets or you can make or buy one for the backyard. 

44. Bonfire

A bonfire is a great way to relax and spend quality time with family and friends. 

45. Make S’mores

S’mores are a low-cost treat that can feed a group. Grab some graham crackers, marshmallows, and chocolate then you’re all set. You can make them over an open fire or in the oven. Both ways are delicious and you’re family and friends will love them!

46. Backyard camping

Set up a tent in the backyard and let the kids spend the night (or stay up later).

47. Climb trees

Learn how to climb trees. We have these Ninja Tree climbing holds to help the kids climb safely.

48. Sidewalk chalk murals

Chalk is cheap and can provide hours of entertainment. Google has a ton of ideas if you want to get really creative.

49. Mud kitchen

Give the kids some old bowls, pots, and cooking utensils, and let them play in the mud. If you’re looking for a project, you can make a kitchen area for them to “cook” in. 

50. Slip and slide

Play on a slip and slide or make your own with a plastic drop cloth and some dish soap.

51. Water balloon fight

Kids love balloons and water balloons are even better. We love these Bunch O Balloons because you can fill a ton quickly at one time. But, we also like to do reusable water bombs made with sponges. You just dip them in a bucket full of water and throw them!

52. Jump in puddles

After a good rain, let the kids outside to jump in the puddles. Even better, let them jump in the puddles in the rain. 

53. Bug hunt

If you have curious kids that love critters. Go on a bug hunt. We like to look for bugs and identify them using Google Image. 

54. Obstacle course

Make an obstacle course in your backyard. 

55. Play-Doh

My kids love Play-Doh. I set up a folding table outside and let them go to town. It’s great because the mess stays outside. But, it’s also pretty easy to clean up inside too.

56. Star gazing

Find a good quiet place where you can look at the stars. See if you can find the different constellations.

57. Roll down hills

What kid doesn’t love to roll down a good hill? Search for some of the best hills near you and try them out!

58. Hide and seek

Hide and seek is a family favorite. You can even play in the dark.

59. Water gun fight

Water guns are so much fun. You can pick up some small ones at Dollar Tree, or you can get some Super Soaker squirt guns.

60. Fly kites

Flying kites is a great thing to do on a windy day. You can buy them, make them, or decorate them. 

61. Nerf gun fight

Nerf gun fights are a big thing in my house. You can have your Nerf battle inside on a rainy day or outside in the backyard on a nice day.

62. Lemonade stand

Help the kids build a lemonade stand. Let them try out their entrepreneurial skills and learn about money.

63. Playground crawl

Like a pub crawl, but for kids! Go around to all the local parks and play on as many playgrounds as you can in one day.

64. Beach or lake day trip

Pack a cooler and take a day trip to the beach or lake. If you pack lunch and all the snacks, it’s a low-budget day of fun.

65. Movie/Music in the park

Some towns have movies or music in the park. Bring the lawn chairs or blankets and food, and enjoy the free entertainment.

66. Yard sale

Spring is the perfect time for yard sales! Gather up all the stuff you’ve been waiting to get rid of and put it out on the lawn. Not only will you get rid of stuff, but make some extra fun money too!

67. National park pass

Find a national park near you and visit. If you plan on making road trips or visiting, you may want to get a park pass. 

68. Parade

Find a local parade to attend. Many towns have 4th of July parades. 

69. Fireworks

Find a good spot to watch the nearby fireworks.

70. Berry picking

Spring and summer, depending on your area, are great times for pick-your-own berries. It’s pretty cheap and so much fun to do on a nice day.

71. Visit a farm

Find a local farm and visit the farm store. Some farms have activities, playgrounds, or festivals. So check and see what fun things they offer. 

72. Festivals

Summer is the perfect time to find local festivals, carnivals, and fairs to attend. Ride some rides, eat from the food trucks, and check out local vendors for a day of fun.

73. Nature trails

Go explore your local nature trail. Try to find some new plants, bugs, or wildlife. Google image is fun to use to learn about the new things you find. 

74. County fairs to see the animals

Visit your county fair and go see the animals. Your local high school FFA loves to show their animals and talk to you about them.

75. History reenactments

If you live close to a historical site, go watch a history reenactment. You will learn about history and it’s fun to watch.

76. Wildlife refuge

There are hundreds of national wildlife refuges and dozens of fish hatcheries throughout the United States. Find one to visit here. ​

77. Free food days

Get your free food to celebrate these national food days.

  • Grab your free slushie from 7-Eleven on July 11th.
  • Get a free donuts from Dunkin Donuts and Krispy Kreme on June 7th for National Donut Day.
  • Free ice cream from Wendy’s and Friendlys on July 21st for National Ice Cream Day.
  • Free french fries from McDonalds, Wendy’s, and Checkers on July 12th for National Fry Day.

78. Scavenger hunt

Scavenger hunts are a lot of fun! A couple of ideas for scavenger hunting are…

  • make your own. I like to use Canva.
  • find free ones on Google.
  • use paint cards from your local paint store and try to find things that match.
  • phone apps like Scavify or Turfhunt. 

79. Swimming

Go to a community pool and go swimming, or you can buy one like this that the kids will love!

80. Waterpark

Visit a waterpark for the day. 

81. County parks and recreation

Check your county parks and recreation website. They usually have a ton of activities year-round for your family to participate in.

82. Take a walk/bike ride

Take a walk or bike ride as a family.

83. Baseball game

Go watch a high school or minor league baseball game. Get some concession food and enjoy the ball game!

84. Visit the zoo

Visit the zoo on discounted days or check out if you have a free zoo near you. Sometimes your local library has free tickets to the zoo, aquarium, or museums when you check out a certain book or DVD.

85. Crabbing

Get some line and bait and find a good crabbing spot.

86. Mini golf

Mini golf is fun for the whole family! 

summer fun on a budget

Adult budget-friendly activities

Adults need fun time too! Of course, you can do all the above, but here are some ideas for you and your adult friends and family.

87. Thrifting

Thrifting is my treasure hunting! You can find awesome things for your home or to resell.

88. Book club

Reading is a great way to relax. A book club will give you an outlet to share the book with others but also some adult time. If you don’t have a book club near you or can’t make the time, join a virtual one.

89. Karaoke

Invite friends over and have a karaoke night. We have this karaoke machine and it’s a blast!

90. 5K Races

If you enjoy running or want to make it your goal this summer. Find a local 5k race to sign up for. If you want to start running, I like the Couch to 5K program for beginners.

91. Cookout/Potluck

Invite friends, family, and neighbors over for a cookout or a potluck. Enjoy food and friendship.

92. Summer cocktails

Save money and make some summer cocktails at home. Here are a couple to try!

93. Cornhole or horseshoe tournament

​Host a corn hole or horseshoe tournament. Set up your brackets and play for a prize.

94. Summer inspired dinner

​Choose a nice summer-inspired dinner, prep, and cook/grill it together after the kids go to sleep. 

95. Boat ride

If you’re lucky enough to have a boat or have a friend with a boat, have a boat day!

96. Cooking class

​Take a cooking class to learn some new cooking techniques or new cuisine.

97. Have a trivia night

​Host a trivia night or visit your local pub for a trivia night.

98. Bingo

​Find a local spot for a couple of games of bingo. If you’re lucky you may win some money. If not, it’s fun and you get to meet some new people. Check your local fire hall, American Legion, or VFW.

99. Go out for dessert

Take your spouse out or meet some friends for dessert only. It’s the best part of dinner anyway!

100. Coffee shop date

​Meet a friend at a local coffee spot for a latte and adult conversation.

101. Food truck date night

Have a date night at your local food truck. You can grab and go to your favorite spot and eat.

102. Babysitting swap

Get together with a bunch of friends with kids and set up a babysitting swap. You get free entertainment for the kids on the night you babysit and you get a free babysitter when it’s your night off!

103. Relax!

Summer can be a really busy time. Don’t forget to take a day off and just do nothing! If you can drop the kids off at the grandparents and take a nap or binge-watch something on Netflix!


Planning summer fun

doesn’t have to be expensive or overwhelming. Keep the kids entertained with some of these summer fun ideas and stay on budget!

What fun things are you planning this summer? Leave a comment below!

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