Tightwad Tuesday: Frugal Summer Fun

Water parks are always lots of fun.

Tomorrow is the last day of school for my daughter. My son has been out of school for about a month now. For the next two months we’ll be trying to have fun and stay cool, and do it without spending a lot of money.

These are some of the activities we’ll turning to this year in the name of frugal fun.

Water Parks

Water parks are popping up all over the place these days. We have three in our county, and I’ve heard rumors that there’s going to be a fourth sometime soon. I’m not talking about the big water theme parks that cost an arm and a leg for a day pass. I’m talking about the water structures at the neighborhood park. I’ve found that going in the late morning is a great time. Most people flock to the water parks in the afternoon, so it’s less busy in the morning. Pack a picnic lunch and make it a day!

Neighborhood Pools

Many cities have public pools that aren’t very expensive. Take your kids down there for a day, and let them swim for a while. Many of these pools also offer inexpensive swimming lessons, but sign up early if you want to get your kids into a class. The classes generally fill up quickly.

Go to the Movies

Several theater chains offer discount movies during the summer. Our local theater offers 10 movies for $5, if you purchase tickets in advance. We usually only go to one or two, so we pay $1 per movie instead, which is still a bargain. Just don’t buy concessions, or it won’t be a frugal activity!

For more information about summer movie programs, visit Cinemark, AMC, and Regal. You also might want to call your local theater to see if they’re running a program. Many of the smaller theater chains run summer programs as well.

Read a Book

Libraries are a great place to go to beat the heat during the summer. Our library has a reading program where kids can enter drawings to win prizes when they read a certain number of books. This year they’re even holding a drawing for a Wii for those who complete the 12-18 year old program. Too bad my daughter is only 10. She’ll enter the drawings for her age group, too, as will my son.

Barnes and Noble also has a summer reading program where kids can earn free books. Kids in 1st through 6th grades are eligible to earn a free book when they read 8 books over the summer. Not a bad deal!

Barnes and Noble and most libraries also offer various story times for children, as well. We usually try to hit one or two during the summer. Some libraries even offer craft time for the kids!

Check Your Local Paper

You can find a wealth of information in your local newspaper. Three cities in our area offer free movie screenings in the park on Friday and Saturday nights. Fourth of July weekend is also packed with lots of free fun activities too. If you keep an eye on the local paper, you can often find lots of frugal, fun, and even educational activities for your kids.

I like to plan at least one special event per week. It breaks up the routine and keeps the kids from getting on each other’s nerves. Well, not completely, but it does help.

What do you do for frugal summer fun?

This post is being submitted to the Money Life Network’s Summer Saving Series. They’re giving away a $100 Amazon gift certificate! To find out how you can enter, visit the Money Life Network.

Photo by Just Taken Pics.


By , on Jun 10, 2008
Lynnae McCoy I'm Lynnae, wife of one and stay-at-home mom of two. I'm committed to getting out of debt by being frugal with my choices in life.


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  1. At my last visit to the craft store they had all sorts of little inexpensive craft kits for kids – so you could get some & have your own craft program! My mother always used to do that on visits to the grandchildren, and that way they got to spend some time together, too.

    And get them outdoors as much as possible – bike riding, swimming, tennis, badminton – any sort of thing to get them MOVING.

    And don’t forget picnics, either.

  2. C~:

    great blog, i will definately keep reading. C

  3. We recently went for Cherry picking to Brentwood. We had such a nice time going there, picking cherries and other fruits, and having a picnic sort of lunch in the middle of all the farms. I think if you have farms nearby, it could be a frugal summer fun activity.

  4. Great ideas! I can hardly wait until my girls are old enough to participate in the Barnes and Noble program!

    I just posted our summer plans over at my blog. One of the best free things I found (for the whole year) is the storyhour every Monday at our local Starbucks. The kids get a free drink…and I get a free 45 minutes of sipping my mocha. :-)

    Also, our park and rec dept. around here is fabulous, and offers all kinds of free nature walks and talks. Something to look into in your area!

    Have a fun (and hopefully SANE) summer!

  5. Angela Fehr:

    Last summer I invited all my friends & kids to join us on Wednesday mornings (weather permitting) at the local “man-made lake”. It’s a free venue, and the sloping sides make it fun and safe for all ages. We brought a picnic lunch and it was so relaxing to take that social time in mid-week.

    We are pretty rural (and suffer from very LONG winters) so we take as much time outdoors as possible. Wild berry picking, back country trips by ATV, and bird-watching are all plans for us this year.

  6. Bonnie:

    I like to do a summer project. This year, we are collecting used water bottles all summer from neighbors so that we can recycle them to give the money to a local charity my daughter chooses. Tithing is not just about money but about time.

    My daughter is learning about the charity and she is learning to explain the purpose of her project to adults and other children to get them to participate in her efforts.

    I remember from my childhood a lot of wasted summers where I felt listless and bored (no matter how much reading I did, and I did a lot). I try to make each summer a personal growth opportunity for my child as well as being fun. In fact it’s more fun to be engaged in a meaningful way, than to be constantly searching for some new way to be entertained.

  7. FFB:

    I found out my local library has a whole slew of activities for kids of all ages. My wife will definitely be taking advantage of that. And last Summer we discovered a free local pool. It’s in an out-of-the-way spot so not many know about it. It great. Many of the playgrounds by us also have sprinklers and mini pools that we’ve gone to. Those are great on days when we don’t want to make a big trip to the beach.

  8. Last summer, I organized a “park day” for my friends and me. The invitation was simple. Come to the park between 1 and 4 to just hang out. I brought some snacks, a frisbee and a blanket. Others brough musical instruments and board games. Different groups of friends got to meet each other and it didn’t cost a penny. It was certainly a highlight!

  9. marci:

    My local grandkids are 3,6,8. Yes, we too are in for summer reading program at the Library. Small town -population 4000 in a county of 20,000 – so ‘big things’ are limited – but Mother Nature makes up for it. We can walk to the slough and a couple parks for variety. Short drives to the river or beach. And they like river and lake fishing :) First Saturday of the month is Free Admission day at the local Museum. And Saturday Market is always good for a walk thru – each kid has $1 for a snack there – and they like picking out the fresh veggies, berries, fruit.

    Summer day camp – fee waivers available – thru the extension office. Swim lessons – fee waivers available – thru the YMCA. The kids like even just taking the walk to the grocery store.

    At home, the grandkids are learning family responsibilities – like helping Grammi with the firewood (unloading the trailer)and helping plant in the garden. They are very excited about ‘their’ special sections of the garden that they planted – and they are excited & learning a lot in the process about care of the plants and what parts of a plant are good to eat. And the 6 year old loved spreading barkdust!

    Yes – we have a quite time also (I need the break) :) and they set the timer and do well with it. And my 8 year old granddaughter is learning to hand sew :) We also go thru the family albums and they are learning about their family heritage. Sometimes we have a scrapbook day where they can add to their scrapbook.

    Bascically – my grandkids just like to be able to spend time with me – what we do is not as important as the fact that they are getting that special attention and time from Grammi :) It’s a good life :)

  10. Here’s my thinking on water parks – save them for special occasions (say when the cousins are visiting) or on a routine the family can agree on (every Friday?)

    The rest of the time, go splash in the cheaper municipal pool or your back yard : )

  11. Beth:

    WHAT ON EARTH? Ten movies for $5?? Over here it costs about £6.50 for a cinema ticket – about $13! Wow.

    I like to go on walks at the beach, go for a picnic somewhere nice, or have water fights :)

    • Cristy:

      $10 for 5 movies is a pass to see older Disney or other movies that are already out on DVD. A regular movie ticket is around $9 in the U.S.

  12. there are free zoos near us, granted it’ll cost a bit in gas money but still it’s an all day excursion when we pack snacks and lunch!!!!

  13. We try to get outside some each day. . . a hike or a bike ride or fishing. They’re all inexpensive. Whenever I’m outside in the summer, the smells remind me of my own childhood. I want our kids to have the same kinds of memories!

  14. Sara:

    Ditto on the library summer reading programs! A lot of libraries now also offer video gaming activities for older kids. Some purists scoff, but it’s far more social than playing by yourself and they learn to see the library as a welcoming place.

  15. You mentioned libraries – our local library offers a “story time” activity during the summers as a way of promoting their own summer reading program. It offers a reprieve from the hot temperatures, and when my kids were smaller they really enjoyed it.

    My wife also LOVES the summer movie program that gets you in for a $1.00 per person during the summer. It’s a great afternoon-killer on a long, hot day and the kids always enjoy the theater experience.

    Great list!

  16. my kids have been out of school for two weeks now! we’ve just started swimming lessons at the Y. and we’ve signed up for summer reading at the library (which also has weekly programs in addition to the prizes for reading). my older daughter has already completed the B&N list, so we need to go get her free book. and i’ve got the list of the bargain movies.

    we also made a list a few weeks ago of fun things to do (from playing board games to going to mcdonalds for lunch)and we plan out a variety of these things each week (i try to balance the things that cost money vs. free things).

    one other addition to our day is 1-2 hours of “quiet time” in the afternoon. the girls are allowed to read, color, play quietly, do crafts as long as there is no tv, computer, leapster going on. some days are easier than others, but they are getting used to it. sometimes i use the time to work (i work from home) but sometimes i give myself a break and do something fun too. what i like best about this time is that the girls are required to come up with a way to entertain themselves. instead of relying on me to come up with ideas.

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