May 22, 2014

Easy Money Saving Tips: Summer Activity Edition

This article is part of a series. You can read the others here, here, here, and here.

With Memorial Day coming up on Monday, we're getting closer and closer to the summer season. It's that time of year when families are looking for fun activities that won't break the bank. So what is an fun-family-activity-planning, money-saving SAHM to do? Here are some free or cheap things I take advantage of whenever I can.
  1. Free outdoor events and movies. Many counties, towns and organizations hold fun, free events. Do a search online for your area, call the government center and/or check out pamphlets at the library. We've found kids' festivals, craft festivals, heritage days, battle reenactments, concerts and movies in the park (or pool), parades and more. For a few dollars, you can check out school concerts and other productions. Some movie theaters even offer a free (or very cheap) showing of older children's movies on certain days. Many of these events aren't just fun and free, but educational too.
  2. Parks. Most of us have parks in our area that we just never think to use when we're looking for something fun and free to do. By us, we have ones with huge playgrounds, pools, walking trails, lakes, tennis courts, disc golf courses, ball fields and picnic areas. Check out the ones near you and find one you like. There are also a number of national parks around. At various times during the year, they offer free admission. Our favorite is Shenandoah National Park, which, along with some free days, offers a season pass for $20. Since it's $10 to get in as long as we go twice, we at least break even. The views are amazing. Pack a lunch in a cooler, grab the whole family and head out for a day of fun in the sun. Some parks even offer grills so you can bring along hamburgers and hotdogs to cook up and then have s'mores for dessert. (Don't forget the sunscreen and plenty of water!) 
  3. Museums. Many museums have at least one day a month where they don't charge admission. Some are even free year-round, like the Smithsonians in Washington, D.C. We have a children's museum that does free first Friday evenings and we're close enough to do day trips into D.C. Museums sometimes also offer free special events so keep an eye out.
  4. Local pools. Last summer, we moved to an area that has tons of community pools around. While not free, for a few bucks we can spend a day relaxing in the pool and then hit the park for a dinner picnic.
  5. Libraries. I love, love, love our local library. In our county, you can not only get a card for the county system but for three other nearby county systems as well. Each offers different children's programs for various ages, all for free. The one I go to with M2 most often does a sing-along and story time then play time with lots of toys for her age group. The bit older kids have a story, songs and then crafts. Special guests, like a live turkey around Thanksgiving, also make appearances. There's even a Lego club for older kids and a number of book clubs. And, of course, there are tons of books you can borrow along with kid-friendly movies. Borrow a movie, build a blanket/pillow fort, pop some popcorn and spend a rainy day relaxing.  Or, set up some boxes decorated to look like cars (craft project!) add the popcorn and you've got a drive in theater.

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