Have the Best Summer Without Breaking the Bank

Americans owe a record $1.04 trillion in credit card debt, up from less than $854 billion five years ago.

That’s an average of $6,354 per person, and they’re paying 17%, 19%, or more in interest on that balance.

If you fall into this group, it’s because you spend more than you bring in.

So how can you break the habit without taking a vow of poverty?

Start by not spending money on things that are unnecessary, like elaborate vacations, drinks and eating out with friends and family, and pricey concerts.

A tough task for many. And if you have school-age children it can be a humongous challenge, especially during the summer when you hear the dreaded words:

“I’m bored.”

What can you do to slash spending to the bone while you and the kids enjoy yourselves without sitting around playing video games all summer? 

To get your creative juices flowing, here are several family-oriented activities that are budget-friendly, entertaining for you and the kids, while giving you all a break from electronic screens.

Go to the Park

Parks have loads of activities for kids. Nature walks can spike curiosity. Coming across an opossum skeleton, for instance, can bring out the scientist in them.

You also can do this on your own…

Pack a lunch. Make it an educational experience. Take photos on your smartphone of leaves, birds, insects, and fish. Have the kids draw pictures of things they see. 

When you get home look them up online. You and the kids will learn more about nature plus get some exercise. Your friends will be impressed, too, the next time you’re on a walk with them and rattle off, “That’s a Blue Chinese Wisteria Tree ahead.”

Some communities sponsor a summer series of free concerts in a park where you can relax in your lawn chair and enjoy pop, funk, rock, the blues, and more.

They might have flea markets with space set aside for children to display and sell their creations. What a great way to entertain kids and teach them about entrepreneurship.

Movies, yoga, food truck hotspots, art and craft shows… are other activities that many parks host.

Camping

Camping may be the perfect getaway for you and the kids. It could be for a weekend or a longer stay. And you don’t have to journey to one of the well-known national parks. There could be opportunities closer by.

There are more than 10,000 state parks in the U.S., plus loads more county parks. Generally there is a modest fee to pitch your tent. Still, it’s a whole lot less than what you’d spend at a touristy resort. And when you cook your own food rather than eating out, you’ll save a bundle. 

As far as gear goes, borrow from friends or rent when possible.

Volunteer

Giving your time to help those in need or causes that deeply touch you can be more rewarding than simply writing a check. And when you do so with your kids they’ll gain a sense of accomplishment.

For instance, pick up trash…

You don’t realize how much trash Americans leave on the beach or throw along our highways until you start bagging it. And the kids will better understand why a soda cup dropped here, a candy wrapper tossed there can add up and harm the environment. 

There’s no shortage of worthwhile organizations… animal shelters, nursing homes, health clinics, community centers that offer English as a second language (ESL) classes needing assistance.

All for Good, VolunteerMatch, and Network for Good are packed with opportunities in your community.

Take a Local Tour

I’d venture to say that there are landmarks right in your community that you’ve never visited. And many offer tours… for free!

Asher’s Chocolates in Souderton, PA, has a free tour for the public that is meant to be fun for all ages.

Everyone is fascinated with airplanes. Aviat Aircraft in Afton, WY, gives free tours of its manufacturing facility.

Golfers, adults and kids alike, in the Phoenix AZ, area will love this one: A free tour of Karsten Manufacturing Corp., which makes the famous PING brand of golf equipment.

Click here to locate tours near you.

Back to School

Your local school district might offer programs, such as art, music, dance, and field trips. Some include free breakfast and lunch as a way to help kids relax and open to feeding their brains.

School playgrounds might be open throughout the summer. You could even take the kids to a different school playground every week, just to keep them interested. 

Fun at Home

Board games and puzzles. Yep.

I’m talking about the old-fashioned kind that doesn’t require electronic doodads to play. Besides not costing much, these activities are known to improve memory and problem-solving skills.

Cooking or baking as a family. Make it a game. Pick a recipe and assign each person a task, such as cracking and separating eggs.

Libraries

Libraries are open… rain or shine… and free. Many offer unique summer events and programs, such as painting and reading, for kids, teens, and grown-ups.

Museums

Most communities have museums that offer tours, live music, and science programs. 

For a sampling of what’s out there:

The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond has a slew of free programs for everyone in the family.

The Children’s Museum in Houston offers hands-on activities that won’t cost you an arm and a leg.

Portland, Oregon, has a listing of museums that have free admission.

Get your teen in shape

The neighborhood gym could have special programs for the summer. Planet Fitness is inviting high school teenagers ages 15 – 18 to work out for free at any of its more than 1,700 Planet Fitness locations throughout the U.S. from May 15 through Sept. 1 as part of the nationwide Teen Summer Challenge initiative.

Learn a New Skill

Local merchants might have a program for kids…

For instance, a Lego store in Colorado is offering classes for first to fifth graders to learn how to construct Rapid Racers and about Junior Robotics.

Home Depot(HD) and Lowe’s(LOW) have free workshops for adults looking to do a home improvement project on their own as well craft workshops for kids. 

Teach the kids the benefits of recycling and composting. Show them how easy it is to turn food scraps into an all-natural plant food with a worm farm.

Bottom Line

These summer activities, and many more, can help you and your kids engage with others, learn, improve motor skills and reading comprehension, and fight obesity all summer long.

And best of all… you don’t have to pile up a ton of credit card debt to enjoy them.

To a richer life,

Nilus Mattive

— Nilus Mattive
Editor, The Rich Life Roadmap

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