Ahh, summertime. For you, this may mean warm weather, beach days and lazy nights on the porch. It also may mean you’ve got kids at home to entertain. And this can get expensive.
Between activities, sports, lessons and camps, summertime costs can add up quickly if you aren’t careful.
To keep from overspending, it’s a good idea to create a budget as well as a summer savings fund. Plus, start looking around now for low-cost ways to entertain your kids without breaking the bank. To help you get going, take a look at our top 10 ideas.
1. Go to the public pool
Nothing says summer like long days at the pool. Fortunately, you don’t have to have your own pool to take the kids for a swim. Public pools are a great place to cool off and burn off some energy. Plus, public pools are usually inexpensive. For instance, the city of Los Angeles only charges $1 for a day pass for children under the age of 17. For adults, it costs $3.50.
Depending on where you live, you can often buy a single day pass or purchase a summer pool membership. So, do your research. You’ll be surprised at the array of public pools available.
2. Enroll in local classes and camps
Many clubs, recreation centers, and even schools offer affordable summer activities for kids.
To find activities near you, start by looking on your city’s website. You can also see if your local YMCA, school district, and place of worship offer summertime programs for kids. For instance, the city of Seattle offers a four-day camp for $250. And, the YMCA of Denver offers day camps for children between the ages of five and 12. These camps are four days long and cost $195.
Don’t forget to look around for cost-effective activities run by other local and national organizations. For example, 4-H, a nationwide organization that offers programs for kids ages eight to 18, holds meetings year-round.
3. Assign the kids projects around the house
Got older kids? Assign them projects around the house.
Whether you could use help with regular chores, some basic landscaping, or painting a room, kids are often eager to pitch in. Not only will household projects keep kids busy, but it will help you cross items off your to-do list. Plus, it can help teach children new skills.
Dr. Brittney Schrick, assistant professor-family life specialist at University of Arkansas, created a list of age appropriate chores for children. She stated that when children complete household chores, they gain confidence, life skills, and a sense of accomplishment.
Another perk: having your children help out around the house won’t cost you a dime, unless you choose to pay them an allowance.
4. Schedule playdates
What better way to entertain the kids than to invite other kids over?
Children are usually pretty good at entertaining themselves. So, consider hosting playdates at your house in exchange for sending your kids to your neighbor’s house on another day. You get some time to yourself while your kids are entertained. A win-win!
You may also want to invite other families over to your house for dinner or a BBQ. This way you can enjoy some adult time while the kids play.
5. Visit a local museum
Whether the focus is on science, art, or history, museums are a great way to encourage kids to keep learning even when school is out.
To make a trip to a museum more cost-effective, look for discounts. For example, deal site Groupon offers a 25 percent discount off admission to the Old State Museum in Boston. Speaking of Boston, families there can take advantage of Highland Street Foundation’s Free Fun Friday program. Every Friday throughout the summer, multiple cultural sites in Boston and Massachusetts open their doors to the community for free!
6. Take advantage of library programs
Libraries often offer summer programs for kids for free. The District of Columbia Public Library, for example, touts a full calendar of kid-friendly events, ranging from art classes to reading programs. Between activities, reading time, and watching videos, the library is a one-stop shop.
7. Go to the beach
The beach promises endless fun. Youngsters can swim, build sand castles, or play recreational sports on the beach. Even for parents, the beach is the perfect place to find solace and relax with a good book while the kids stay entertained.
Depending on where you live, your local beach may be at the ocean, a lake, a pond, or even a reservoir. If you’re lucky enough to live near a coastline, check out TripAdvisor’s 25 best beaches in the country.
While a trip to the beach may only cost you a few bucks in parking or entrance fees, watch out for the snack stand as multiple trips for food and drinks can add up. Instead, bring your own lunch and snacks and enjoy a picnic spread on the beach.
8. Go camping
Need a quick getaway without spending much money? Maybe you should give camping a try.
Camping can be as simple or glamorous as you want. According to the National Park Service, plots usually cost between $20-30 a night, making it an affordable option.
To find a campsite near you, the National Park Service offers a full list of campsites available across the nation. Or, you can make it easy and camp out in your own backyard! Kids love backyard camping and it requires less planning on your part. Simply, pitch a tent out back and let the kids enjoy their outdoor adventure.
9. Keep plenty of indoor games handy
Unfortunately, not every summer day is sunny. Prepare for the rainy days by making sure you have plenty of fun indoor games available.
Board games and toys are always a hit with kids on rainy days. You can also encourage children to learn new skills, such as baking, painting or drawing.
10. Turn your backyard into a recreation center
Your backyard can provide hours upon hours of entertainment for kids if you provide the right set-up. For example, you can set up swing-sets, kiddie pools, sprinklers, a tetherball game, sandboxes, and more.
To lower the cost even more, you can often find backyard toys for cheap on sites like Craigslist or at garage sales. Or, ask around. Many families have children who have outgrown their backyard toys. They may be happy to have you take stuff off their hands.
No backyard? No problem. Find a local playground and let the kids have the run of the place!
Fun in the Sun
With a little creativity, you can give your kids their best summer yet. By following the tips above, saving money in advance and sticking to a budget, you and your kids can have a blast this summer without going broke.