16 1/2 Free, Cheap, or Frugal Ways to Enjoy Your Summer Days

Since making the decision to leave my job and start my university and yoga journey (and moving from two reasonable incomes basically to one), my husband and I have been on a budget.  Some days are easier than others, but overall, we've found some ways to cope--and thrive--while keeping a pretty tight grip on our finances.  Below is a list of some of the free, cheap, or frugal activities Danny and I enjoy in the summertime.

1. Go to a local park or playground.  Getting fresh air and sunshine makes any day better, but something about a beautiful park makes the decision to go even better.

2. Paddle your way to fun.  Reserve, rent, or borrow a boat and hit the open seas.  Kayaking, canoeing, puddle boating, paddle boarding, and rafting are all relatively inexpensive and fun.  Check your area for events, deals, and sales for a sure way to ramp up your fun.  Remember to consider all of the safety equipment required for your selected activity and grab a towel before you head out for a day of fun!

3. Go to a drive-in movie.  These seem to be more well-attended in upstate New York than down here in Virginia (somehow, despite the warm weather here), but they are a fun way to see two movies, hang out with friends/ family, and create some memories.

4. Bring a picnic.  You may already attend parks in your area, but bringing a picnic makes the experience even better.  A blanket, basket, and packed lunch can make a day truly fabulous.  If you're short on time, even a blanket and a drink is relaxing and reminiscent of the entire picnic experience.

Maymont, Richmond, VA

4 1/2. Fire up the grill--at a local park.  If you don't like the limitations of a picnic, perhaps consider taking your grillable dinner to an area park for a grill session there.  You must bring all of the necessary utensils (spatulas, foil...) and heating mechanisms (coal, wood...), but this is a great way to get out, eat a delicious meal, and switch up your scenery, while still being frugal.

5. Walk around an interesting area.  I know some people have a hard time with window shopping (and not buying), but if you make the decision (and distinction to yourself) that you are walking, rather than shopping, it can change the experience.  Walking in a hip, populated, or historical part of town can bring you joy by being around people and animals, people-watching, and noticing new shops, restaurants, streets, and homes.

6. Take a bike ride.  Even if you're sick of walking or riding around your own neighborhood, you can bike to other streets or put your bike in the car to ride in an entirely separate area.  Sometimes, Danny and I throw our bikes in the car and drive downtown for the afternoon.  As long as you stay safe, follow the local laws, and consider pedestrians, it can be a great way to spend an afternoon or evening.

7. Check out a local college campus.  University campuses are the home-away-from-home for thousands of people each year, so they are usually beautiful, well-maintained, and spacious.  For a low-key visit, take a walk, check out the architecture, or read the plaques on buildings or statues.  If you're looking for something more exciting, colleges also host inexpensive events year-round, such as plays, musicals, outdoor events, karaoke, lectures, races, volunteer opportunities, and musical acts.  Link up with the area college website to see what's happening around you!

University of Richmond, Richmond, VA

8. Make a movie night.  Select an excellent movie, set up comfy seating/ lounging for movie-goers, and prepare delicious, movie-friendly snacks.  Setting up a fort, bed, pillow pile, or projector can only make the experience better.

9. Read outside.  Not everyone is fortunate enough to live on the ocean or a lake, however, the relaxing act of reading by the water doesn't have to be out of reach.  Find a pond or lake close by and pull up a chair or blanket and get reading.  Or try finding a shady spot beneath a beautiful, old tree.  Reading outdoors is a great way to make time for yourself and to relax.

10. Head to the market.  If you've never been to a farmer's market, you're missing out!  Local farmers and growers bring fresh produce and homemade foods to farmer's markets each day/ week.  Cities and small towns around the country host these during spring and summer months.  Even if you don't want to buy all of your produce from these, you can go and try a new food or item during your visit.  You'll have tried something new and likely treated your body to something wonderful!

11. Give.  You can donate your time, your money, your gently-used items, your blood, and your services to others.  Volunteering helps others while providing you with the benefit of feeling great and contributing to making the world a better place.

12. Do something cultural or historical in your town or city. You live there, and maybe have for years, but you likely haven't made time to enjoy all of the historical and cultural attractions your region has to offer.  Take a look at your town or city's website for museums and attractions near you.  Richmond, Virginia is home to numerous civil war museums, battlefields, and memorials, a historical canal ride, as well as museums dedicated to Edgar Allan Poe and the Holocaust.

Meadow Farm, Glen Allen, VA

13. Head to the library.  I know I was an English teacher and everything, but I am shocked when I find out some of my friends haven't been to a library since they were children!  Libraries offer thousands of books, movies, audio books, magazines, and newspapers. Now they even loan out ebooks.  Libraries often also have internet, printing, comfortable seating, table/ desk spaces, and/or conference rooms.  Our local library regularly has book sales, community events, children's activities, reading groups, bulletin boards of local news and information, air-conditioning, and even a silent reading room!  What could be better?!

14. Get involved.  Find something to join and participate in on a regular basis.  Contact the PTA or community involvement group at a nearby school, find a knitting or hiking group (check out Meetup.com), join a gym or running club, or create your own group to encourage your favorite interest/ pastime.

15. Camp out (or in).  Whether you do so in the yard or at a local campsite, camping is an inexpensive, fun, and memorable way to spend your time.  You can buy or borrow a tent, bring sleeping bags or blankets, and with only a few other considerations, you can be on your way!  This Saturday, June 28, is the Great American Backyard Campout, so consider pledging and participating in that or doing it on your own this summer.  An indoor camping night can be just as fun as outdoor if the weather doesn't cooperate.

16. Attend a local outdoor event.  Churches, community groups, businesses, and towns put on events all year round.  Races, walks, music concerts and festivals, carnivals, fairs, and other events contribute to the formation of community.  Just this past weekend, Danny and I attended the Richmond Vegetarian Festival.  It was a marvelous day of music, sunshine, lectures, booths, delicious food, and people-watching.  Check out your area for upcoming events to get you out and about.

Richmond Vegetarian Festival
Bryan Park, Richmond, VA
"Groovin' in the Garden" Outdoor Concert Series
Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens, Richmond, VA

For more fun & frugal summer ideas, check out 16 1/2 More Fun & Frugal Ways to Enjoy Your Summer Days!

What are free, cheap, or frugal ways you like to enjoy the summer?  Please comment below or on the Making Mindfulness Facebook or Twitter pages.

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