If you’re working hard to save your pennies — and if you’re reading this blog, I bet you are! — summer can be a dangerous time. Social media is full of everyone’s vacation photos, and if you have some free time, it’s very tempting to fill it with expensive daytime recreation and nights on the town. Summer can be a budget buster, but with some careful planning, you can enjoy plenty of free fun instead of charging your way into debt this season.

Try these ideas to get your fill of sunshine and good times while sticking to your financial plan.

Open-Air Picnics

Al fresco dining is one of the great joys of summer, but you’ll pay a premium for the privilege at a restaurant with a roof deck or water views. You can get the same fresh air for free when you pack a picnic and head to a pretty local park for your meal. Get creative with romantic recipes, or just hit the grocery store for a baguette, your favorite cheese and some fresh fruit.

Pro Tip: This is the best cheap date you’ll ever go on if you bring a blanket, some chocolates, and a nice bottle of wine.

Free Concerts

Most communities offer outdoor concerts at some point during the summer, and they’re often free (or very low-cost). To find events in your area, head to your town’s website or to the local library to check the bulletin board. Free concerts range from rock bands to chamber orchestras, so it’s the perfect opportunity to try something new. Bring a group of friends and some lawn chairs for a relaxed evening out and free fun for all.

Hiking and Biking

Tired of doing the same old workout routine at the gym? Take advantage of the good weather to get outside for your exercise instead. Pump up the tires of your trusty old bike the next time you need to run errands, or just pedal around town for a change of scenery. You can also lace up your shoes and hit the trails to explore the natural world around you.

Pro Tip: Download the free AllTrails app to find great hiking locations near you.

Explore Your Hometown

No matter where you live, there’s definitely something special about it. Whether your town has a tiny museum dedicated to an offbeat collection or a unique historical building, you’ll never find the special spots if you don’t look. Do a little digging at the local historical society or chamber of commerce to find out what’s out there. Draw up a list to plan a full walking tour, or savor them one by one on rainy days.

Lawn Games

When’s the last time you challenged your crew to a friendly backyard corn hole tournament or a pickup ballgame? You’ll get some exercise and have a blast, and all you need is a place to do it. Try these old-fashioned favorites for some retro outdoor free fun:

  • Baseball/softball
  • Soccer
  • Kickball
  • Touch football
  • Obstacle courses
  • Cornhole
  • Bocce
  • Croquet
  • Badminton
  • Volleyball

Not the sporty type? Bring your favorite board games out to the porch or patio for a classic game night under the stars.

It’s All About Your Mindset

When you know where to look, free fun is all around. Summer is a great time to get your friends in on your no-cost plans, because any activity feels special when you can take it outside. See if you can make a weekly or biweekly habit of doing something that’s totally free. By the end of the summer, you’ll have made great memories — without having to pay down a major credit card bill after Labor Day.

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