By my count, we have five weeks of summer left (school starts for us the last week of August). For our family, the first two weeks were consumed with moving to a new state. And even though we’ve spent the last two weeks enjoying more traditional summer activities, I know my kids have spent way more time on devices than I’d like.
So I’ve vowed to spend more time finding fun, frugal activities that will make the next five weeks feel more like summer. Here are five ideas you can use to keep your costs down for summer fun over the last half of summer for your family (sniff sniff it’s going too fast). And hey, since there are five ideas, you could try one per week!
Kids Bowl Free
This summer, for the first time ever, local bowling alleys have partnered up to let your kids bowl for free, all summer long. Sign up here for the program. They also have discounted plans for adults. How it works is you sign your kids up and the program will send you links each week with coupons for two free games of bowling per day.
I took my kids last week and they had a blast. You will have to pay for their bowling shoes, so be prepared that this isn’t a completely free activity. In my local bowling alley, kids’ rentals were roughly $5 each (tax included). But I still feel like $10 is a pretty good value to keep the kids entertained all afternoon.
Summer Programs at the Library
The first week in our new town, we headed over to the library to get library cards because, with three major bookworms in my family, that’s how we roll. We found out two very fun pieces of information while we were there. The first was that our library system, run by the county we live in, is having a summer reading program (if you’re in the Charlotte area, sign up here). Just for signing up, we earned free Wendy’s Frostys and a $5 fine forgiveness card (even me!). For someone who (eh-hem) pretty regularly racks up fines at the library (we have trolls who steal our books, I swear) this is free money. Plus, free Frostys!
If we read 20 hours each this summer, we can earn up to $20 each in fine forgiveness AND earn a free ticket to Carowinds, our local amusement park (that’s a$48 value). The nice part of the program is you can back-date your reading so you get credit for reading you’ve done since June 1st.
We also signed up for couple of free workshops while we were at the library. Today, Junior ThreeYear will complete the second part of the 3-D Printing Workshop he signed up for. He’s learning about the different types of 3-D printers and how they work, plus he gets to print out different objects.
If your local library is on the small side, try looking into summer programs in a larger neighboring town. The library has so many great summer programs AND free passes to visit local attractions. Plus it’s got air-conditioning and toys.
In an epically under-advertised promotion, Regal Cinemas is offering $1 movies on Tuesdays and Wednesdays for ten weeks starting in June. The trick is, you have to go to your local theater or call to get information about the promotion. It’s not listed on any local websites I’ve seen.
Cinemark Movies also has $1 movies on Wednesdays through its Summer Movie Clubhouse. You can also buy a ten-week bundle for $5. They have a better online presence, so check the online schedule to see which movies are playing each week.
We haven’t taken advantage of this deal yet, but we will be soon. The trick is to feed your kids before you go to the theater or of course they will beg you for popcorn and candy, ruining your frugal plan.
Similar to bowling, kids can skate for free at select local skating rinks around the country. Click on the link to see if there’s a local rink near you offering skating deals. Each location has different dates and times kids can skate for free, so be sure to check carefully. Unfortunately for us, the closest free skating is about 45 minutes away, so chances are we’ll pass on this one, but hopefully yours will be closer!
Free Lego Building
There is one free Lego-model building day left at local Lego stores around the country, August 7th and 8th. Sign up here. Your child can build a free model in the store. Remember to set your kids’ expectations early that they will not be buying Legos or will need to bring their allowance if they want to take home more Legos. I know Junior ThreeYear would have to be dragged out of the store otherwise. That kid has a one-track Lego mind.
A Few More Freebies
Also remember that if you have a rising fourth grader, they can visit national parks for free all year long. The great part is, the entire family gets in free with these passes. This pass is good for all national parks across the entire country. While we missed this deal with Junior ThreeYear, we will take advantage when Little ThreeYear becomes a fourth grader next year!
There are lots of museums that offer free days during the summer, so make sure to check those out. A quick Google search will often turn up lots of options in your area, or ask your local library for suggestions.
Plan It Well
In my family, one of the keys to a successful week is planning. Usually, we keep things low-key on Mondays and Tuesdays, doing boring stuff like cleaning and errands on those days. But, we’ll try to plan one fun activity, like bowling, for Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday, and another fun activity, like a pool day, for another day of the week. If the kids have something to look forward to, the week goes better. We also keep our expectations low for those days. Since we’ve gotten the majority of our errands and necessities done earlier in the week, if our trip to the pool involves two hours of getting ready, two hours at the pool, and two more hours of recovering, that’s cool.
Granted, I don’t work in the summers, so our schedule is very relaxed, but even if you’re just doing activities on the weekends, I think this advice could work. Get errands/chores done on Saturday, and then save all or part of Sunday for a fun outing.
I hope the rest of your summer is awesome! Please let me know your favorite summer activities in the comments.
Special thanks to the Budgetnista for turning me on to some of these specials in her Goody Wednesday emails.