Make your local library a first stop for family entertainment. You can check out the newest movie releases, magazines, music, and even workout videos for free, not to mention books galore. Libraries can also offer activities for kids, like summer reading contests and programs like story time.
A trip to the library is also a great cheap reason to get the whole family out of the house. But if you don’t feel like leaving, most libraries now let you view books and movies on digital platforms like Hoopla.
There’s a great big world out there, and exploring it offers a huge variety of cheap fun.
Search the web for great hikes in your area. Look for parks near you and visit each one for a new experience. Research free programs at local parks, some of which feature local wildlife. You can even keep it simple and step outside for a walk. Or do a little planning and try a treasure hunt with your kids or friends; many are available online.
For a different way to get outside, try planting a garden. Whether you grow vegetables, flowers, or plant whatever friends will share, time outside is always well spent.
Picnics are a great way to create memories with family and friends, and they don’t have to cost anything beyond your usual grocery budget. Make sandwiches, grab a bag of chips or fruit, and toss in drinks. You can be out the door in minutes.
For an easy picnic, visit a local park. While the adults chat after dinner, the kids can enjoy the playground. If you’re looking for more adventure, investigate parks within a two-hour drive and explore somewhere new. Want to get fancy? Pack an adults’ picnic with your friends. Consider mugs of stew from the tailgate for a fall night, or a potluck charcuterie with meats, cheeses, and olives for a summer sampler.
These days you can find endless craft ideas online. See what you can make with supplies on hand. Don’t be afraid to try something new! Whether you consider yourself a crafty person or not, you can learn a new skill. If you have kids, get them involved in simple crafts.
For ideas, you can think seasonally – make a kite, try toilet paper pumpkins using scrap fabric, or cut paper snowflakes for the windows. Create a homemade sugar scrub for an inexpensive holiday gift option. You could even string popcorn for your holiday trees, indoors or out.
If you’re a traveler, consider making a scrapbook. You don’t need fancy stickers – a blank notebook is enough to start. Apps like FreePrints and Snapfish let you make free photo prints you can use.
Whatever you decide to try your hand at, remember: your work doesn’t have to be Pinterest-worthy to create a cheap, fun afternoon alone, with kids, or with friends.
Whether you’re a cook or a baker – or neither – it can be cheap fun to make something delicious. Share with friends or eat it all yourself.
If you’ve been missing something your grandma or dad used to make, try your own version. Invite family over to share and talk about your family food memories.
If you prefer something new, the internet is an endless source of recipe ideas. Ratings can really help you narrow it down to recipes almost certain to turn out well. Check out our 5 Simple and Cheap Recipes for Fall for more budget-friendly ideas.
You can involve friends, too. Host a cookie exchange around the holidays and get a wide variety of treats for guests. Or invite friends to a memory potluck and ask each to bring a family dish with great memories.
As cheap fun goes, movie nights are an easy win. Send a poll to friends to choose a movie, make a big batch of popcorn, and you’re set! You can even ask each person to bring their favorite movie snack to share.
If you have access to a projector, set up a big sheet as your screen and watch in the backyard.
Theme it up if you like. Try a Harry Potter theme with homemade costumes and snacks from the movie series. Watch Ferris Bueller or another 80s movie and have everyone dress in their best 80s retro gear. The evening is yours.
Bust out your old puzzles and board games for a fun night at home with the kids. You can invite friends for a great classic game of Pictionary, Clue, or Monopoly. If you’re craving something new, nominate one friend to bring a surprise game from their stash.
If you’re a gamer, start a virtual “game night” to play video games online with friends. If you’re craving something new, you can check out a free gaming site like Pogo.
Many museums have a monthly free day. Check out what’s available to you with a quick online search. If there’s a place you especially want to visit, call them and ask if there are days they waive admission. Planetariums, aquariums and zoos may offer free days as well.
Companies like Bank of America even offer customers a “Museum on Us” program with free admission to locations nationwide. Check with your bank or search online for similar programs.
You don’t have to spend a dime to look at the stars. Drive out of the city on a clear night, find a dark place to stop, and look up. Try a Google search for “constellations” to get printouts and information to search the skies.
Some cities have stargazing Meetup groups. If there’s an observatory near you, find out if they offer public programs or stargazing nights for the public. You could literally see the heavens through a powerful telescope, and all for free.
If you live near water, take a trip to the beach or waterfront. You can stroll along the water, look for tadpoles and frogs with the kids, or take a picnic with friends. Look for public beaches near you online (avoid private beaches or your free trip could get expensive).
Kick the adventure into high gear and try camping – in your own back yard if you like. Set up a tent in the back yard and sleep outside for the night. Or try a free campsite at a local or state park. Invite friends along, or other families if you have kids. Keep costs down by borrowing what you need and packing your own food. Just don’t forget the s’mores fixings for the campfire.
For more about camping on a budget, check out Save Money by Camping.
Pickleball is super popular right now, and you can try it for cheap. It doesn’t require a lot of equipment to get started, and the whole family can play. You’ll just need rackets, a ball, and a net. You can borrow these from friends or buy a set used online or from a sporting goods resale store like Play It Again Sports. Set up your own court at home or go to a public tennis court.
If you have a membership to a YMCA or a gym, ask about pickleball courts, classes, or programs. These locations will often allow you to check out equipment as well.
There are so many low cost or free things to do and memories to be made. When in doubt, search online for “cheap things to do near me” for ideas. Try something new – and cheap – and explore your world without breaking your budget.
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