Summer Fun: The Budget Edition

Summer is that time when all anyone wants to do is have fun. You spend nine months of the year working or in school and while you’re still probably working now, this is the time to have some fun. After all, that’s what has been programmed into us our entire lives. You do whatever from September-May and then June-August means Summer Fun. Unfortunately, that can be difficult once mom and dad aren’t footing the bill any more for that fun. And it can be even more difficult if you have a “seasonal” job where you don’t necessarily have a job for the summer (hello annual summer job hunt!). This means that you have to seriously budget for any and all fun that you want to have this summer. So, here are some tips and some ideas that I’ve had luck with.

No Money, No Problem

Lets start with the simple, no money summer fun option. Yes, these do exist. Although, if you aren’t a fan of the great outdoors, some of these options may not be a great fit for you. Luckily for me, I love being outside!

Hiking

Hiking is (almost) always free. In most places, they only thing that you would have to pay for to hike is maybe parking, depending on the trail head. And even then, paying to pay is only a few dollars and the money goes towards trail upkeep. Everyone likes a nicely groomed trail, right?

Here in New England, there are lots of great hiking trails. If you’re looking for great trails near you, check out the All Trails app or website. You’ll be able to find reviews of trails, their difficulty level, and photos to preview the hike. Plus, using the app, you can track you hike as you go!

Here are just a few of my favorite hikes in Connecticut and New Hampshire:

  • Ragged Mountain, Berlin, Connecticut- A 5.5 mile moderate loop
  • Sunset Rock State Park, Southington, Connecticut- A 3.2 mile moderate loop with great views from the summit.
  • Talcott Mountain Trail, Simsbury, Connecticut- A 2.6 mile moderate loop with great views from the summit. Don’t forget to check out the tower on the top!
  • Mount Willard, Crawford Notch State Park, Carroll, New Hampshire- A 3.2 mile moderate out and back trail with amazing views of the Notch from the bare granite summit.
  • Ripley Falls, Crawford Notch State Park, Carroll, New Hampshire- A 1.2 mile out and back trail ending at the beautiful falls.
  • Lincoln Woods, Lincoln, New Hampshire- A 9.3 mile moderate out and back trail off of the Kancamangus Highway.

Of course, there are plenty more hiking trails to explore all of the United States, you just need to get there are start hiking!

hiking1

Summer Concert Series

These are the epitome of simple things. Many towns offer summer concert series that are free to anyone who wishes to go. In most cases, the music tends to be anything from jazz and swing to Beatles cover bands. Some towns may even do a battle of the bands or open mic night to support local talent. These concerts are a great way to get to spend a night out while not spending any money. Even if it isn’t music you typically listen to, there is just something about grabbing some lawn chairs or a blanket, packing up some snacks or a picnic dinner, and just relaxing. Sounds like the perfect summer evening to me!

If you’re looking for free summer concerts in your area, check Facebook or your town’s parks and recreation calendar. You can use those same resources to check for other free events that your town or nearby towns are hosting– there are always plenty!

Reading Outdoors

Okay, THIS is the epitome of simple things. Grab your favorite book off your book shelf (or maybe drop by your local library and try a new book!) and head outside to just read. Take in some fresh air and expand your mind. Or just enjoy a good book. Like I said, simple. Somethings you just need to take some time and read for fun. I know personally, after years of being told I had to read a book for school, reading for fun lost a lot of its appeal– which is sad because I love reading. Now is the perfect time to get back into this simple way to past the time and just relax.

Below are some of the books I’m reading this summer:

  • 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher
  • Buffering: Unshared Tales of a Life Fully Loaded by Hannah Hart
  • Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman
  • Willow by Julia Hoban
  • The Handmaid’s Tale by Margret Atwood

There will definitely be more but these are the ones I’ve either already read this summer or are in my “inbox” pile on my nightstand. Comment on this post to let me know what you’re reading this summer!

Get Creative

Much like reading, getting creative can be the simplest of pleasures. Take out some paper and colored pencils you have lying around and draw your own back yard. Find some writing prompts online and get to writing. Color, paint, photograph the world around you. This is your chance to unleash your creativity.

Personally, I’ve been doing a lot of writing lately. While not free (oops), I got my hands on three writing journals: Start Where You Are: a journal for self exploration642 Things to Write About Me; and 642 Things to Write About: Young Writer’s Edition (this one was an accident but it’s actually pretty good for any age group, I think). Each day, I go and respond to however many prompts I want and work on my creative writing while also doing a bit of self exploration. It’s become my way of starting my day. Wake up, do some writing, do whatever else during the day.

Find what your favorite creative medium is and just go all out. Use what you have or maybe break the rules a little and buy a few things to get super creative (Michael’s is always having a sale, btw!).

Just a Little Money

This section is for if you have a little money to play around with this summer. If you’re lucky enough to have some cash to burn, set a budget for yourself. How much money are you going to let yourself spend and how? Is this money getting budgeted per week? Per trip? Figure out what works for you!

Done budgeting? Good.

Here are a few of things I’ve found for having fun this summer while not blowing my entire bank account for a weekend.

Travel: Air BnB, Booking.com, and Camping

So, I don’t know about you reader but I love to travel. I wish I could have a job where that was at least of part of what I get to do. Unfortunately, substitute teaching is a season gig and the travel aspect isn’t quite what I’m looking for when I say travel. Fortunately, I’ve found some budget friendly ways to travel this summer– although none of them are a big secret.

First, figure out how far you are willing to go. All of my trips this summer have been within driving distance of home (generally 4ish hours or less). This means that I can just pack up the car and hit the road. No tickets to worry about, just gas every once in a while. Hello, road trip!

The next step is figuring out where to stay if this is an overnight trip. My favorite website to use is Booking.com because you don’t have to pay right away. You can just use your credit card to make the reservation and change the payment when you arrive at your hotel or wherever you’re staying. They usually have a great selection of lodging as well. Plus, they are super simple to use. Just check off what you’re looking for and start browsing. It’s also a bonus that you can book a place and if you find somewhere cheaper or better to stay, you can cancel the booking for free up to a certain day (usually a day or two before your stay).

If Booking.com doesn’t have something in your price range, AirBnb might! This summer is my first time using this service (I’m a long time HomeAway user) and I have not been disappointed yet. Although, as of the time this post is live, I haven’t stayed at my Air BnB yet… So I’ll give you a much better review of how good this service is in two weeks. My experience so far has been very positive though. My boyfriend and I are heading up to Boston for an event with some friends but we needed to find somewhere to stay. After not being able to find anything close to Boston in our price range, we decided to try Air BnB. We found a verified host who had a lot of great reviews and was offering their whole apartment (I get creeped out renting just one room in someone’s home). After some conversation with the host and asking a few questions, he pre-approved us for the weekend and we were all set! Super simple. Plus, there were a lot of great options (or so it looked) of places to stay in and around Boston.

Another cheap option for travel is just going camping. You can do this for anywhere from free to a $100 in most places. In my last blog post, I talked about how we stayed at a KOA for our White Mountains weekend. For a campsite with Wifi and electric hookup, we paid $47 for one night. Anything under $50 a night is good for me! Of course, if we had stayed at one of the state parks, the fees can be as low as $25 a night at some places. Talk about travel on a budget!

Lets Talk History

Museums are great places to go if you don’t have a lot of money to spend this summer. First, you may be able to go to local museums in your area by just stopping by your library. Many libraries offer museum passes that get you in for free or for a discounted rate. Otherwise, most museums are under $20 (again, I say most) to get in. You might even get a discount or in for free if you have a student ID or AAA membership. Plus, there are so many different kinds of museums that you can find a completely different museum to go to every weekend this summer if you wanted to. And don’t forget National and State Parks too!

Below are the museums, historical sites, or national/state parks I’m trying to get to this summer:

So these are just some of the many summer fun budget things I’m trying this summer. Hopefully you’ll try some out too. Share your summer fun in the comments!

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