15 Affordable Family Activities to Offset High Prices

We all know this stuff- but sometimes we need a nudge to remember!!

by Lisa Ledoux
A close up of a woman pumping gas into a car

There is little escape today from the rising costs of groceries, gas prices, utilities, and restaurants, to many other goods and services.

Luckily, there are activities we can enjoy that won’t leave us racked with “spender’s guilt” at the end of the day.

And for more summer fun see Top 15 Family Activities on a Budget and Late Summer Boredom: 11 Fun Activities to Liven Up Summer’s End!

Here are 15 affordable activities the whole family will enjoy:

1.) The Library

Local libraries are brimming with resources and activities for every age group, and often include children and teenage sections.

Libraries also have:

  • Fun and interactive games and reading challenges.
  • Quiet areas or gardens to read and relax in.
  • Online audio and e-books.
  • Streaming services from the comfort of your home.

And whether you read aloud as a family, let everyone crawl into your bed with their library books, or find quiet time alone to read, this is one outing the family will ask to do again soon!

2.) Thrift Shopping- yes, shopping can be affordable!

Local thrift stores offer a fun and inexpensive way to satisfy retail therapy needs, to get outside, be with the family, and… they are usually within walking or short driving distance.

Thrift store shelves filled with an assortment of used goods

To get the best experience, simply:

  • Write a list of what you need that you’d likely find at a thrift store.
  • Make a rough budget, with a certain amount allocated for each person.
  • Browse slowly, carefully examine items, and test appliances and electronics.
  • Allow children to browse, play with the toys, and look through the books.
  • Take cash.

Most importantly, have fun with it!

3.) A Picnic

Picnics may seem old-fashioned, but I like to think of them more as a sophisticated nod to the past… and they are a fun and easy way to save money!

All that’s required is to:

  • Gather any snacks and beverages you have on hand.
  • Decide on a nearby park, lake, or playground.
  • Include some toys, books, and games.
  • Pack up the car or wagon for a short stint to the park. 

Ok, it may take a little more planning than that- it just so happens I have the perfect Summer Picnic Checklist to aid your outdoor adventures. You can also have a picnic in your backyard, on your balcony, or in your living room.

Happy Relaxing!

4.) Bike Rides

Like picnics, bicycles are another relic of the past that have fallen to the wayside.

However, cycling with the family serves a few purposes:

grandparents bike riding with grandchildren on a wooded path
  • It encourages children to ride safely while building up their cycling muscles;
  • It allows children, and parents, to explore unfamiliar local trails and bike paths, and become familiar with them;
  • It gives parents the opportunity to teach bike safety skills in real-time, and;
  • It offers an affordable way to have fun, be together, and get exercise.

Best of all, we can be assured that our children possess competent cycling skills, as they become older and more independent.

And just like that- biking is fun all over again!

5.) Back Yard “Sleep Away” Camp

What can be better than pitching a tent in the backyard for a night?

It’s a quick, easy way to unplug, unwind, enjoy starry nights, and have quality family time.

If you live in an apartment or condo, you can create a backyard experience in your living room with makeshift sheets and blanket tents.

Here are some fun activities for the tent:  

  • Jigsaw puzzles
  • Board games (so many board games!)
  • “Would you rather?”
  • 10,000 (a dice game, GREAT for math-building skills)
  • Card games– are also great for math skills and are a dying art form among today’s youth.
  • Talk- tell stories about the past, tell jokes, and ask questions about each other.
  • Be in the moment.

And if you’re in your living room string up some faerie lights- they will have the same soothing effect as the night sky.

6.) Do Your Own Research

A quick Google search of “Things to Do in [insert your town/city name]” and “Free Things to Do in [insert your town/city name]” will usually turn up a list of current events and local attractions you:

  • May not have considered before;
  • Were not aware was happening, or;
  • Plain forgot the place or thing existed!

7.) A Family Garage Sale

It may take a bit of planning, but the benefits of a garage sale outweigh the extra bit of preparation and hard work involved.

Garage sales:

A mother and daughter smile at each other while holding up clothes at a garage sale
  • Provide a way to purge items you no longer use.
  • Offset the number of items that may otherwise end up in a landfill.
  • Offer further opportunities to donate what you do not sell.
  • Benefit others by offering good used items at affordable prices.
  • Get the family involved.
  • Teach children how to count change and handle money.
  • Teach us a thing or two about consumerism or impulsive buying.
  • Can pave the way for spring or fall cleaning.
  • Keep us occupied and busy for the weekend.
  • Do not cost any money.
  • Make us money!!!

Tip #1: garage sales keep you busy, be sure to have some “convenient, make-ahead meals” on hand.

Tip #2: Always have a partner or two with you outside while the sale is on.

Tip #3: Have lots of change handy.

8.) A Car and Bike Wash

Like garage sales, this option may seem like work. However:

  • A good car wash is sometimes necessary.
  • Washing the car at home saves money.
  • You can make it fun with a sprinkler or a water fight!

Washing bikes are included for two reasons:

  • Kids enjoy lathering items in suds, and;
  • it teaches them to take care of their belongings.

So, grab the vacuum, some trash bags, rags, soap, and a bucket, and give the car and bikes a good cleaning- with everyone involved.

Once the car is sparkling, stock it with these vehicle essentials for maximum preparedness and safety.

And hey- you can even give Fido a wash at the same time- triple threat!!! 😊

9.) Plan, Plant, and Harvest a Garden

These are activities that can involve the whole family and take place for a day or two, quarterly throughout the year.

Done right, gardening can be fun and accomplished for little expense.


Take a day to plan your garden, whether flower, vegetable, or fruit, and decide together what and where you would like to plant. Make or collect the necessary items.

a beautiful green vegetable garden ready to harvest


Take a day, or several, to plant the garden you planned in the winter, by this time you should have all the necessary supplies.


Water, weed, and feed your plants- then weed some more!

Do short, consistent, spurts of weeding to avoid an overwhelming number of weeds to tackle later.


Pay special attention to perennial bulb maintenance and reap the bounty of your harvest!

This an amazing activity to branch out (ha!) with and try something new if you’re not an avid gardner.

It’s also incredibly beneficial for kids to learn and offers a host of new conversations, discussions, and learning topics:

  • bees,
  • insects,
  • birds,
  • nectar,
  • honey,
  • pests,
  • natural fertilizers,
  • where our food comes from,
  • pruning,
  • and soil health- it’s a real-time science class!

And harvesting or seeing your beautiful blooms is the most gratifying feeling.

10.) Paint Something

We can usually find a few pots or pails of paint under a cupboard, in the garage, or in a storage room.

And we can usually find something that needs painting- a wall, a door, a nightstand, a headboard, a flower pot- anything, really. The trick is to decide what to freshen up!

Canvas, paper, or cardboard are perfect for creating “artistic” paintings as well!

Once you have a plan, prep your surfaces, prep an area to get messy, gather your leftover paints, and let everyone try their hand at it.

Don’t forget the music!

11.) Start a Family YouTube Workout Class

YouTube is bursting with workout videos to suit every age group (children included), ailment, activity level, and preference available!

The only thing required is your due diligence for your health and safety, and pre-screening videos for appropriate content.

Next, make a schedule, find some safe, fun videos, and grab your water bottles!  

And the best part?

Exercise has fantastic physical and mental benefits, and can be done every day, from the comfort of your own home.

Your family will thank you for it…eventually.

12.) Have a Craft Day     

This is a perfect activity to keep the family busy for a minimal cost.

And whether your crafts are created by a random selection of bits and pieces, or are more structured projects, the outcomes will be similar:

top down image of a crafts table with many supplies and kids painting eggs
  • An opportunity to unplug and connect with the family.
  • Encouragement of creative and independent thought.
  • Laughter
  • Developing fine motor skills.
  • A sense of pride and accomplishment.
  • Use what you have on hand to have fun and save money.

It’s also a great excuse to tackle any of those small sewing or craft projects you’ve been putting off.

13.) Create a Time Capsule

Although you won’t be able to partake in this activity often, on the occasion that you do, it will be exciting for everyone.

There may be a little planning involved:

  • Where will you bury the time capsule?
  • Will you bury the capsule or put it in storage?
  • What type of capsule can the items be placed in?
  • How long will you keep the capsule buried or stored?
  • If buried, will you have access to your capsule after X number of years?
  • What items can be put into the capsule?

The Library of Congress may help to answer some of your questions regarding time capsules.

This is a great way to get the whole family involved in an inexpensive, meaningful, fun, and unique activity!

14.) Plan a Potluck Party

What can be more fun than a party at home?

people filling plates at a potluck dinner with an outdoor table filled with food, tablecloth and paper plates

Potlucks are age-old traditions where each guest brings a dish, which results in an assortment of delicious foods for the gathering!

A potluck is something the kids can get involved in, either by tidying, baking, digging out old party supplies (streamers, banners), or decorating.

They can also be “in charge” of the invitation list or certain areas (coat check, providing drinks, karaoke hosts, and other entertainment).

It’s an inexpensive way to have fun, enjoy good company, and eat delicious food!

15.) Make Wish Lists

a woman wearing a white wollen knitted sweater is writing on a notepad that says "Wishlist" while holding a mug of hot chocolate

Wish Lists are a fun and practical activity everyone can take part in.

The lists can be tucked away (soon forgotten about by the children) and stealthily brought out for occasions such as Christmas, birthdays, Mother’s Day, or Father’s Day.

Wish lists can also incorporate ideas of gratitude, like what your children wish for others!

Make it fun:

  • write them on fancy paper,
  • add picture cutouts,
  • decorate them with stickers and sparkles,
  • and don’t forget to serve refreshments!

At the same time, you can also include Bucket Lists for added fun- it’s a terrific way to educate kids on all the amazing places and experiences our world has to offer.

If you’ve enjoyed any of these ideas or would like to share other fun activities your family enjoys organizing, I’d love to hear them– and that goes for anything else you would like me to write about as we enjoy our 40s and beyond!

I hope you enjoyed these 15 affordable activities that require minimal cost but maximum joy- Thanks for Reading!

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