Top 15 Family Activities on a Budget

Family Summer Fun For Everyone!

by Lisa Ledoux
woman at a laptop with a calculator and wallet, budgeting.

If you have landed here, chances are high gas prices, high utility prices, and the inflated costs of goods and services have brought you here.

But challenging financial times do not mean we have to sacrifice entertainment!

Especially during the summer!

This list offers both fun activities and opportunities to learn.

And if you have missed reading 15 Affordable Family Activities to Offset High Prices, and Late Summer Boredom: 11 Fun Activities to Liven up Summer’s End they also offer great activities for the whole family.

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Top 15 Family Activities on a Budget

1.) Trek Around Town

If you live in a city, take a stroll through the small art galleries, tattoo parlors, street markets, thrift stores, and artisan shops that line “artisan” avenues.

Town or village settings may include rivers, creeks or streams, parks, town squares, main street shops, or even the shores of a lake or seaside.

It’s also a good idea to strap on a backpack armed with a fully charged cell phone and items you may need in case of the inevitable:

2 women pushing strollers walk in a quaint cobblestoned street town centre
  • Scraped knees, potty accidents, dog bombs,
  • Hotter weather than anticipated,
  • Unexpected rain showers,
  • Hunger pangs and thirst (snacks and H2O),
  • Dirty hands
  • And an ice cream shop that appears out of nowhere!!! $$$

If you do plan to walk, weave, and stroll for a few hours with children- even if they’re a bit older, think stroller!

2.) Local Historical Sites

Longstanding forts, historical buildings, and historical villages are present in many regions and offer insightful glimpses into the past.

They may include:

A historical aged wooden mill set behind a small dam
  • The homes of influential historical individuals.
  • Churches, abbeys, or other places of ceremony, worship, and religion.
  • Schools, prisons, old halls, and entertainment venues.
  • Old work sites (mines, quarries, farms).
  • Historical shops and services (general stores).
  • The barracks and living quarters of workers (miners, trappers, farm laborers, lumberjacks, shearers, slaves).
  • The homes of average individuals and families.

If the site is operating as a “working” fort or village, it may offer souvenirs, food trucks or restaurants, and interactive activities like midways, hayrides, petting zoos, costumes, baking, and direct demonstrations.

If your goal is to be frugal, smaller stand-alone sites may be more cost-effective than the larger sites that feature actors, props, retailers, and many employees.

You can also avoid the expensive food traps and opt for cheaper options, such as packing your own lunches, drinks, and snacks and having a quaint and lovely picnic- see here for everything you need!

3.) Recreation and Community Center Activities

Our local recreation and community centers are terrific resources when we’re on the hunt for local activities.

Programs may be offered on a drop-in basis, a series of classes over several weeks, or one- or two-day sessions and can offer a broad range of activities:

  • Beekeeper for a day, day camps, cooking classes.
  • Zumba, Pilates, and yoga for various ages.
  • Quilting clubs, art classes, parents, and tots’ groups.
  • Sports programs, science camps, babysitting, and other courses.

And so much more!

Depending on what is offered in your area, activities will be free, or low cost, but rest assured, there will be something for everyone!

4.) The Pool

Pools are another great option because:

Families with children refreshing themself and having fun in a crowded public outdoor swimming pool.
  • They are inexpensive or free.
  • They are usually within a short walking or driving distance.
  • You can visit an indoor or outdoor pool, depending on the weather.
  • They are a great low-impact exercise.
  • Pools provide both amusement and relaxation for hours on end.
  • Pools encourage deep and restful sleep.
  • If you are outdoors, you get free Vitamin D!

And, if you live close to the seaside or the lake, swap the pool for a day of bliss on the beach!

To help plan your pool day better see my free, pretty, no-sign-up, downloadable, fillable, printable Summer Beach CheckList for suggestions on gear to pack.

5.) A Freezer Bake Day

A freezer-baking day is beneficial for quite a few reasons:

smarties and chocolate chips cookies
  • We can make ahead school lunchbox treats.
  • We can have sweet morsels readily available for unexpected guests.
  • We can pre-make desserts or components of desserts for major holidays (pie crusts, cooked fruit mixtures, cookie logs).
  • We can control what ingredients we put into our baking.
  • We save money.
  • We teach our children valuable, life-long skills.

Baking days require pre-planning. It is best to research what desserts freeze well and accordingly, have the necessary ingredients ready to go.

Planning is the stress-free key to success! And don’t forget the music and some ready-made meals. Trust me, you want to cook regular meals when you’re doing all that baking!

6.) A Freezer Meal Day         

Like a baking day, plan a freezer meal day and involve the whole family. Ask each family member for their favorite meals and add them to the list!

This day will require a bit of organization. Here are six tips to get you started (for each tip, see where other family members can help):

  1. Take inventory of your pantry, freezer, and fridge.
  2. Based on your inventory, discuss what meals you would like to make.
  3. Take a quick jog to the store for any ingredients you need.
  4. Have a BBQ, ready-made, or other simple meals planned, you will not want to cook on this day!
  5. Create a cheerful ambiance, and play relaxing music.
  6. Wash the dishes as you go.

A freezer meal day does not have to be stressful, do it over two days and plan out the number of meals you can manage. It can be as few (4,5,6…) or as many as you want.

The key is to be patient, have fun, and take the day slowly!

How is this fun? It teaches, it involves, and it saves future time, money, and stress for other special days or activities. 🙂

7.) A BBQ (or balcony BBQ) Day

Take your BBQ Day to the next level with a splash pool, water balloons, and spray toys- kids also love running through that old classic- the sprinkler.

Throw in a few of these backyard games and you have a party:

Close-up of balcony barbecue with a lot of meat and sausages
  • Ladder toss, cornhole, croquet.
  • Horseshoes, bocce ball, ring toss.
  • Spoon races, three-legged races, tag, freeze tag.
  • Catching games, badminton, volleyball or basketball.

And if you’re condo or apartment living simply set up a splash pool on the balcony and switch up the games to some fun indoor ones:

  • Twister, Jenga, keep the balloon up.
  • Bubbles, hula hoop games, hangman.
  • Charades, I spy.

Download my free, fillable, printable, no-sign-up On The Go BBQ List for ideas and suggestions, and never forget anything again!

8.) Family Movie Night AMPED

Why is it amped? Because it is going to be awesome!

Here are some Movie Night suggestions:

  1. Choose movies everyone will enjoy.
  2. Pack the couches and floors with sleeping bags and pillows, creating the ultimate chill vibe.
  3. Have the group get involved in making the popcorn, putting chips in bowls, and gathering the sweets, drinks, and appetizers.
  4. Hop into your PJs, grab your stuffies, and enjoy.  

Tip: pause the movie halfway to stretch, run in place, dance, hop, and do some jumping jacks for five minutes just to burn off a little energy!

9.) Family Game Night AMPED

“Game” can mean:

a mom dad and child laughing and playing video games seated on a couch
  • The big game on t.v.
  • A board game night.
  • Or a video game console night 😉

And Game Night is like Movie Night:

  1. Choose a game everyone will enjoy.
  2. Pack the couches and floors with sleeping bags and pillows- unless you’re playing physical movement video games (Wii Just Dance, Pictionary).
  3. Have the group get involved in making the popcorn, putting chips in bowls, and gathering the sweets, drinks, and appetizers.
  4. Hop into your PJs, grab your stuffies, and play your heart out.

10.) A Speed Learning Activity Day

Take the day to immerse your family in a singular subject.

This can be ANYTHING!

  • Leonardo Da Vinci, Grandma Moses, Maud Lewis.
  • The Egyptian Pyramids, Machu Picchu, Uluru.
  • Polar Bears, kangaroos, or blue whales.
  • Blue zones, time zones, temperate zones.
  • The Milky Way, the Amazon Rainforest, and the Galapagos Islands.
  • The Three Gorges Dam, Burj Khalifa, Angkor Wat.
  • Cursive writing, a new language, a famous author.
  • Classical music, world cuisines, a specific country.

Pull up facts, maps, videos, and encyclopedias and discuss the who, what, where, when, and why of what you are learning about.

Draw, color, discuss, practice, or present whatever you have learned. But most importantly, enjoy the process and have fun!

11.) Family Spa Day

There are three main activities you can enjoy for a home spa day:

  1. Face masks, either purchased or homemade.
  2. A pedicure and nail buffing station (not everyone will want painted nails!).
  3. A manicure and nail buffing station.
a grandmother and 2 granddaughters sit on a couch with towels wrapping the hair on their heads, cucumbers on their eyes, having a spa day

Simply set up the stations with your readied supplies:

Or see my article on The Best Manicure and Pedicure Tools for Women Over 40 with a bonus that includes Sandal-Ready Feet in Under 5 Minutes.

And have fun!

12.) A Special Room Organization Day (reward included)

Although the fun may not come until AFTER the room is complete- this is nonetheless a great project because it teaches helpfulness, goals, and comradery.

Pick a room in the house to tackle, a kid’s room, a toy room, or a family area, turn on the music and get busy!

By downsizing, organizing, and decluttering, we can eliminate stress in our lives by making our areas permanently manageable through thoughtful purging.

You can even paint some old furniture or a single wall if you have some paint kicking around.

Children LOVE painting, and with the right prep and precautions (drop sheets, painter’s tape, damp rags) they can have a lot of fun transforming a room.

And after a hard, (and good) day’s work, hugs and treats for everyone- and maybe a movie or game night!

13.) Volunteer

The benefits of volunteering are endless:

a young teenage girl volunteer is bending down picking up garbage in a park
  • Assisting in our communities.
  • Positively impacting others.
  • Meeting new people.
  • Cultivate feelings of humility, gratitude, and goodwill.
  • Building new skills.
  • Teaching our children a most meaningful lesson
  • Creating opportunities for resume building.

And volunteering can take place in a variety of different sectors such as

  • Homeless shelters, food banks, and food insecurity groups.
  • Church programs, outreach programs, and animal shelters.
  • Libraries, community centers, and community safety programs.
  • Immigration, refugee, and vulnerable people groups.

Volunteer organizations are often very flexible– you can join quickly and can volunteer as often, or as little as your schedule allows.

Volunteering is rewarding work and requires no cost to join.

14.) Extended Family Camping

Plan a camping trip or gathering with your extended family or friends.

Maximize your fuel savings by camping locally and increasing the number of days you can camp.

Save even more money by camping on a family acreage or backyard instead of campsites, cabins, or cottages! And to travel safely, with maximum vehicle preparedness, see here for a free, printable, no-sign-up, vehicle safety checklist.

Time spent with nearby family and friends is always more beautiful when you can meet up in nature!

15.) The Firepit-Hot Dog-Smores- and Ghost Story Night!

As the day’s shadows begin to lengthen, its time to get busy:

A fire in a firepit at dusk with pumpkins and lanterns in the background
  • Make a fire in the pit or grill.
  • Slip into PJs, slippers, and housecoats.
  • Grab the camp chairs, cushions, and bug spray.
  • Prepare the hot dogs, drinks, and smores.

Apartment and condo dwellers can cook on a grill, or inside, and light some candles for ambiance.

As the skies become even darker and the smores are nice and gooey…it’s time.

If you’re lacking in the spooky tales department, this is the BEST scary story trilogy in existence:

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark,

More Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, and

Scary Stories 3: More Tales to Chill Your Bones

Depending on your children’s spook-o-meter, these are suitable for kids 8-9-10, and up.

I still love them today. And I will never forget plucking one off the shelves of our school library when I was in grade 4, and being deliciously, wonderfully scared for the next week!

Have fun, and keep your feet tucked in when you go to bed that night!

Thank you so much for reading, if you have any activities that you and your family enjoy, I would love to hear about them.

And I’d especially like to hear any thoughts, questions, musings, or observations you have and blog posts you’d like to see, as we live life in our 40s and beyond!

Feel free to email us anytime!

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