“What did you do this summer?”
It’s hard to not look at that like a loaded question. And I’m not talking about all the people who seem to want me to prove that I wasn’t just lounging around eating bonbons with my fellow teachers.
The truth is that I’ve always struggled with answering this question.
It always feels like no matter what I say, I can never actually capture just how wonderful summers are.
We’ve traveled the Midwest. We’ve road tripped the Southwest. We celebrated anniversaries in Punta Cana, Akumal, and Guanacaste.
Still, those simple sentences never seemed to capture those experiences.
This summer, when the experiences have been noticeably slower, simpler, and on a much smaller scale, it’s been even harder to do summer justice when answering that question. The thing is that I actually think this was my favorite summer. So for everyone who is looking for free or frugal summer activities ways to round out the last few weeks, here’s what we’ve loved the most.
We’ve only spent a few dollars on a garden this year. Normally, we grow everything from seed. But having an infant wasn’t totally conducive to getting everything up and running like we normally do in the springtime. While gardening was a very frugal hobby for us this summer (we haven’t had to water once thanks to fairly regular rain and our rain barrel), but the setup cost was high. I figure I either have to garden until I’m 90 or earn a farming credit on my taxes to really officially feel frugal here.
RELATED POST: Money Lessons from My Garden
Exploring Our Neighborhood
Most of my steps this summer came from walking a few miles around our neighborhood each day. We’re lucky because we have a lake right across the road that we can also walk. But we mostly just tour the neighborhood. We found a couple freebies on the curb, and I even resold a garbage find. But the best part of our walks is really just watching how exciting everything is when you’re 1.
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Visiting Nature Centers
These are generally free. The ones by us are anyways. When we see donation boxes, we always toss in a few dollars. We love them because they usually have interactive exhibits or displays perfect for little fingers and faces. Plus, they have some really good parks.
Hiking Forest Preserves
We are surrounded by forest preserves but you’d never know it the way people talk about suburbia. The truth is that we have so many miles and miles of bike trails, I could travel almost to central Illinois. If I knew how to ride a bike.
We used to hike a lot. Now, I would say we move at more of a stroll. When we have the actual stroller with us, we tend to stay on the paved paths as well. But that doesn’t make it any less fun. We might not make it as far, but there’s something really exciting about seeing all of the flora and fauna, hearing the sounds, and smelling the scents with a toddler who is trying to take it all in for the first time.
Playing at the Library
The library is definitely the best kept secret in terms of free activities for young kids. We visited eight different libraries this summer. Why? Because it’s the only place designed for little nuggets like mine. Ok, ok. Not every part of the library is toddler-friendly, but they all have kids’ corners. Bead tables. Puzzles. Play kitchen. Puppet shows. We even discovered some that have little play areas with different toddler mats to climb and scoot around.
Final Thoughts on Free & Frugal Summer Activities
I don’t know that I will make headlines with any of these frugal and free summer activities. But they were kind to my wallet. Even more importantly, they were fun for all of us. Summer doesn’t have to be about the biggest adventure. Not everything on your bucket list has to cost big bucks. Instead, slowing down and savoring how you’re spending your time can make most things feel extraordinary. To me, that’s what summer is all about. Now, go get your frugal on.
So Tell Me…What’s been your favorite part of summer? Do you have any frugal or free activities you love?