50 Cheap or Free Things to Do This Summer

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If you’re looking for cool things to do this summer with your family, you are in the right place!

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We live in Texas, and it gets hot! 

We are lucky to have gracious neighbors that let us come over and swim in their pool, but what to do on those triple digit days, when hanging out in the AC has the kids bouncing off the walls?

Many of these fun things to do with family this summer include water, and other ideas include cheap or free indoor fun.

I hope you’ll find some fun ideas for things to do this summer with your kids, and don’t forget to grab the summer bucket list PDF for free!

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    Show your kids the importance of giving back! Plant a tree, spend the day organizing a food pantry, or cleaning up a park.

    Enjoy an Outdoor Concert

    Many cities will host a summer series of concerts or music festivals.

    Bring a blanket and enjoy the music!

    Visit Your Library

    Our library has a packed schedule of free events each week.  We enjoy toddler story time, puppet shows, and summer reading club.

    You can also check out books and movies to enjoy with your little ones all summer long.

    Load up the car for the Drive In Movies

    Get nostalgic, and hunt down the closest drive in movie theatre.

    Bring your own snacks and drinks to save cash!

    Create a Scavenger Hunt

    This is also a great rainy day activity, because you could easily create a scavenger hunt indoors.

    Make your own popsicles

    Let your kids pick out their favorite juice and fruits, and DIY your own popsicles!

    Take a Road Trip

    Whether you take off for the day or a whole weekend, a road trip can be a fun way to have a frugal vacation. Don’t forget the snacks!

    Have a Water balloon fight

    I thought everyone knew about these, but I came across a few moms recently that didn’t!

    If you haven’t picked up a pack of the Bunch-O-Balloons, you should!

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    You can quickly fill up hundreds of balloons at a time, and they self tie.

    Since kids go through water balloons in about 5 seconds, it’s the only way to do it!

    Family Game Night

    There are several fun board games for the family to play together, but you can also have just as much fun with free games like charades!

    Grow a Garden

    Every time I stop in Home Depot, I look at the flowers and imagine a gorgeous garden in my backyard.  Although, I wouldn’t consider myself to have a green thumb, planting a garden is the perfect spring or summer activity to do with kids.

    Find Treasures at a Garage Sale

    Shop garage sales and have a family contest to see who can find the coolest item for $1!

    Clear out the clutter, and make some extra cash by organizing a community garage sale of your own!

    Bake cookies for a neighbor

    Load the kids up in a wagon and head door to door to deliver your baked goods.

    Make an Ice Cream Sundae Bar

    Head to your local grocery store, set a budget, and let the kids pick out the ultimate ice cream sundae toppings.  Invite the neighbors over for a friendly and delicious gathering!

    Catch Fireflies

    I remember doing this when I was little with our family out in the country!  It was so much fun!

    Visit a Farmer’s Market

    There’s no better place to find fresh fruit, veggies, and flowers!

    Go to the Craft Store

    See what’s on sale, and create a fun craft out of the items you find.

    Host a Day of Backyard Water Games

    My kids love to play this fun game called Splash Potato.

    It’s like hot potato, but you put a water balloon in it, and when the timer goes off it pops and soaks everyone!

    Cover the Driveway in Sidewalk Chalk

    You can find sidewalk chalk at the dollar store, or the Target dollar spot.  This will keep the kids busy for hours!


    Another cheap activity, readily available at every store all summer long.

    Hunt Down Food Trucks

    Our town has a monthly food truck evening, where families gather to grab some food, have a picnic, and enjoy each other’s company!  Other than the cost of food, it’s a fun and frugal way to enjoy those breezy summer nights.

    Attend a Minor League Baseball Game

    Bonus points if it’s dollar hot dog night!

    Build a Fort

    A family favorite in our house!  Gather all the blankets and pillows and build a fort in the living room.

    Sing karaoke

    Invite your friends and their kids over for a crazy night of karaoke tunes!

    Ride bikes

    Bust out the bicycles and enjoy a fun and fitness filled afternoon!

    Lemonade Stand

    Teach your kids about entrepreneurship with a good old fashioned lemonade stand.


    Is there a pool nearby that you have access to, but never use?  Maybe your neighbors have a pool and have been asking you to come over.  Or maybe you live in a community where there is a pool available to residents.  Swimming is a frugal way to keep cool and get great exercise!

    Turn Your Backyard into a Mini Oasis with an Inflatable Pool

    You can pick up a pretty good sized inflatable pool for around $25.

    This one is 10 feet long, so even mom and dad can hop in and enjoy.

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    Set up the Lawn Sprinkler

    My mom picked up this Wiggling Waterpillar for the kids.  It’s a great alternative to the regular lawn sprinkler, and a perfect way to stay cool if you don’t have room for a pool.

    Roast Marshmallows and Make S’Mores

    Grab some marshmallows, graham crackers, and chocolate and move dessert outdoors for this delicious summer treat.

    Find Water!

    Drive to the nearest ocean or lake and set up camp on the beach for the day!  Don’t forget shovels and pails so your kids can spend hours making sand castles while you read a book in silence!

    Set Up Tents and Camp in the Backyard

    Now that you have your s’mores, set up a campground in your own backyard for a frugal family overnight “get-a-way”.

    Make Mud Pies

    Go really old school, and make mud pies with your kids.  My sister and I used to do this, and also make forts with moats around them in the mud!  Fun memories!

    Attend a Home Depot Kid’s Workshop

    These are the first Saturday morning of every month.  They are free, and our kids love to use real hammers, screw drivers, and nails to make useful projects.  Check your local Home Depot for details.

    See Animals

    Go to the zoo, a farm, or one of our favorites…Cabela’s!

    Cabela’s or Bass Pro Shops usually have huge aquariums and taxidermy that our kids love to look at.  It’s like going to a museum or zoo, but it’s totally free!


    Make sandwiches, or drive thru and grab some “Happy Meals”, and head to the park for an outdoor lunch!

    Go Fishing

    Head to the lake or nearest pond and go fishing!

    Make Tie Dye Shirts

    This is such a fun and messy summer craft!

    Look up local Splash Pads

    Check out your local parks, or mom groups for recommendations on splash pads and pools in your area.  There are at least 10, within 20 minutes of our house, and many are free or less than $5 to enter and play all day!

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    Make Root Beer Floats

    Grab some ice cream and your favorite root beer brand and make floats!  If you’re feeling adventurous try grape juice and vanilla ice cream for a “purple cow”.  I remember making these when we were little.  Anyone else?

    Hunt Down the Ice Cream Truck

    The ice cream man is still making the rounds!  We stopped him in our neighborhood just the other day.

    Although his prices have gone up ($3????), it’s still exciting to eat ice cream outside on the curb…before it melts!

    Host a Movie Night Marathon

    Did you know that there are still family “video” rental stores around?  There are!  And, you can rent movies for super cheap!

    Grab every part of the Avengers series, or your favorite Disney movies and cozy up with the family for a movie marathon.

    Don’t forget the popcorn!

    Bury a Time Capsule

    Your kids will love finding a few of their favorite things to bury in the backyard as a time capsule.  Just make sure to mark your spot, so you don’t forget!

    Find Indoor Playgrounds

    When the summer sun becomes too much to handle, you might be able to take the fun indoors.  Check local churches for indoor playgrounds.  Most of the ones in the DFW area are either free or a couple of bucks!  An alternative is to have lunch at McDonald’s or Chick Fil A and play on the playscapes.

    Park Hop

    There are probably several parks in your area that you’ve never been to!  Make a list of all the local parks, and see if you can visit them all this summer.

    Go Hiking

    Locate hiking trails in your area, pack some water, and a picnic lunch and head out for a family adventure!

    Visit Open Houses

    Load up the family for a “Sunday drive”, and visit open houses.  My husband and I love to do this, and dream about our future home!

    Go Berry Picking

    Visit a strawberry farm and pick ALL the fresh berries.  Make smoothies or a pie!


    Sparklers are a “safer” way for your kids to participate in the fourth of July fun!

    Put on a Talent Show

    Help your kids put on a neighborhood talent show.  Set up chairs, gather costumes, and don’t forget the camera!

    Star Gaze

    Find the big dipper, and other recognizable constellations with your kids.  Enjoy the warm summer nights on a blanket looking at the stars.

    I hope this has inspired you to have the best frugal summer yet!  We will be outdoors, and eating all the watermelon and freeze pops we can handle.

    Stay cool, and leave your favorite fun things to do in the summer with kids, in the comments below.

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    hi! I'm shannon

    I’m a wife, mom of three, doctor, and blogger! In 2018, I decided to turn my mom blog, into a personal finance blog so others could follow along on our journey to pay off over HALF a MILLION dollars in student loan and practice start up debt. I hope you enjoy following along, and maybe even find some inspiration along the way.