Danielle Hoston: I spent some time brainstorming great ways to have fun this summer on a reduced budget. Here are my ideas for cheap date nights, inexpensive fun with the family and summer vacations that don't require you to spend a lot of money.
Be a Cheap Date
1) Take advantage of coupons and special promotional nights at your favorite restaurants that offer either free food or a free activity (salsa dancing, live music, etc.).
2) Plan day dates. Activities during the day are typically less expensive than nighttime activities. Besides, you can enjoy the weather and get outside! Seek out new places to hike, bike, roller skate or just explore with your spouse.
3) Hotels need to fill rooms and have cut their prices accordingly. You can often get a romantic night away from home for less than the price of a dinner for two.
Fun with the Family
1) Don't forget parks and beaches ... fun in the sun for free! Pack a picnic meal and skip the cost of eating out. Think about joining a summer league, too: Local parks and YMCAs offer plenty of programs to get involved in.
2) Outdoor concerts and festivals are also great ways to have some family fun. Check your local listings and community colleges, etc., for activity calendars.
3) Plan a potluck barbeque. Invite friends or family members over and spread the cost of a great afternoon among everybody. Schedule BBQs monthly and try to switch the location or add a new activity each time (board games, karaoke, etc.).
1) Skip the stress and cost of a typical vacation and try a "staycation": No work, no traveling, no phone and no computer. Treat yourself to leisurely mornings, an at-home spa and/or a marathon of your favorite movies or TV shows.
2) Owning timeshares can be expensive. Try renting a local timeshare from an owner who will not be utilizing their vacation spot this year. Rentals are often offered at prices well below standard rates.
3) You can significantly lower the cost of travel by keeping the distance within a few short hours of home, or by taking a bus or train instead of a plane.
Remember that everything is negotiable! Keep your eye out for deals and bargains. Amusement parks and sports stadiums are slashing prices in order to lure in visitors. Join mailing lists of your favorite fun spots and pay attention to the offers in your in-box. Whatever you do, DON'T stay home and mope about your money woes. And DON'T use the R-word (a.k.a. the recession) as an excuse for not creating terrific memories this summer with your loved ones!
Do you have a low-cost plan for having fun this summer? What are some ways you save on date night, family fun and/or vacations?