How to Create a Fantastic Summer on a Small Budget

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Summer is right around the corner! Are you ready? Time to start planning!

If you’re like us, summer fun gets to be planned on a small budget. Thank goodness I was raised in a large family with lots of kids but NOT lots of money. It helped me to appreciate the simple things in life.

Summer is a time to have fun, spend time together as a family, and create memories. All 3 of those things can be accomplished on a small budget! Extravagant vacations are not required to make memories with kids.

I’m not saying that splurging  is a bad thing. Even we have been saving up to take our kids to Disneyland and we are very excited about it! That being said, it’s been a long time coming, and will be the most expensive thing we’ve ever done with our kids!

What’s even more important is how we spend our time the REST of our days. Children are born with zero expectations. It is how we raise them that teaches them what to expect in life.

I believe in teaching them to expect GREAT things of themselves and to work hard to get what they want in life, but also to be grateful for the small and simple things that life brings! Summer is no exception. So, let’s create a FANTASTIC summer that our kids will never forget!Such great ideas that require little or no money for fun summer activities! I'm really looking forward to this summer with my kids!

Plan Ahead!

BEFORE school gets out, I like to sit down and ‘somewhat’ plan my summer schedule. Last year we did themed days and it was such a hit that I’m planning on doing it again this year! You can read more about how we did that here. Basically, just come up with your game plan. If you want your summer to run smooth, consistency is key.

Do you want to inspire a love of reading this year? Plan a time each day (we like to read during the hottest part of the day) and make it part of your schedule. Teachers have schedules and lesson plans to make the school year run smoothly, and summer runs smoother too on the same concept. (Only it’s MUCH funner!)

Here are some other things to think about:

Reward system

Why not motivate good behavior with a family treasury? At our house each of the kids has a jar with their name and we pass out “warm fuzzy’s” (craft mini pom pom’s) all week long when we notice good behavior.

At the end of the week, they get to purchase prizes and treats from the family treasury with what they’ve earned. It’s been a great success so far. You can also use printable “fun bucks.” Mother’s Niche has a free printable for those here

New Responsibilities

During the school year, there’s not a whole lot of time for chores, but the summer is a great time to teach kids new responsibilities and work together as a family. Growing a garden was super fun for my kids (the one year we did it :). 

Fun snacks

Ditch the pre-packaged expensive snacks and make your own! Frozen treats are a must and my kids LOVE to make homemade popsicles and such. You can find plenty of great recipes on Pinterest.

I want to try orange julius popsicles this year since I have a 5 year old who insists on making an orange julius smoothie just about EVERY day! Reusable popsicle makers are great although some of them are cheap and easy to get lost (not to mention make a mess in the freezer!)

I am planning on using Food Works Ice Pops Molds  this year. They are a bit pricey but I figure they will save me a ton of money in the long run since the lids are attached (no losing lids.YAY!!) and they have a life time warranty! If you’re looking for some fun and cute homemade snacks for kids, look no further than our round up here.

Water Fun

You don’t have to pay for a pass to a water park to enjoy the H2O! Run through the sprinklers, have a water balloon fight, look for free splash pads in your area (love these for toddlers! Heck, if you’re really daring, let your kids dig holes in the dirt, turn on the hose, and have some GOOD, WET, MUDDY FUN!

Here is a great round up of 25 different water activities you can do with your family from A Night to have a fantastic summer on a small budget

Arts & Crafts

 Whether you are out or in, summer crafts are a must! I’m not a very crafty person so arts and crafts for us basically consist of Sidewalk Chalk murals, shaving cream fun, Do-a-Dot Art, coloring, playdough, kinetic sand, and water beads. This year I’m going to try homemade paint and cloud dough!

Story Time

Story time at your local library. Sounds pretty basic but my kids love it (my kids are 11, 7, 5, and 2.) Most libraries have fun activities and rewards in addition to story time every week to motivate kids to keep up on their reading. Last year our library had a recycled robot contest and my son had a blast with that!

Once you’ve got your game plan or schedule, you’re ready to tackle the upcoming summer days with your kids. I try to remind myself that it’s SUMMER and my schedule doesn’t need to be carved in stone.

Some days will just be crazy. Be flexible and have fun! Don’t forget that it’s ok to just chill! If you can’t afford to go on vacation but still want to get out of the house with your kids, here are some great ideas:

Go camping

Camping is a lot of work for the parents, but oh the memories that are made are priceless and worthy it!  It’s a fun activity that works for any budget and a great way to unplug! Don’t want the hassle, just camp in the backyard! Or, better yet, have dad camp out in the backyard with the kids and give yourself a quiet night in your comfortable bed. You deserve it!

Hiking and Picnics

Hiking is free and you have to eat anyway, right?Why not do it in the great outdoors? For some reason I can’t get my kids to eat their lunches at home, but on a hike…you can bet they will inhale it all! 🙂

Bug Hunt

Got empty containers with lids? Poke some holes in the top and go on a creepy crawler adventure! My kids have found caterpillars before and actually kept them long enough for them to spin cocoons and turn into moths! Love it! Ladybugs are another favorite around here. Spiders….not allowed! (Sorry, arachnophobe here!)


When you feel like you are gonna blow a gasket or flip your lid just pack up the kids and go for a drive! There is just something about getting out of the house that works wonders for everyone! Maybe it’s the fact that all the kids are pinned down in car seats and buckles, I don’t now. Just DO it!

I will add more creative ideas as I find them or do them this summer. In the mean time, share your thoughts! What are your favorite things to do during the summer?


Are you on a budget and need some ideas for this summer? Check out these fun tips and activities for a summer your kids will love!