Whereas winter typically involves hibernating indoors to avoid the cold and snow, the warm weather and sunny evenings of summer make it one of the best seasons for having a little fun outside of work.
For some of us, though, "having a little fun" is code for spending entirely too much money on things like dinner, drinks, and other activities. So how do we enjoy the season without dipping (or wading) into our savings accounts?
Here are a few ideas for enjoying yourself this summer while keeping your budget in check:
If you're a sports fan, then "summer" may be synonymous with "baseball season" to you. And one of the best parts about baseball is that even major league games are pretty inexpensive. In fact, depending on the city you're in, tickets could cost less than $20 for bleacher seats.
What could make baseball games an expensive outing is spending a lot of money at concession stands, where everything from drinks to snacks are exorbitantly marked up (seriously, domestic beers could run in the neighborhood of $8-10).
Save a few bucks by eating before the game and bringing your own bottle of water (if your ballpark allows it– most do). Pick up a bag of peanuts when you get there, and you can enjoy the entire game for less than $30.
No matter where you live, your city or town likely has myriad free (or at least very cheap) events going on over the summer. Do a quick Internet search of summer events in your city and see what pops up.
Then, look up the parks and outdoor recreation areas and venues near you to see if they've scheduled things like free concerts, movies, or other events during summer's afternoons and evenings. Gather a group of friends for any of these events and turn it into a picnic or a chill evening together.
Looking for something more educational? Many museums also have free days during the summer for residents of the state in which they're located. Peruse their websites to see if they're offering free or cheap admission any days this summer.
Vacationing can be very costly for frugal folks, but camping is a much more budget-friendly alternative that will still make for a fun getaway. Look into state parks, lakes, or mountains within driving distance and see if you can find a relatively cheap spot to pitch a tent with some friends.
Or, if you're looking for ways to get outdoors for a shorter time-frame, simply take advantage of the natural areas within your city. Head to parks or hiking trails with a couple of buddies to find your inner outdoorsy adventurer for an afternoon.
Eating out at restaurants is one of the most expensive ways people can have fun with friends. Between shared appetizers, an entree, and a couple of drinks, going out can add up remarkably fast. And when you start going out more than once or twice a week, prepare to say goodbye to your paychecks.
While you can make going out cheaper by skipping drinks and splitting an entree with a friend, staying in is perhaps an even better idea.
Host game nights, movie nights, or just have some friends over for dinner a couple times a month. Make it BYOB and have everyone bring a shareable dish. You'll save money in spades and still have a lot of fun.
If you live near a lake, ocean or bay, take advantage of the weather this summer and hit the beach when you can!
If you bring drinks and snacks, beach days are almost completely free (unless you have to pay for parking), and can provide hours upon hours of entertainment. You can even head to the beach by yourself with a book and a towel for some free and fun alone time.
Daily deals sites like Groupon and LivingSocial offer discounts for any number of activities, events, restaurants, and bars in an array of cities, so check them out regularly to see what kind of deals you can snag. You may find yourself doing activities you didn't think you'd ever partake in, and you'll most certainly save a ton of money.
Quick tip: The next time you're heading to dinner with friends, make it a less costly affair by checking a daily deals site first. Buy a coupon or gift certificate for a restaurant you've never tried before for some adventurous eating and great savings.
Taking a road trip is another budget-friendly way to get out of your city for a couple days.
Gather your friends, pile into a car and drive to a nearby town or city you can be a tourist in for a couple of days. Split the cost of a cheap hotel, and you can have a relatively inexpensive vacation.