34 Things to Add to Your Summer Bucket List (That Cost $20 or Less to Do!)

Summer is officially almost here. It seems like in my mind, Memorial Day marks the official beginning of summer. With it right around the corner, it’s time to start planning out all of the fun things you want to do this summer. But a ton of activities can get expensive. Here is a list of 34 great things you’ll want to try that won’t drain your wallet too quickly– they’re all under $20!

Build a bonfire with some friends and enjoy toasty treats like s’mores! You can get S’mores ingredients for under $10, and the memories you make will be priceless. Want to get creative? Swap out peanut butter cups for your standard Hershey bar, or try a specialty bar like Mo’s Bacon Bar for a salty-sweet pairing.

Pick a fun holiday like National Watermelon Day (August 3 this year) and celebrate with a seed-spitting contest! Or, make Watermelon Bread for your family and friends!

Pick up some cheap pedometers for the whole family and have a contest to see who can get the most steps in during a certain time period! You’ll all get moving, and it’s a fun way to challenge everyone to get on their feet instead of slipping into being video game zombies.

Look to the skies! May 24th is expected to have a beautiful meteor shower, and August gets hit three times with a Super Moon on the 10th, the Perseid meteor shower on the 12, and an amazing double-planet event with Venus and Jupiter on the 18th. It’s a great (free!) way to celebrate summer, so consider staying up late to catch these amazing events.

Keep those school skills intact by picking up some fun workbooks that practice things like scissor skills and glue skills for the tots, or catch a great historical fiction film on Netflix like The Boy In the Striped Pajamas with the older ones. It’s a great way to keep learning sharp without actually doing summer school stuff.

Cool off inside an air conditioned museum. Search for museums in your city and find a fun, free, air conditioned museum to visit this summer. If you’re in Kansas City, check out the Money Museum (where you can take home a souvenir bag of shredded cash), the Hallmark Visitors Museum at Crown Center (where you can make a free souvenir bow at the push of a button), or Kaleidoscope, a free hands-on kid’s museum at Crown Center. It’s a great way to beat the heat, and when you find a free museum in your area, it’s just that– totally free!

Break out the board and card games and have a family game night… with a twist! Take them outside and play on the front deck, on the patio, or at the shelter at a local park! Some of our favorites include Sorry!, SkipBo, and Eye to Eye.

Buy corn, then shuck it together as a family. Who has the fastest shucking skills?

Participate in a fun run, like Run or Dye or Color Foam 5K. Groupon and LivingSocial frequently offer 5K fun runs for under $20 per person! It’s a great way to get active, and most will allow you to walk instead of run if you aren’t up for a real run.

Visit the local pool. Even if you have a backyard pool, it can be fun to go for a dip with friends in your hometown. Call your local pool, as many have affordable admission prices (and some even have great rates on all-summer-long pool passes!)

Make an ice cold drink. Check out this post with a yummy smoothie recipe or this one with a great iced coffee drink. Don’t forget to follow my Summertime Gladness: Eat board on Pinterest, which is chock-full of cold drinks for summer. Not in the mood to make one? Some restaurants offer yummy summer specials, like Sonic’s Happy Hour from 2-4 with half price sodas and slushes, or their half price shakes after 8pm!

Tie Dye tees! Pick up a great multi-pack of tees in the mens section, then get dyeing, either with a kit or on your own. The shirt will last longer than summer, and the memories will last longer than the shirt!

Visit a Drive-In. I know, for any of you who have been around a summer or two, you’ll know that I’m really passionate about my local drive-in, as I mentioned here and here. But honestly, it’s just such a part of my summer tradition that I can’t imagine going a summer without. You can look online to see if there’s a drive-in theatre within driving distance of you! The bonus is a lot of drive-ins charge by the car, or charge less than regular theatres, and most are really great about letting you bring your own snacks from home. A lot even offer double features! That means it’s a huuuge money saver if you have one nearby!

Blow bubbles! Make your own wands out of household objects like straws and hangers, and see who can make the coolest bubbles in your family!

Get a tattoo. Well, not really… grab some cheap temporary tattoos (sometimes you’ll get lucky and businesses will give out some free ones at a fair, just sayin’) and deck your family out in tattoos. Ones that AREN’T a permanent decision (or, hey, for the ones old enough in your family, you can always go for a permanent commemoration of summer if you’d like). Even henna is a good, long-lasting but non-permanent way to commemorate the summer. Just make sure you’re going to a reputable henna artist and not getting “black henna,” which contains toxins.

What summer is complete without a homemade lemonade stand? Even if no one stops by, it’s a great way to spend time with family. Can you concoct the perfect lemonade recipe?

Learn to bake a pie or something else! For me, nothing spells summer like a classic peach pie, and it’s even more rewarding when you make it with your own two hands. Little ones can help roll dough, and older kids can help peel and slice peaches, too. It’s a task everyone in the family can get involved with!

Tackle your summer reading list. Find a few books you’ve been meaning to read and haven’t, or see if your library has a summer reading program. Whether you’re finding a daily deal or free book for Kindle, or you’re checking books out at the library, books are a great way to spend the summer. They’re also a great way to kill time on a road trip or flight, and are fun to read pool-side or at the beach!

Try a new hairstyle! A lot of us grew up on lemon juice or sun-in, but maybe you’ve been wanting to master a sock bun, or maybe you’re hoping to learn how to do a funky waterfall braid. Or, perhaps you want to go a little more extreme and chop it off! Summer is the perfect time to try out a fun new hairstyle because it’ll grow back before summer’s end… meaning for any kids going back to school this fall, they’ll be spared most of the embarrassment if it doesn’t turn out well. The whole family can get involved and try something new!

Blow dandelion seeds! It’s a classic part of growing up, weeds-be-darned, and it’s something all kids love to do. Don’t want the weeds in your own yard? See if you can find some tucked away at a local park.

Get up and watch the sun rise. Or, if you’re like me and think that no sun rise is beautiful enough to justify getting out of bed at the crack of dawn, watch a sunset together as a family. It’s a really great way to be reminded of God’s creation, and a nice, peaceful evening activity.

Ditch the microwave popcorn and pop your own on the stove! It only takes minutes, and it’s the best treat for a movie night at home, especially if you haven’t stove-popped popcorn before. It’s a fun surprise for the kids!

Catch a minor league baseball game. A lot of minor league teams have cheap tickets and special discount nights for families or food specials that help families out at the park. Plus, you can kill two birds with one stone if you visit during a night where they’re having a fireworks display!

Visit a park you’ve never been to! For my family, it is easy to get stuck in the rut of going to the same park since it’s close, but there are so many parks and playgrounds within 20 minutes of us that are a great way to shake up our park routine when we need to get out of the house.

Find something that you pinned ages ago on pinterest wanting to try… and then promptly forgot about. Find some time in your schedule to tackle that awesome DIY or try out that yummy new recipe!

Climb a tree! That’s right, you heard me! Try it. Feeling a little nervous? Try making a cushion with pillows or climbing a tree that stands over a trampoline instead.

Want to keep your house clean this summer when the kids are bouncing off the walls? Keep a tally of every item that gets left out and who leaves it out. At the end of the month/summer/however long, whoever has the most tally marks gets a whipped cream pie in the face! At only a few dollars, it’s much cheaper than maid service (and don’t be surprised if hubby gets the pie in the face instead of the kids!)

Try a brand new food! We found papaya at the grocery store for only $1.29, so we picked one up and tried it. It was a great way to introduce Zach to a new food he’d never experienced. Go searching your local grocery store and find something new to try– you never know what might become your new favorite food!

Catch fireflies! It’s the free summer activity that we all grew up on, and it’s so fun to do. Don’t just send the kids out to catch them… grab a bunch of mason jars with holes punched in the lids, or just use your hands, and get catching!

If fireworks are legal, check out how far $20 will go at a local fireworks stands. Even the littlest ones can have fun with poppers pretty safely, but older ones might have fun watching the adults set off a display or playing with some sparklers of their own. Fountains, sparklers, poppers, and lanterns are all pretty affordable and on the safer end of things provided there is a lot of adult supervision. Not a fan of shooting them off? Ask around for local firework displays!

Diet Coke and Mentos. Seriously, if you haven’t tried it, go outside and do it. It’s worth the few dollars to try it out and watch it just explode, and kids absolutely love to see it do it’s thing. Not a fan? Try the old baking soda and vinegar classic instead!

Have a picnic! Maybe make some homemade lunchables or pizza lunchables, or just take a sandwich, and head out for a great picnic. Rainy day? Try a living room picnic in the floor instead!

Crank up the sprinkler and spend some time running through it a a family. Don’t a fan of wasting water? Try waiting for a warm, lightning-free rain to run through!

Take pictures all summer long! It’s a free way to remember your entire summer, and you can even get it printed into a book, like the awesome 6×6 photobooks from ArtsCow ($7.99 for 20 pages)



If you’d like to see more of what we’re doing this summer, be sure to follow me on Instagram! What’s on your bucket list this summer? Share it in the comments below!



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