Taking a break from school or shorter hours at the office make summer, hands-down, the most leisurely season. While vacations are traditional this time of year, they might not be possible in light of cash-strapped scenarios and rising gas prices. But never fear: there are plenty of cost-effective ways to take advantage of free time throughout the coming months. Check out our 10 surefire cures to beating the ‘bank book blues’ while having a blast, and in some cases, lending a hand to those less fortunate. And remember, the key to your best summer yet is a simple one: plan it, do it and enjoy each and every moment.
1. Backyard barbeque
It’s probably one of the most common, yet simplest of all the summer rituals, so much so that it sometimes gets scratched off the list altogether for being too ordinary. But who can honestly say the smell of charcoal roasting, grilled meat, and veggies doesn’t light up the night? Plus, there’s always an option to get a bonfire going after the meal and throw some s’mores over the flames for the cheapest (and arguably best) dessert in history.
2. Fun in the sun
Why go to the tanning bed when all you have to do is soak up the sun from your deck, patio, or poolside? Of course, you’ll need to wear sunscreen while you’re catching those rays. And if you really want to trick yourself into a tropical frame of mind, set the stage with a fruity, refreshing drink, and fun summer read (for suggestions, click here to read our Summer Reading Spectacular). Time will fly as you get that sun-kissed glow, and you’ll emerge relaxed and energized… without spending a dime.
3. Be a beach bum
If there’s a beach nearby, just throw on those swim trunks and flip flops to feel the sand in between your toes or wade in the water. The same mentality (sans the sand) can also be applied to a local river, public pool or backyard Slip ‘n Slide – just don’t forget your towel if you take a dip, you’ll be leaving evidence of your time in the water all over the place.
4. Run for your life
While recreational running is always a great workout, why not try an organized race or marathon (with a beneficiary for a little extra incentive)? Causes as diverse as a cure for cancer to helping the homeless are par for the course, and in addition to raising awareness and funds from the nominal fees involved, most come with free food, t-shirts, and other cool swag.
5. Athletic action
Speaking of sports, those who don’t want to take a pounding from the pavement can also try some smoother rides, like riding a bike or rollerblading through your favorite public places. The truly dedicated can set a specific course or distance goal, while the casual coasters can turn such activities into catalysts for social bonding. And for those who don’t want to break an ounce of sweat but still do something mildly physical outdoors, there’s always mini-golf!
6. Get to know nature
Between public parks and forest preserves, there’s generally plenty of greenery within the relative proximity of your home (and if there isn’t, find a farm!) Consider taking a hike or stroll to see how many species of insects you can identity along the way. Though that last idea might not be for the squeamish, there’s always rock collecting, examining leaves, or animal observation.
7. Lend a helping hand
Open land can also be the ideal space for constructing something, which in the case of a program like Habitat For Humanity (www.habitat.org), means helping build a home for an underprivileged family. Though it might sound like a ton of work, the volunteering portions are generally paced pretty casually, allowing plenty of time to meet new people while learning new skills.
8. Icy cold treats
If you live anywhere remotely warm (and what town isn’t during the steamy months?) then taking time out for ice cream is a must. And if delectable dairy treats aren’t at the tip of your taste buds, there’s always a popsicle (which can also be made on the cheap in an ice cube tray) or frozen fruity treats to suit just about any palette.
9. Talk ’til you drop
Families and even roommates don’t spend nearly as much time together as they could, so designating time to catch up is one way to make up for the lost time. From personal tales the old-fashioned way, to question and answer games that reveal personality and opinions, chances are you’ll emerge more connected to loved ones than
10. Rest and renew
Another often forgotten activity (especially in this insanely paced society) is stepping off the figurative treadmill long enough to recharge your batteries. The ultimate elixir to the stress of the previous work week or semester could be grabbing a seat for some stretching, taking a nap, or simply sitting still. Indulge in any of these cushy options on a regular basis with a sprinkling of the above assortments, and the spirit of summer’s sure to linger on into the fall.