Fun, Frugal, and Free Activities

I’ve never been a super outdoorsy person, until recently. Having fun does not automatically have to mean spending a lot of money and in fact there are many free activities out there. And sadly enough, this is something that I have just recently come to terms with. My life has changed so much in the…

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Last Updated: March 4, 2024

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I’ve never been a super outdoorsy person, until recently. Having fun does not automatically have to mean spending a lot of money and in fact there are many free activities out there. And sadly enough, this is something that I have just recently come to terms with.

My life has changed so much in the past year, and with it comes the activities that I used to enjoy, versus the activities that I enjoy now. Before, I feel like all I did was shop. Ah, I have no idea how I found that fun to do every single day.

Having fun by doing things frugally does not mean that you have to hate your life. Lets please not confuse frugal with cheap. I will not just stay inside and look at a blank wall 24 hours a day just to save money. There are so many things that you can do out there that don’t require much money.

Today’s post will be all about the many frugal and low-cost activities that you can do, including some free summer activities for your family, children, and friends as well. Below are several fun, frugal, and free activities for you to try out. I also have a post dedicated to the many fun and frugal things to do in St. Louis for you to check out if interested.

Kayak in a new area is a great free summer activity to do.

Kayaking does not have to be a lot of money and because of this it is one of the first of the free activities that we will be discussing today. At many parks, you are able to rent a kayak for maybe $10 a day. And if you already have your own, then it is free. You can look for a great deal, or score a used one on sites such as Craigslist.

Go camping as one of the many great free summer activities.

Something that I am always ashamed to admit is that I have never been camping. Yes, I just said that, and yes you read that correctly.

Camping in the beginning might be expensive because you have to acquire everything, but after everything is bought, it then becomes very cheap to go camping. Much cheaper than going to a hotel. Camping is one of the several very fun free summer activities.

Find a place to hike is one of the great free activities.

I’m going to guess that there is at least somewhere around where you live where you can go for a hike. There is a park right up the street for us where we can go for a hike and it’s great!

One place that we would like to visit more is W’s family property. They have tons of acres and miles of land to explore full of creeks, cliffs and everything else. It is so pretty, and I regret not bringing the dogs there more.

Bike on trails or around your town.

Yes, a bike might cost you money in the beginning, and in some cases it might cost you a lot of money. However, I do believe that the cost pays off because usually it will be a one-time cost, unless you go through bikes like crazy (lets hope not!).

We have been going for bike rides a lot lately, and it’s been a lot of fun. I really wish that there was a way for us to get to the Katy Trail without having to get into our Jeep (there is a river that separates us from the trail, and only cars can realistically go on the overpass since it is a highway), but it is still fun.

Riding a bike is another one of the fun free summer activities for you to try.

Seek out festivals for free activities to try.

There are so many festivals happening every single month. St. Louis also has many free concerts during the summer with big headliners (past Fair St. Louis music includes: Maroon 5, Steve Miller Band, Nelly, The Offspring, Third Eye Blind, and much more – and all for absolutely FREE) that I happen to miss all of the time.

The botanical garden almost always has something fun also. I always miss the annual air balloon show also. I would like to start doing all of these things!

Go to the library.

I haven’t been to the library in a very long time. I would like to start spending at least some of my days diving into everything. Learning and reading new things, and for free? Deal!

What other frugal, yet still fun, free activities do you have to add to this list?

When was the last time you did something frugal and fun?


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Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Author: Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Hey! I’m Michelle Schroeder-Gardner and I am the founder of Making Sense of Cents. I’m passionate about all things personal finance, side hustles, making extra money, and online businesses. I have been featured in major publications such as Forbes, CNBC, Time, and Business Insider. Learn more here.

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  1. Liz

    Really great ideas! It’s so true: there is so much out there in our cities to enjoy and it’s fantastic that you are being so active outside! It’s something I really miss where I live (Brussels), there is very little access to nature in such a small, populated country, especially without a car. But back home, I used to go camping all the time – it’s not expensive at all and is really relaxing. You could probably find good deals on camping equipment on ebay, craigslist, etc.

    Taking walks, reading a book, having a picnic, playing badminton or soccer in a park, are all nice things to do for free in the summer. Almost free things can also be visiting local markets (cheaper produce usually) for the atmosphere, fresh food and free tastings. Cooking a new meal trying to use the ingredients you already have is also a good, frugal idea!

    1. Thanks Liz! These are all great ideas!

  2. Mark Ross

    I’ll add walking/jogging with a dog on those. It’s also a great way to keep yourself healthy and meet new people that would talk with you about your dog and their dog/s too.

    1. Yes, walking and jogging with my dog is always fun!

  3. The Norwegian Girl

    This weekend there´s a big literature festival AND a FOOOOD festival in town, so I´m definitely stoked about going! It doesn´t cost anything, and I get the chance to meet some famous authors and taste some delicious food;-)

    1. That sounds awesome!

  4. Picnics and camping are my two favourite, low-cost outdoors activities. So much so that even if I’d the money for a posh holiday I’d still go campaign. Nothing more refreshing – and both picnics and camping are perfectly do-able in October when the days are still sunny. Just bring a cosy duvet for those crisp evenings and cuddle up with loved ones!

    1. Yes, I always love a good picnic. Yum!

  5. Lisa @ Cents To Save

    I have been going to the library a lot more lately. I commute an hour to and from work, so I have been listening to books on tape. It makes the drive much more tolerable.

    1. Mrs. Pop @ Planting Our Pennies

      I love audiobooks! I get them from the library (free!) and listen to them while running (free!) or biking (free!). Triple win =)

      Around here the beach is another free activity that locals don’t seem to take advantage of enough, but I love.

      1. I don’t think I have ever listened to an audio book. I need to get some!

    2. An hour sounds crazy!

  6. Kayaking is so much fun! I almost forgot about it until I read this post even though I love to go haha. DVDs from the library as well as books (though I’ve had little to no time to read recently) are a big source of my frugal entertainment. We had a bonfire two weekends ago and that has been a fairly frugal activity, though it will be MUCH more frugal next year when we can stop buying wood since our friend’s Dad is going to help us cut down a big tree in our yard for firewood. Gotta love frugal entertainment and activities!

    1. Yes, frugal entertainment is always the best!

  7. I’ve been running a lot lately, discovering new trails, would love to have a running buddy to make it even more fun! But it is as cheap as can be.

    1. Yes, it’s always fun!

  8. We have a lot of free festivals during the year where I live. I try to attend as many as possible.

    1. I hardly ever go to them. Hopefully this changes!

  9. Haha sounds like a great way to stay sane 🙂

  10. Excellent tips and ideas.

    There’s a lot of fun to be had with little money, once you start thinking outside the box. A day kayaking or biking is surely MORE rewarding than a night at the cinema, while also eating junk food. We do some of these activities and really love them.

    1. Yes, it is definitely a lot more rewarding!

  11. Connie @ Savvy With Saving

    Great ideas! There’s a new bike renting program in NYC that allows you to rent a bike for the day for $10. It’s perfect for me since I really don’t have any space to store a bike and I only ride every now and then.

    1. Connie, the annual citibike membership is $100 for the YEAR! (and you get an extra 15 minutes per ride). I’ve had the annual membership since June and I couldn’t recommend it more.

      1. Wow that is awesome!

  12. We’ve taken the kids to the park A LOT this summer. My two-year-old is finally big enough to play on the equipment unassisted and it’s really a lot of fun to watch.

    1. Sounds like fun 🙂

  13. We’ve taken the kids to the park A LOT this summer. My two-year-old is finally big enough to play on the equipment unassisted and it’s really a lot of fun to watch.

  14. I love this post and personally do one of these things every week.

    So many people going through life thinking that the “mall” is the place to go when you have free time and would like to get out of the house. To me, its the world’s most life sapping and depressing place.

    Like you’re doing now Michelle, get and see the world – its ****ing brilliant!!

  15. Along the same lines as Kayaking, find a swimmable body of water and go for a swim!

  16. kelly @stayingonbudget

    I love the library and finding new places to hike! Great ideas, kayaking sounds like another great way to not spend a lot for entertainment!

  17. E.M.

    Similarly, I wasn’t an outdoorsy person until I met my boyfriend. He loves nature, and I’ve always admired it from afar. Now, we go walking and discover new places around town all the time. It’s fun! We have a few parks we go to, but sadly our area is more beach-oriented than woodsy. I’ve never been camping either, but it’s something I would like to look into for the future. I also love going to the library; it’s so peaceful. I plan on getting a bike next year! I have to save up for one first.

    1. I’m glad that I’m not the only one who is never been camping 🙂

  18. I adore outdoorsy activities. Spent the weekend visiting the park and beach by my parents’ house in CT. Went for a run, walk, swim- perfect.
    Also, NYC has FREE kayaking in the summer. I got to go twice this year.

    1. That is awesome that it is free!

  19. I love your list!

    In regards to libraries, I know many (at least in our state) have movies there as well that you can rent! FREE movie rentals! Both my boyfriend and I subscribe via text to RedBox and every so often we’ll get a coupon code for a free rental as well. Can you tell we like watching movies? :p

    I’ve also found it useful to keep up to date on things happening within your community. There are always things that are free of charge that are going on where we live. Whether it’s a festival, block party or a movie in the park.

    There is also a museum we have downtown as well as an art museum that both have free general admission (they have special exhibits monthly that are a small fee…).

    Lots of stuff… one just has to look around!
    Thanks for posting, you’ve made me think a lot of more things we can do around where we live!

    1. Yup! The libraries here have movies too. I don’t know why we have never gotten any. We will have to start doing that.

  20. lyle @ the Joy of Simple

    Hey Michelle and thanks for an enjoyable post!

    Like a few commenters, I am not an outdoorsy kind of guy…although I do plenty of biking to get around.

    My frugal activities include going to the library down the street from my place, hanging out at a friend’s place talking to their children and enjoying a delicious home cooked meal and going to Dollar Cinema which is actually two dollars but popcorn and stuff is a buck! They have second run movies which means that once the first run movies leave the cinemas, they can then be shown at second run theaters. So for like a few bucks, you can enjoy a great movie and treats! My way of living 🙂

    Take care and all the best.


    1. Sounds like a lot of frugal activities. Good job Lyle!

  21. I saw that recently when I was in REI. Thanks for the reminder!

  22. Yes, that is definitely a good one to add to the list. I love pumpkin patches! Haven’t been to one since I was a kid though.

  23. I love camping! And I love festivals too but I can never seem to find any free ones where I live. I really want to join the local library – that’s something I haven’t done since I was a kid!

    1. I have never been camping, but I would love to do so soon.

  24. I’ve been meaning to get into hiking, especially because the weather has been so beautiful lately! These are some great suggestions.

  25. Me too with the camping and biking! 🙂

  26. Tara @ Streets Ahead Living

    Great tips! I’m a fan of boat rentals too. As far as camping goes, if you get a Rand McNally Road Atlas (they’re a bit large in size), they list all the federal and state campgrounds across the country so it’s a great way to find a great campsite to try out near a place you want to visit!

    I love something as simple as spending time in a new-to-me walkable neighborhood. My husband and I will walk around new neighborhoods to explore and find new restaurants or places we’d like to try. It’s a great way to find new things you might otherwise miss while driving by.

    1. Awesome! Thanks for the map tip.

  27. Emily

    Hiking is absolutely one of my favorites (with the Rocky Mountains in my back yard how couldn’t it be?!). Taking advantage of free festivals, neighborhood events and window shopping are great. The Mister and I spend a lot of time walking around when it’s nice. I love finding new nooks and crannies in my city. Our library in Denver not only has books, movies, etc but they also have a lot of free classes and programming to take advantage of. It’s amazing how easy it can be to find free things to do once you look for it! Oooh and flying a kite. Man, if you haven’t done that since you were little, give it a try. It’s a blast 🙂

    1. All great ideas! Thanks Emily 🙂

  28. Summertime is the perfect time for free family outdoor entertainment. In Wintertime, you have to get a little more creative. Great list!!

  29. I go to cafes often with my girl friends to talk and it only costs a couple of dollars to catch up with your friends.
    There are a lot of free outdoor movie events in the summer time you can search in your area.
    I also sometimes go to a book club which helps me meet new people and read without spending a lot of money.

    1. Yes, my friends and I do that a lot also. We sometimes spend hours doing that!

  30. charles@gettingarichlife

    People pay thousands to get here and lay at our beaches, and mine is three blocks away. I spend a lot of time there. Hiking our mountains is another favorite, although I offset that with eating junk food after which isn’t so smart.

    1. Good think that you get your moneys worth 🙂

  31. Bands like MAroon 5 play in your area for FREE?! Ahhh! I would be all over that!

  32. Kim L

    Why, hello, fellow Missourian! I’ve been digging around for some good and cheap date ideas for hubby and I. Love this list! Does the Muny still have the nosebleed seats for free? We used to head out with Binoculars and a picnic when I was a kid. So fun!

  33. Kim

    Great list.
    My town has a garden club that does veggie gardens and also the islands around town, another group that meets every other Saturday to help with park up keep, painting, cutting back brush, rebuilt our Santa house.
    Getting involved is fun and rewarding.
    Finding a cheap piece of furniture and rehabing it, make some yard art.
    Library has speakers, high schools have plays and band nights with some talented kids.
    Google interesting places in your area. We have found some great day trips to personal gardens ie: three sisters sanctuary in MA and the fantastic umbrella factory in RI

  34. Lauren Daly

    Great list Michelle! One way I found to have fun is joining local clubs. For example, our rotary club does interesting volunteer opportunities and our young entrepreneurs club has interesting speakers. They can also get group discounts– for example: the church has a men’s bible study called Bro’s, Bibles & Brews they can host their bible study at a local brewery and get beer for a few dollars off!