How to Have a Fun Family-Friendly Summer on a Budget


As a part time teacher I have summers off to hang out with my kiddos, but on the flip side I also don’t get paid as a teacher during the summer, so my family has to summer on a budget!  Here’s a list of my favorite resources and money-saving summer suggestions…

  1. Culture Passes.  They are literally your ticket to fun this summer! They can be found at the Phoenix Public Library and give you FREE admission for two people at participating arts and cultural institutions. The passes are first-come, first-serve and you can not renew them or place them on hold.  This the first spot I hit each time we go to the library because there are so many participating organizations: Arcosanti (I’ve never been, so this is on my summer bucket list!), Arizona Science CenterAZ Heritage Center at Papago ParkDesert Botanical GardenDesert Caballeros Western MuseumHalle Heart Children’s MuseumHeard MuseumIrish Cultural CenterPhoenix Art MuseumPueblo Grande MuseumRosson House MuseumScottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art , and the Superstition Mountain Museum
  2. The Library.  You can find a guide to free summer activities at a Phoenix Public Library near you.  But also, just the good ol’ fashion books and videos that are available are cool too.  If you own a Kindle you can actually check out a digital copy of some books as well! The library is a great resource for kids and adults of all ages, and it’s air conditioned! We like to go weekly to check out new stuff (and make sure to return our old stuff promptly on time!).
  3. Splash Pads! You can find my list of the best splash pads in Phoenix here, and don’t forget to pack a few snacks to save some money on the tempting nearby restaurants! Note: this was created last year and the downtown CityScape splash pad venue has changed a bit, but there are some great options on here for summer fun nonetheless!summer on a budget
  4. Harkin’s Summer Movie Fun! I remember going with my mom as a kid to these. It’s kind of cool this is still a thing! Basically for $7 a kid you can get 10 weeks’ worth of movie tickets! That’s less than $1 a movie! You have to pick and commit to a day of the week and the showings are at 9:45 am but if you’re a mostly at home mama this is a great way to break up one day of the week! It might be a little late into the summer now to get a pass for this year, but definitely, put it on your calendar for next year, or see how many sessions are left at your local Harkins. Movies run though the week of July 31.  
  5. Happy Hour Date Night.  This one is for the parents because we want to have summer fun too!  Choose somewhere with a great happy hour and get a drink and appetizer and take a few minutes alone. Since it’s during happy hour, you shouldn’t have a hard time finding a babysitter who would otherwise have to sacrifice his or her whole night. 
  6. Host a Pot Luck.  We’re really close with our family and friends and budgets are no excuse to slack on the party.  Each family needs to bring something to contribute but instead of having to grocery shop for an entire BBQ you just need to worry about the pasta salad and maybe some charcoal.  This is a favorite Sunday evening activity for us.  And if someone has access to a projector, setting up a backyard movie is a great way to enjoy the slightly cooler evening weather. 
  7. Rotate Play Dates.  This is really wonderful for the mamas that have a lot to do. If you can rotate child care with a few close friends, each person hosting a house full of kiddos for a few hours, the other moms can take a break and get a pedicure clean the house or run errands. Plus, when it’s your turn to host you only have to worry about entertaining the kids for a couple of hours, but your kids will be entertained because their friends are there.  It’s a win-win!summer on a budget
  8. Goodwill Board Games.  You can find lots of fun games at your local thrift store, and even if the games are missing pieces, let the kids make their own rules and have a family game night.
  9. Have a Garage Sale.  OR at least clean out your closets. I pay the kids 10 cents for each item they are willing to part with, a small investment for the space that clears up and then the good stuff I resell at Hissyfits (kid’s stuff) or Poor Little Rich Girl (mom’s stuff).  Listing surplus kids clothes on Craigslist, Facebook or Offer up and other toys at your yard sale is another good way to make a couple of bucks that allows you to splurge on other fun summer activities. 
  10. Make Some Art.  Bust out the random glitter that’s been in your craft closet too long and get to mixing. Let the kids make a mess; outside if you can handle the heat or if they are toddler age or younger check out this blog post that showcases a super cool way to keep your house clean while the kiddos get crafty!
  11. Cook with Your Kiddos.  Our family loves making recipes together! Kids love helping to sort and mix, so I do the scary chopping and measuring while talking them though the process. This is crucial not just as an activity to keep the kids busy but it really helps keep the summer grocery budget on point.  It is inevitable the kids are going to snack, so it’s essential to choose a few healthy options for them. Think fresh organic fruit and veggies you find on sale, and then a couple well-budgeted meal ideas.
  12. summer on a budgetCatch up with Pen Pals. We enjoy writingandf sending postcards to our friends and family that live out of state.  Stamps aren’t too expensive and unless you’re sending packages, this is a cheap way for kids to connect with friends.  They can draw or write and they love it when their friends write back.   
  13. Take a Bath.  Add a drop or two of peppermint oil for ultra cooling effect, or just relax after the kids are asleep with some aroma therapy and a glass of wine or drink of your choosing. 
  14. Harvest Your Garden (if you have one).  Everything bakes in the heat so be sure to pick any backyard produce you’ve got growing, and then integrate those into your meal planning. 
  15. Make a Vision Board.  I stole this one from this epic list of ideas to help get your life together for the summer.  But it’s seriously brilliant. Everyone does new year’s resolutions, but what about mid-year resolutions, planning before going back to school, or maybe just including your kids in goals and dreams they have for you and your family?  I love to re-evaluate our summer list and vision boards though out the year to check in and see if we’re working towards our goals. 

And that’s how I plan to survive this summer on a budget.

What are your tips and tricks to summer on a budget and still have fun with your family?


  1. Something about summer makes me crave ice coffee which at Starbucks is still under $4 but to have it everyday is not in my budget so I have started to buy the refrigerated chilled unsweetened Starbucks coffee from the store which is about $4 when on sale and using my Starbucks plastic tumbler to make my own iced coffee at home. I don’t feel like I’m missing out and I’m saving about $20 a week plus not having to venture into the heat to get my coffee fixed.

    And a caffeinated mom makes for a fun mom in this house 🙂

    • you’re so right! the iced coffee is a summer must! I’ve been making my own at home so long I forgot this is actually saving me $20 a week too! thanks for the reminder.


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