Summer is here and it’s time to start planning your summer bucket list. Sure, you could go on a million vacations or spend all of your money going out at night with friends, but where would the fun in that be? 😉

Okay, in all seriousness, for those of us that are budget-friendly, there are TONS of opportunities for fun in the sun minus the guilt. This post will give you some ideas for summer activities that won’t break the bank. These are all things I’ve either done myself (so much fun!) or am planning to do.

What’s a Summer Bucket List?

Making memories and learning new things are some of the best parts of summer. These two things can be a struggle when you are on a budget. However, you can change your perspective and see that struggle as an opportunity and challenge.

Those are much more exciting and less depressing words than “struggle.” They point out the spirit of embracing life by checking off some items on a summer bucket list.

Now, a bucket list is traditionally something you make of things you’d like to do before you kick the bucket. Okay, we’re back to depressing.

Let me bring it back by saying that a good summer bucket list creates fuller, more memorable experiences that you will look back on and remember for the rest of your life.

Forging memories like the ones on my summer bucket list below will have the added benefit of slowing down time. It allows you to savor your experiences and pack your summer full of exciting new things – without overdrawing your bank account.

My (Budget-Friendly) Summer Bucket List

Let’s get down to the good stuff – things to do this summer! These are just a few of the things on my summer bucket list that won’t break the bank.

Read that Book (You Know the One!)

We all have those books that we are dying to read, right? Maybe it’s on your shelf right now collecting dust. It happens to us all.

You might not even want to read it, but you have it anyway. You might not have the book because you haven’t had a chance to start one or you’ve put off buying it. Or it could be none of these things.

Reading at least one book this summer is an essential summer bucket list item in my book (pun intended). And for anyone that knows me well, just know that when I say “read” I actually mean “listen to an audiobook.” As a busy mom, audiobooks are gold when it comes to actually reading books!

woman reading book

That’s why they make summer reading lists for kids. It’s deeply ingrained in our culture, but when was the last time you had a list of books you would like to read?

Reading a book is cheap. You either have one already, or you can pick one up at your local library. You can even borrow from a friend, who I’m sure would love to have conversations with you about it.

Still not sure what to read? Try out Goodreads, a free app that makes book suggestions based on what you’ve liked in the past.

Follow Your Impulse

To put it another way – break free of your routine and do something unexpected. There is a thrill in making an impulsive spur-of-the-moment decision. As long as your impulses don’t lead to hard-time or a stiff fine, you should consider acting on them.

Summer is the perfect time to embrace adventure right in your own backyard. Pay extra attention to your surroundings and follow whatever new shiny thing catches your eye.

Not long ago, I was on a midweek drive with a friend, and we saw a random garage sale sign on the corner of a well-trafficked street. We were certain that someone just forgot to take the sign down. However, that didn’t stop me from taking a hard right in search of a garage sale that promised to be as mythical as El Dorado or the Fountain of Youth.

Spoiler alert: It was there! After completing a labyrinth populated by sparsely planted signs, we arrived. We found some good stuff, too. But the memory of searching for it and wondering if it really even existed is the most gratifying part.

Try Everything at A Restaurant

This sounds expensive, but it doesn’t have to be if you have company. You also don’t have to take this one too literally. The point is to have a fun, new experience. Some of us have always wanted to do this, and summertime is the best opportunity. So, of course, this particular quest lands firmly on my summer bucket list.

There are no actual rules to this one other than having fun and trying something new you always wanted to at a local restaurant. It can be any tier of restaurant, and you can space your quest out over a summer or have an at-home smorgasbord with your closest friends.

This can be a fun and memorable way to try new things at a familiar place or a great way to try out a spot you have never been before.

breakfast food at a restaurant

Summer Bucket List: Host a Big Event at Home

Again, potentially pricey – but it doesn’t have to be. Part of the fun and challenge should be hosting an event cheaply (and getting away with it). There are many good starting points here, and when saving money, it’s always important to be super organized.

Don’t go over your small budget – that’s cheating. Use what you have on-hand, or be really smart with your shopping. Get supplies at Dollar Tree, garage sales, estate sales, or antique shops. Cleverly devise a menu around what’s in your freezer or what’s on sale at the grocery store.

Planning an event on a budget is challenging and rewarding. You not only get to feel the accomplishment, but you get to make great memories with the friends, family, or community you are hosting.

If you aren’t party planning committee material, that’s okay, too. You’re not off the hook just yet. Consider volunteering somewhere where they are hosting a summer event and do your part to see it through.

friends picnic

Take a Free Walking Tour in Your Own City

Here is another excellent summer bucket list idea. Unless you are in the most extreme of climates, summer nights are typically perfect temperatures for wandering about outside. Big cities often have walking tours, and many of them are free (plus a tip for the tour guide.)

You can also be your own tour guide, and it doesn’t even have to be a big city—rediscover your own community on foot. Slowing down to walk along roads you may think you know presents new opportunities and awareness.

Starting a walking routine is a good bucket list idea, too. This can be the perfect jumping-off point for a new fitness routine.

For those with pets that need to get out of the house on summer days, a walk around your neighborhood can be just as rewarding for you both—just make sure to leash up and keep an eye out for other critters.

walking in city

Discover Your Local Community Center

The community center is a treasure trove of summer activities for all ages. It’s so inconspicuous you may overlook it all the time. If you don’t frequent your local community center, this summer is a great time to go and see what they have to offer.

Look at the wealth of opportunities your local center has if new summer experiences are something you are after. You can start by searching for your community’s website and perusing the activities they have. But it’s best to visit in person and take in the environment.

Community centers are often the wheelhouse for events that take place in your local area year-round. It’s a great feeling to get in on the ground floor and potentially see what you might be able to offer your community as well.

Take a Day Trip

If you have a day to spare this summer, it’s time for an adventure! Head out of town and explore the world around you.

Local Facebook groups or friends and family will be able to point you in the right direction on where to go. Whether you are looking for some beach time, a lake adventure, a mountain getaway, or something quirky off the beaten path, the world is your oyster.

Pack a cooler full of lunch and snacks to keep the costs down, and try to plan a route that you can drive in one day.

If it’s summer, and if the sun is shining, there’s no excuse not to get out of town!

Keep your phone charged and take plenty of pictures, because this could be some of your best memories from all year long.

kayak on river

Learn a New Skill or Trade

As with the summer reading list, a summer project is the quintessential bucket list item. Isn’t there anything you always wanted to try or learn about? Is there a craft or a home project you want to dive into? Maybe your car needs a repair, or you want to try out gardening or home brewing.

You can learn about basically anything for free these days just by searching how-to videos on YouTube. Just make sure the content provider is an expert and not one of those ill-conceived, frequently defunct tutorials.

Your summer project doesn’t have to be home improvement driven either. You could take up painting, or music, or learn a dance routine. Take the opportunity to learn something new that might alter your career path or lead to a side hustle that earns you extra income. Do it for personal fulfillment. Do it for fun!

mom and daughter painting

Keep It Simple

Lastly, don’t feel like everything on your bucket list has to be a monumental task. There is so much freedom and joy in doing small things too. A few ideas include:

  • clean out your closet
  • plant an herb garden
  • call your grandparents
  • gather supplies to create care packages and donate them to a local homeless shelter
  • develop a signature cocktail
  • start a journal and document your summer adventures
  • watch the sunrise or sunset
  • take a scenic bike ride or hike

These are only a few of the many, many possibilities out there! Be creative and have fun with it. You may surprise yourself at how much you learn about yourself this summer too.

Want even more ideas? Check out this list of 25 free or inexpensive summer activities.