By Laura Woods, Contributor
Summer is the most carefree season but that doesn't mean you have to relax your budget to enjoy it. There are plenty of free things to do this summer that allow you to make the most of warm weather.
If you're trying to determine how to avoid spending money over the 14 weeks of summer, read the following 30 tips to have the best summer ever while sticking to a tight budget.
Read More: 101 Ways to Save Money This Summer
1. Trade Happy Hours for Backyard BBQs
"Host a potluck barbecue at your place and get the troops together for some backyard fun," said Kendal Perez, a savings expert from CouponSherpa.com. "Make it a regular event by rotating hosts so one person doesn't feel the burden of hosting all the time."
2. Choose a Photo Safari Over Shopping
"Plan a photo safari in your town or a nearby city and hit the streets with your smartphone, selfie-ing your way through landmarks with your bestie," Perez said.
3. Take a Day Trip to a Nearby Nature Area
Get your friends and family together for a day trip to a local nature spot. "Whether it's a mountain, lake, beach or nature trail, experiencing the outdoors for a day won't make it seem like you're missing out on all of the fun," Perez said.
4. Enjoy Free Community Activities
"The summer represents a great opportunity to enjoy free activities and goodies with your friends and community," said Perez. "Free outdoor concerts, art walks, fitness classes and kids' crafts are all available for free at some point during the summer. Check your city, county or community's recreation guide for free events and activities."
5. Observe Celebratory Days
"There seems to be a national day of every single day throughout the year," Perez said. "While some are quirkier than others, many restaurants jump on the food-related ones to push their wares."
For instance, on Talk Like a Pirate Day on Sept. 19, Krispy Kreme will give out free doughnuts -- and free dozens for those who dress like pirates.
6. Find Free Fitness Classes
"Many studios offer a free day or week of yoga to new students, so you and a friend can get these passes and try different classes together without paying anything," Perez said. "Also, retail stores like Lululemon offer free yoga classes, and Athleta offers free classes in yoga, Pilates, circuit training, community runs and more."
The average cost of a yoga class is $10 to $20, so if you attend one each week of summer, you'll save $140 to $280.
7. Enjoy a Free National Park Visit
Just 127 of the country's 408 national parks typically charge an entrance fee, so find a free one and plan a visit. Admission is free at all parks on Aug. 25 to observe the National Park Service's birthday.
8. Get Free Restaurant Food
"Sign up for restaurant e-clubs to get coupons for free appetizers, meals or desserts," Perez said. When you sign up for Chili's email club, you get free chips and choice of salsa, guacamole or queso when buying an adult entree.
"DelTaco Raving Fan eClub offers two free grilled-chicken tacos, and California Pizza Dough Rewards offers a free small plate," said Perez. "Many of these programs offer free food on your birthday, too."
9. Visit the Library
"Your local library is a great resource for borrowing video rentals, video games, e-books and audio books free of charge," Perez said. "A digital platform called Hoopla makes this seamless, so check if your library has it."
10. Seek Out Free Alcohol Tastings
"Some specialty liquor stores across the country host free wine or beer tastings on the weekends to attract customers and introduce new products," Perez said. For example, BevMo holds free tastings Friday evenings and Saturday afternoons.
11. Sign Up for a Free Movie Screening
You don't have to be Hollywood royalty to screen a movie before its release date. Consumer expert Andrea Woroch recommended entering drawings at Fox Searchlight Pictures, Gofobo.com or SeeItFirst.net to get free tickets to previews. Movie tickets average $8.12 per person, so you can save $32.48 for a family of four.
12. Take Your Kids Bowling for Free
Use KidsBowlFree.com to find bowling centers offering free games for kids ages 15 and under through the summer, said Woroch.
13. Attend a Target Community Event
"Target hosts no-cost community events throughout the country to give kids and their families a chance to explore cultural exhibitions, concerts and more," Woroch said. "For example, Target offers free admission to the Children's Museum of Atlanta every second Tuesday." Tickets to that museum are $12.75 plus tax, saving a family of four $51.
14. Take Part in a Free Home Depot Workshop
"Stores like Home Depot offer free activities, like complimentary weekly workshops for you and your kids," Woroch said.
15. Get Social Media Savvy
"Many restaurants, hotels and even clothing retailers now offer free food to people who review, like, follow, check in, tweet, retweet, tag, post pictures and pin," Woroch said. "For instance, I received a free frozen yogurt from Yogurtland and a free soda from Pita Pit for liking the shops on Facebook and a free appetizer at a local restaurant for checking in on Foursquare."
16. Check for Free Days at Local Cultural Centers
"Take advantage of free days at local museums, zoos and botanical gardens while providing an education and cultural experience for the whole family," Woroch said. Information can be found on the institutions' websites.
17. Use Credit Card Freebies
Your credit card might come with free perks you don't know about. "Bank of America cardholders get free access to local museums, zoos, aquariums and more" every first full weekend of the month, Woroch said.
18. Request Free Samples From Brands
"Most brands are happy to send new customers samples to test out," said Woroch. "Just visit the brand's website to put in a request."
19. Find Free Items on FreeCycle.org
"Look for freebies in your community by searching Freecycle.org, where neighbors post free furniture, appliances, clothing, sporting goods and more," Woroch said. "What's one person's trash may be a treasure to you, so scope it out and take advantage of the free offers."
20. Host a Book Swap
Get rid of books collecting dust on your shelf by hosting a book swap where you can get new reading material for free. The average mass-market paperback novel costs about $8, so if you read five books this summer, you'll save $40.
21. Bring Your Lunch
Americans eat lunch out an average of twice per week, spending about $10 each time. Pack your lunch all summer and save approximately $200.
22. Have a Board Game Tournament
Trade a night out on the town for a fun evening at home playing board games. Let each person choose a favorite game, creating a lineup that will keep your group occupied all night.
23. Stop Buying Coffee Out
The average price of a 16-ounce grande coffee at Starbucks is $2.10. Swap this every-weekday habit for a cup of home brew and save $141 this summer.
24. Volunteer for a Local Organization
Giving back to a local organization close to your heart will make you feel rich without spending a dime. Use sites like VolunteerMatch.org to find a cause you're passionate about.
25. Rearrange Your Furniture
Tired of your home décor but not sure how to avoid spending money to refresh it? Just move furniture around -- without purchasing anything new.
26. Take Your Furry Friend to the Dog Park
At your local dog park, enjoy watching your best friend get some off-leash exercise. It doesn't cost a thing to let your pooch run free and bond with her fellow canines.
27. Catch Up With Family and Friends
Catch up with family and friends you haven't talked to for a while. Invite those in your area to your home for coffee and pick up the phone and give long-distance loved ones a call.
28. Do Your Own Yard Work
Lawn services average $54 per week to cut your grass. Handle this chore yourself, and even if you have to buy a push mower and gas, you'll save hundreds of dollars.
29. Stay Away From Places Where You're Tempted to Spend
When trying to figure out how to spend less money, avoid certain places, such as the mall, that trigger your urge to spend impulsively. Don't set yourself up to break your budget.
30. Turn Off the AC
Air-conditioning bills soar during heat waves. Turn your air conditioner off, open the windows and use fans to circulate air.
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