Save Your Summer Personal Budget and Have Fun, Too

If last winter's polar vortex kept you more cooped up than usual, you've probably wanted to make the most of this summer. But getting out and about can be expensive, particularly when you take the whole family.

Adjusting your personal budget for the season is smart, because expenses vary depending on time of the year. If you plan carefully, you can take advantage of many different summer activities that don't cost much, and make it a summer to remember without wrecking your personal budget. Here are some low-cost summer fun ideas.

Library Programs

Many libraries have summer reading programs for kids with contests, storytellers, magicians, and other entertainers, and these programs are often free. If your library doesn't have a summer reading program, they may have a weekly story hour so your children can be entertained, and you can pick out books, DVDs, and games to check out and enjoy at home. Some libraries also have summer volunteer programs for older kids, which can be great for kids that aren't quite old enough to get a job.

Backyard Movie Night

If you have (or can borrow) a projector, you can set up a backyard movie night that kids and adults will enjoy, with minimal impact on your personal budget. You can use a painter's drop cloth suspended from a clothesline for a screen, and use blankets or beach towels for kids to sit on, with lawn chairs in back for the grownups. You could even make it into a dinner-and-movie affair with inexpensive "movie food" like hotdogs, popcorn, and sodas. has detailed instructions on hosting a backyard movie night.

Time Your Vacation Optimally

If your kids don't go back to school until the end of August, you may get better summer vacation rates if you schedule your travel as late in the summer as possible. If your kids are in school by August 1, however, you may want to consider planning a vacation during their fall break, when you can avoid peak season rates and have a vacation that's easier on your personal budget.

Next step: Sign up for Mint and create a personal budget that includes summer fun.

Craft Workshops for Kids

Check whether hardware or fabric stores in your area offer classes for kids to create crafts like birdhouses, kaleidoscopes, and wooden toys. Lowe's, for example, offers free Build and Grow Clinics every month for kids ages 5 and up, and Home Depot has Home Depot Kids Workshops. Check with local stores as well, and you can keep kids engaged and support local merchants at the same time.

Find Discount Days at Local Attractions

Check local museum websites for free or discount days. Also check movie theater chains for summer discounts. Regal Cinemas, for example, offers one dollar kids movies during the day on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and CinemarkClassic Cinemas, and Harkins Theatres offer similar deals. Local bowling alleys and skating rinks often have special discount days during the summer as well.

Picnics and Potlucks

Summer entertaining can be inexpensive and enjoyable when everyone pitches in. Picnics can be inexpensive and provide an entire afternoon's worth of fun if you bring along a kickball or other simple sports gear. Potlucks are a terrific way to try a variety of foods and spend time with friends at a very low cost. And there's always the classic summer cookout with hot dogs and hamburgers on the grill.

Minor League Baseball Can Be Major League Fun

Face it: going to a Major League Baseball game can be really expensive. But you can have a great time at your city's Minor League ballpark. Ballparks in many minor league cities have been upgraded to provide a great viewing experience, and good seats are much more affordable for families. You'll also pay less for things like parking when you take in a minor league game, plus many minor league parks have theme nights and giveaway nights regularly.

Kids Love Backyard Camping

If you don't have a tent, you can borrow one from an outdoorsy friend and set up in your own backyard. If building a backyard campfire is impractical (or illegal), you can roast marshmallows and hotdogs over a charcoal grill. Better still, if your kids are old enough to camp in the backyard by themselves, you can still sleep inside in air conditioned comfort.

Sure, summer can be an expensive season, especially if you're trying to keep your kids happily occupied during their summer break, but with small tweaks to your personal budget and inexpensive summer activities, you can find plenty to do without overspending. If you use a free budget app like Mint, you'll have an easy time adjusting line items in your budget to accommodate summer fun while still keeping your finances healthy.

Next step: Sign up for Mint and create a personal budget that includes summer fun.