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Summer Picnics on a Budget

Summertime picnics can cost a pretty penny, but there’s no need to spend lavishly to have an epic get-together. Here’s how to celebrate on a budget.

1. Hit the beach

Get out to the shore at the first opportunity! The beach can provide hours of relaxation and fun for the entire family at little or no cost, whether you're by the bay, seaside, or hanging out at your local state park. Stock up on some inexpensive summer-themed towels to make the day feel a little more festive. 

2. Attend a local event

There’s no need to travel far for a fun summer outing. Check out local online forums like Active Altoona and community Facebook groups to see what’s happening in your town. You’ll likely find a carnival, parade, concert and/or street fair that’ll give you something to do at little to no cost. As a bonus, local activities that do charge an entrance fee will often donate proceeds to charity, so you’ll be paying it forward all day long.

3. Host a potluck

If you’ll be hosting an event this summer, make it a potluck party. Ask each guest to bring one dish for a complete dinner that won’t cost anyone a lot of money. As a bonus, the menu is a lot more fun when it’s varied and prepared by lots of different cooks.

4. Go easy on the decor

No need to blow a ton of money on making your celebration look festive. Spruce up the place with some balloons from the dollar store, find some banners from local party stores, and deck the tables with inexpensive and on-theme tablecloths, too. (Side note: Many Memorial Day decorations can be re-used in a month or so for July 4th events, while generic summer themes like the beach, fruit, or ice cream decor work all summer long.)

5. Make a signature drink

Instead of setting up a full bar, make one signature drink for the night. Festive and fitting for the celebration, this comes out a lot cheaper than springing for a full-blown bar. You can find some great ideas for your signature drink here. Making your event BYOB is also a way to make sure guests that do want to indulge have something that they'll like on-hand.

6. Look for coupons

Don’t go anywhere without first checking if you must pay full price. You can pick up some great discounts on restaurant meals, entertainment venues and more at web sites like If you are a member of AARP or AAA, check to see if you can enjoy some additional exclusive discounts as well.

7. Host a DIY sports event

For a fun and frugal alternative to the traditional BBQ, invite family and friends over to your place, or meet up at a park, for a day of sports and games. You can play flag football, soccer, have a tug-of-war competition or even drum up a full game of baseball or kickball. Less traditional yard games like cornhole and ladderball are also growing in popularity. You can set up some light drinks and snacks, or ask your guests to bring their own for a truly cost-free day.

8. Visit historical sites

What better way to spend a beautiful summer day than checking out historical attractions? Lots of historical sites, like the Gettysburg National Military Park, host free events in the summer for holidays like Memorial Day, Flag Day, and July 4th. These events are a great way to honor the courageous men and women who have served our country.

9. Rent a boat

Enjoy a day out on the water at little cost by renting a boat from a nearby boat rental service or a private owner. Small boats, like kayaks and canoes, can cost as little as $30 for a few hours of use. Speed boats and pontoons will be pricier, but can also hold more people to share the cost. Bring along some snacks, drinks, and good music for a fantastic day of water fun.

10. Participate in a race/walk

Joining a race can be an enjoyable and healthy way to spend time with friends and family as the weather gets nicer. Participating can cost you as little as $25 (it may be more if you sign up later). As a bonus, lots of races donate proceeds to local non-profits that benefit people in your community. RaceMob has a great list of events in Central PA you can check out.

Summer get-togethers are always great fun, but don’t need to cost a great deal of money. Use these tips to enjoy a memorable picnic or outing on a budget.