Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Living well and spending less in the summer

We're one day into summer, and already I feel it slipping through my fingers.  Like any season, it comes and goes too quickly for me. This year, I am determined to have a full and fun summer...and, because I am frugal and already spent all of my money on my garden, the activities to fill my summer need to be free

Fortunately, there's lots of free (or low-cost) and fun activities in the Fox Valley.  Already, my summer calender includes dates of free concerts, festivals, farm days, kids activities and more.  For example, this weekend we'll attend River Night (including an outdoor concert) in nearby Yorkville, and then head to Blackberry Farm for a kid-friendly Tractor Show.  But how do you find out about such things?

I always start my search with the internet at city websites.  Take a look at the "Events" (sometimes listed as "Calender") page of your city/town/village, and see what they have listed.  Then look at the websites of cities/towns/villages within driving distance to see what activities they offer.  The fun stuff I found by looking at the city websites of Aurora, Yorkville, Montgomery and Oswego were enough to fill our calender for the next two months. And I haven't even gotten to North Aurora's website yet!

If you aren't finding much on your city's website, or you want even more options, try looking for fun free activities here:
  • Local park district--Ours offers a number of free programs throughout the summer, and they also sponsor several outdoor concerts at park locations.
  • Local library--I've stated before how much I adore our library for its free programs and seminars.  Occasionally, they also have visiting musicians/musical groups for free.  Many libraries have summer reading programs (including prizes!) for kids. 
  • Local forest preserve--This is an often-overlooked resource.  Many forest preserves offer free or low-cost educational/fun programs and activities.  Check not only your local forest preserve, but also the forest preserves of your neighboring counties.
  • County fairs--Nearly every populated county in America has a fair in the summer.  These cost money to attend, but it's worth it.  If the fair is too costly for you, keep in mind that the fairgrounds are in use throughout the summer for other activities. Our county fairgrounds hosts shows, concerts and monthly flea markets.  Check out the schedule for fairgrounds of neighboring counties--you might be surprised at all they have to offer. 
  • Local businesses--many home improvement stores, such as Lowe's and Home Depot, offer fun and free activities on the weekends for kids, as do craft stores, such as Michael's and JoAnn's.  Take advantage of these crafty clinics! Your kids will love them.
  • Do a google search of your city + free and see what comes up!  That's how I found the blog "Free Things to do in Aurora, IL."  How handy is that?  Perhaps you have something similar for your town.
This is just a snippet of the stuff I talk about in my Live Well. Spend Less! class at Waubonsee Community College.  The next course is July 18-August 1 at the Sugar Grove campus.  If you'd like tips and ideas for living a full life on a budget, then please join me for the next session.  Now get planning for a fun summer!

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