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4 ways to have fun this summer without spending a dime (and a few extra trips on traveling on the cheap)

, by Rob Kaufman

Do you remember how you would have fun as a child? Was it the sandbox... action figures... playing dress up... video games... throwing around a ball with friends? Whatever it was that gave you joy didn't require having a wad of cash in your pocket. You made your own fun, for free. And the best part is, you still can!

Sometimes, the older we get the more difficult it is to have fun without "paying" for it. Still, that doesn't mean we have to break the budget in order to enjoy ourselves. There are many ways to have fun (alone or with friends) without needing to take out a loan.

Staying around town?

If there's not enough money right now to take a vacation or even a short trip, no worries. There's plenty of things to do in your own neighborhood - right in your own home as a matter of fact.

  1. Friends Night is not only inexpensive, but it can also be a way of enhancing important relationships. If you and your friends are comfortable just "hanging out" together, then a night of binge-watching a television series or having a movie marathon could be great fun. If there's a concern that too much TV or inactivity could bore some in the group, start the night off with a potluck dinner. Just have everyone bring a dish (appetizer, entrée, dessert, etc.) and dig in! Once satiated, you can get down to the real business at hand - Movie Mania.

  2. Meetups can be found all over the Internet, primarily on social media websites. They are made up of people within your community who share special interests. From art and creative writing to culinary fun, hiking and pet ownership, Meetups can be held anywhere. You can meet each month at a different members' home, the library, a local bar or restaurant. Wherever you feel comfortable sharing your interests with like-minded people is where you can schedule the get together. Just search "MEETUP" online and make some new friends!

  3. Long ago (for some of us), Game Nights consisted of friends and family getting together to play card games, board games like Monopoly and Scrabble, even Charades (look that one up online if it sounds foreign to you J). With the advancements in technology, game playing has changed... a lot. Today one can play games on a television, tablet, computer, even a telephone. For some inexpensive enjoyment, consider a night filled with high and low-tech games that bring together the best of all worlds - friends, family and fun.

  4. And then there's the Staycation . Here's the definition: a vacation spent in one's home country rather than abroad, or one spent at home and involving day trips to local attractions. That's perfect for those of us trying to have fun and save some cash at the same time. Visit a local park that's giving a free concert or just use the grounds to have a picnic. Go fishing. Go camping. Go hiking. Walk a few of the trails around your town. There are plenty of things to enjoy right in your own neighborhood. Have you searched them out yet?

If you absolutely need a change of scenery:

For those times you feel that you need to get away in order to have fun, there are a number of things you can do to keep the costs down.

If you're traveling within the United States, there are opportunities to enjoy two destinations for the price of one . For instance, if you're traveling to the artist's haven of Santa Fe, New Mexico, a car ride to Arizona brings you to the Grand Canyon. Visiting the Freedom Trail in Boston? A quick train or car ride south and you're in New York City. Take advantage of location and you can have more fun for less money.

When it comes to air travel and lodging , a little research can go a long way. Many low-cost airlines arrive and depart from smaller regional airports near large cities. You might have to travel a little further to reach these airports, but it can save you a lot of money on air travel.

Remember to consider apartment and home rentals when deciding where you want to stay and for how long. If you search for rentals online, you can see photos, costs, amenities, etc. and choose from hundreds of locations across the country and the world. The best part is, you're not only saving a lot of money, you'll also be able to experience the area just like a local. If you do decide to stay at a hotel, be sure to ask about all possible fees before you make the reservation - from the newspaper at your door to the telephone in your room. Once you hear these fees, you might think again about renting an apartment.

Last, but definitely not least, be sure to check your credit card for reward points . Many cards provide the ability to trade in points toward hotels rooms, airfare, even gift cards for meals at some very good restaurants. Stretch your points as far as they will go so you can keep more money in your pocket for all those souvenirs you'll be bringing home. If you need help finding a good rewards card, head to the FICO Forums Credit Card Board and ask for recommendations.

It shouldn't cost a fortune to have fun. Just do a little research and remember: it's not always where you go but who you're with that matters most. Now go have some fun!

See for yourself how much fun your budget will allow by using the FICO Budget Calculators - for free, of course!

Rob Kaufman

Rob is a writer... of blogs, books and business. His financial investment experience combined with a long background in marketing credit protection services provides a source of information that helps fill the gaps on one's journey toward financial well-being. His goal is simple: The more people he can help, the better.