Summer On A Budget

Real talk. We don’t have a lot of money. We pay our bills, have food on the table, and my son has toys to entertain him (for as long as he’s interested in them), but past that we don’t have a lot of money to spare on much of anything. A lot of that has to do with the skyrocketing cost of just about everything, especially necessities. So when it comes time to making the most of our summer, we try to give our son a summer break that’s rich in experiences instead of things.

This week has had two fine examples of that.

My parents came to visit a few days ago and we all took advantage of the nice weather to go to Walden Pond. It cost eight dollars to park there all day long. It has a small beach area and capacity is very limited, so it’s not like the sprawling ocean beaches you typically see. But what it lacked in grandeur it made up for in experiences. We spent the entire day there, and my son had a wonderful time with his grandparents. He splashed around with his grandpa, climbed on us like we were playground equipment, showed off his self-taught swimming techniques, we all played catch, and he was treated to a jumbo ice cream sandwich afterward.

The weather was equally nice yesterday but my son and I were “beached out” after the previous day at Walden Pond. I still wanted to take advantage of the nice weather, so we went to a favorite nature trail about thirty minutes from our house. It cost nothing to park there and take a walk through nature. The path ended at a small waterfall, and we have a usual spot we like to sit and toss dried leaves and fallen twigs into the current. This most recent trip saw our usual spot blocked by fallen trees! I thought our excursion was going to be cut short, but a closer examination found a safe place on the fallen tree trunks for us to perch upon. And so we sat there with our legs dangling, me peeling dead bark off the fallen tree and giving it to him to toss into the water, trying to get the natural debris into different currents of the falls and having races between his bark and mine.

Both activities cost me under ten dollars total, and I’m hoping the things my son experienced will become core memories he reflects upon when he’s older; “that time I went to Walden Pond with Grandma and Grandpa” and “sitting on a tree trunk over a waterfall having bark races with my dad.” I’m getting a little flutter in my chest just thinking about it.

Do I wish I could treat my family to more elaborate and expensive activities? Absolutely. But such things are not requirements to the quality of one’s experiences. You can make lifelong memories with nothing more than your heart and a desire to share happiness with the ones you love.