Summertime. The world slows down a little. Our minds turn to some of the more enjoyable things in life: travel, entertainment and social activities.
But for many of us, cost is a consideration. Here are ways to enjoy summer without draining your bank account:
Become a treasure hunter. We're accustomed to devices that use GPS to tell us exactly where we are, but did you know they could be used to have fun, too?
Enter Geocaching. If you've ever wanted to find buried treasure, here's your chance. It might not make you rich, but geocaching can be a load of fun. A geocache is a small packet that's hidden in plain sight. (Caches are listed on GeoCaching.com.) Your job is to choose one, follow the clues and attempt to find it. Once you've discovered it, you can add your name to a log that's hidden with it.
Caches have been scattered in secret places all over the world. Some players limit their searches locally, while others make geocaching part of their vacations to remote destinations. All you need to get started is a computer and a device with GPS. (Game play is free.)
Hold a virtual scavenger hunt. For years, scavenger hunts have been a favorite activity among both American children and adults. In the original version, teams collect items and carry them back to the starting point; the first team to gather all of the objects wins.
Digital cameras and cell phones can add a new twist to the game. Nowadays, teams can play by new rules, such as requiring players to take pictures of items on a list instead of returning them to the starting point. The photographed items can be wonderfully varied; nature (e.g., a bird's nest) can be mixed with human interest (a mother and baby) and commercial (a brand or logo).
Consequently, technology can change how the game is played in terms of strategy. Teams have been known to use the Internet to locate certain items, while others may even try to sneak in a picture they find online. As such, it's important to set ground rules and keep an eye out for cheaters.
Check out the local talent. Whether you like art festivals, films or good music, there will likely be some low-cost entertainment available near you.
Colleges are an excellent place to start. Many hold free movie nights for students and locals. When some schools bring in a guest speaker, like a famous author, they invite nearby residents to sit in. For those with an affinity for musicals and plays, theater departments often do the same for student-run productions.
Don't forget to check local newspapers and websites for community bulletin boards to see if any public events pique your interest.
Revive old games. Video game systems and the Internet weren't always the only place for interactive entertainment. Rediscover the world of board games. You can find many reasonably priced board games (check out garage sales) that are packed with entertainment value.
Games are designed to encourage interaction among players, so you can have an evening's worth of entertainment and light-hearted conversation without breaking your budget.
Become a virtual explorer. Most of us will never get to see the Amazon River basin, climb Mount Everest or set foot on Mars, but with the Internet, we can do the next best thing: experience such adventures virtually.
Is there a destination you've always wanted to go to? Set aside time to make that dream into a virtual reality. For instance, you can get a glimpse of the Grand Canyon from your computer chair.
Invite friends to share adventures with you. While you may not be able to feel the humidity of a tropical rain forest, your mind can go there for pennies.
Gary Foreman is a former financial planner who founded TheDollarStretcher.com website and newsletters. The website features thousands of articles on how to save your valuable time and money, including an article on scavenger hunts.