Hopefully you have read the previous LSS blog posts this week and realize we have a common theme of ‘Summer Fun’ going on. Here at Center for Financial Resources, we have been accused of not being fun. WHAT!?!?! We can have a ton of fun – goals, budgeting, gross income, net income, debt to income, debt reduction, credit report, credit score, and so much more! I can’t help but bounce in my chair just typing it.
OK, OK. While we can get a little excited over it, there are also those people that aren’t quite so excited. If you would fall into that second group, I only ask that you remember one thing – it is financial responsibility, in some form or another, that allows you to enjoy most of what you do consider fun (as if anything could be as fun as financial literacy!). Whether it is saving up for that cruise or finding local events within your budget, finances do play a role in fun.
As a part of our week-long series on ‘Summer Fun’, I thought I would share a few different events here in the area that can be quite economical for you. Even if you don’t live in our area, use the ideas as inspiration for finding fun in your area. So, being in search of financially responsible fun, here we do go:
- Music Festivals – Sioux Falls has two huge, multi-day music festivals. We have LifeLight (a Christian music festival), and Jazz Fest (days of Jazz and Blues). Both events draw in huge, national musicians and both are completely FREE to get in! There are additional, smaller festivals as well, covering other music genre.
- Parades – Smaller towns are known for their local festivals and parades. They go crazy over them and nearly every one turns out. In fact, in some areas, if you are royalty for your local parade, you may spend the rest of your summer riding in the others towns’ parades as well. Here in Sioux Falls, the city provided a free lunch for anyone that came to Falls Park after our Fourth of July Parade. They fed thousands. Kids love parades, but the turnout for the Hot Harley Nights parade of motorcycles was mostly adult. We even have parades in the cold in South Dakota. The Parade of Lights is an evening parade the Friday after Thanksgiving. Find a parade that fits you and, if nothing else, you may get some free candy thrown at you.
- Have a Picnic – For my family, it started as something to do for my wife’s birthday. Surprising her, I packed a picnic supper for us. After a quick change of clothes, we headed to a local park, threw down a blanket, and the four of us had a nice family meal and then play time. It was such an enjoyable evening that we immediately made it a weekly event, traveling to different parks in town. It’s a change of pace and a meal out on a grocery store budget.
- State Parks – Our picnics were always at local city parks, but for an afternoon or full day, we have some great state parks. While there is a fee to use the state parks, across South Dakota the day rate is $4 per person or $6 for a whole vehicle.You can picnic, hike, swim, fish, or just lie around and soak up the sun surrounded by God’s beautiful creation. Most parks also have special events throughout the summer. Want to make a habit of it? A season pass is just $30, which means 5 trips in a year and you break even compared to daily admittance.
- Arts Festivals – Alright, be careful with this one. Arts festivals are usually designed around people selling their products and the bill can quickly add up. But even without spending a dime, I can be quite entertained by just walking and looking – not only at what is for sale, but also at the other people wandering around. Many arts festivals also include free music and other entertainment. If I really get the itch to spend something, a bag of mini-donuts or something deep-fried on a stick and I am happy.
- Specialty Parks – Aside from your basic grass-and-trees city park, some areas have fantastic specialty parks. Being a hobby photographer, I could spend hours upon hours in McCrory Gardens in Brookings, SD. Operated by the Plant Science Program at SDSU, the park includes acres of manicured flowerbeds, shrubs, and trees. When we visit family in Aberdeen, SD, my kids are usually begging to make a trip to Storybook Land. Another free park, it is largely a huge playground based on different children’s stories. There is also the Land of Oz, telling the fantastical tale by L. Frank Baum, once a resident of Aberdeen. Time it right, and you can participate in children’s theater in the courtyard of the medieval castle. Rapid City, SD also has its own similar Storybook Island.
- Parks Programs – Starting with kids, there are plenty of free and affordable programs beyond those mentioned above. Sioux Falls also has children’s Storyland Theater and carnival nights. Have you ever been to, let alone participated in Sioux Falls’ cardboard boat races? Nothing but cardboard, duct tape, and some good fun. The Outdoor Campus, with locations in Sioux Falls and Rapid City, provides a wide array of events for kids, adults, and families based on outdoor activities.
- First Fridays – Here in Sioux Falls, our Downtown Sioux Falls has organized an ongoing event known as First Friday. Each first Friday of the month, stores stay open later, there are arts and culture events, live music, and the Washington Pavilion Science Center has free admission.
- City Pools – Many of our communities have pools. Some are a place to get wet, and some have expanded to spray parks, water slides, and more. If this is your style, consider a family pass. Even here in Sioux Falls, with our three water parks and even more pools, a season family pass is $70. That may be a fair bit of cash for you up front, but if you use it even once a week for 12 weeks over the summer, that breaks down to less than $6 per trip for the whole family. If you start saving now for next summer, you only need to put away $7 per month to be able to pay for the pass by June of next year. That is less than $2 of savings per week.
- Season Passes – While not a specific location, consider season passes as an economical form of entertainment. They generally give you a good break on cost as long as you are intentional enough to use them. Looking for an alternative to a pile of toys for birthday gifts, my wife’s parents started giving our kids a season zoo pass for their birthdays. Not only is it cheaper, but we go more often and, should it get ridiculously hot or start to rain, we don’t feel obligated to stay and get our money’s worth. We just come back another time. Just make sure it is a season pass you will actually use.
The whole idea is to get out there and see what you can find. My grandparents lived in the tiny town of Wallace, South Dakota. Never heard of it? I’m not surprised. Last I knew, Wallace had right at 100 people, a church, an elevator, and a cabinet shop. It also has a nice little city park which marks the birthplace of Hubert H. Humphrey. Sound familiar? He was Vice-President under Lyndon B. Johnson and namesake of the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis. And he was born in Wallace, South Dakota. Who knew!
If you can responsibly take the trips and make the big purchases, then by all means – enjoy them! Whether you can or cannot experience the big events, take a look around at what your community has to offer. Not only will you find some great events, but, being close to home, you will probably also find friends, family, and neighbors to share the event with.
The LSS – Center for Financial Resources may not always cover the most exciting material, but we sure do appreciate fun. We don’t want to take that away from anyone. We do, however, want to encourage you to have fun responsibly. Through financial responsibility now, you will most likely be freer to enjoy life in the future rather than getting overwhelmed with paying for what you have already done.
Get out there. Enjoy the summer fun. And if you want directions to the birthplace of Hubert H. Humphrey, just let me know….
written by Breck Miller
images from respective websites