How to Have a Fun Summer for Less Money
For when you're just sitting there, with empty pockets, sticking to yourself and the internet just isn't cutting it.
I personally love lists but I strongly dislike obligatory fun, and I can think of many times when I found a “summer to-do list” in the middle of fall, and felt a bit devastated when I realized that I didn’t accomplish even half of the things on the list. Sometimes life gets in the way, even in the summer, so I think it’s good to not set the fun standards too high. (Although, setting relatively low standards for fun doesn’t guarantee anything either; I recently found a list entitled “2013,” in which the only two entries were: 1. BAND, 2. RIFFS, neither of which happened.) Here is my vague, but hopefully inspiring guide to summer fun for little to no dollars.
Even though many will deny it in the name of collectivism, egalitarianism, and mutual aid, most people like to win. A lot of people are more inclined to participate in an event if there’s something at stake, even if it’s just a title or something useless. Take for example the Battle of the Jug Bands in Duluth, MN. All the winner gets is the right to pay to have their band’s name engraved on a krumkake iron (Norwegian waffle cookie) that no one except the other winners will ever see. Yet this event continues annually, with tons of bands each year.
I’m not saying that all people need competition to be motivated, but adding a bit of friendly rivalry can make for a fun time and add an extra pop to a show or other event. Keep it lighthearted: punk house dance-offs, crossword puzzle races, elementary school-style field days, treasure hunts, and guess-what’s-in-the-smoothie challenges. Hell, I am even considering playing that bro-ridden bean-bag toss game Cornhole by building a set myself!
Note: Some people are enormously competitive, even if they’re good at hiding it. Keep them in check, but also put their energy to use! People who love competition are often really good at rallying others to come to events (as long as there’s competition involved), and usually will take part in the organizing process if it means they get to compete. Use this to your advantage!
Step Out In Style
At the risk of being overly materialistic here, I believe that the clothing we choose to wear can be a pretty powerful tool for expression and fun to play with. Summer is a great time to try something new. Think about it – unless you live in the Bay where it’s pleasantly mild and seventy degrees, everyone probably looks like a hot mess all the time in the summer, so you won’t stand out if your new aesthetic long-shot ends up being a total flop.
Why not try a leotard? Studded fingerless gloves? I’ve had vast success with sequin shorts worn for no particular occasion. Fingerless gloves haven’t gotten me many compliments. Win some, lose most. Still worth a shot. The beauty of trying out weird new fashion is that it’s completely free of commitments – find something, make something, and if it doesn’t work out, give it to your friends, drop it at a free box, or sell it at a thrift shop. And there’s tons of ways to dig up new styles without spending much or any money – host a clothing swap, ask to raid your friends’ closets, learn which stores in your area have liberal return policies, or utilize your local free box (be sure to contribute, if you can!).
Stepping out in style also offers a lot of possibility for collaboration and skill-sharing. My good friend is an expert PRV (punk rock vest) maker, and we had a great day together when she helped me transform a drab, tan free box jacket into a fierce black vest. If you know how to sew, teach your friends! If you don’t, find someone who does and offer them something in exchange for teaching you. Make up a new pattern and see if it works. Or just get your buds together, go to the library, find some how-to guides, and get stitchin’.
Make “Exercise” Fun
Summer can be pretty taxing on a body. With all of the heat, sun, barbecues, expectations and opportunities for fun, not to mention all the toxic urban water to immerse yourself in, it’s important to make time for your body, mind, and health.
Taking solitary walks can be a nice way to give your mind a break. If you’re a dog owner, make dog-walking dates with your friends, and if you’re not, just make walking dates anyways. Organize weekly or bi-weekly kickball or softball games, go to the roller rink in the suburbs, take a dip in the lake or river, or get a group of people together to do some fitness in the park.
Everyone’s body can take different levels of activity, and if you’re a person who deals with pain or discomfort, the high intensity of summer can be especially wearing. Find companions who will help figure out exercise that’s appropriate for your body, be gentle, and don’t overdo it with obligatory bike rides.
Book A Show for Your Band That Doesn’t Yet Exist
It can go wonderfully, or it can hit the fan, but at least it’ll be fun, for you (though perhaps not your patient friends who have to sit through your set). Many see summer as a time to shirk responsibilities and delay goals, so setting up a deadline like this will introduce some urgency into the mix. The majority of bands I’ve played in have had to rely on this method, and so far I have no complaints. As for friends and “audience members?” You’d have to ask them!
Break Your Routine
This goes without saying, but I couldn’t not include it. Radical, punk, and DIY communities can easily start to feel small, and truth is, they often are. It’s easy to fall into routines of eating at the same cafes, going to the same parks, seeing the same bands, and so on. Exploring other things your city/town/whatever of residence has to offer can help you feel less stagnant, and give you a reality check on the size of your town and your place within it. Bringing a friend or a partner in crime when exploring these less familiar places can help alleviate some of the associated fear or unease.
Personally, I have come to appreciate some of the “boring” and “normal” aspects of my home. I live in a city that houses a large university (whose resources the public can still often use in the summer without the extreme congestion of the student body), museums with free or pay-what-you-can days, minor league baseball games, movies in the parks, and a ton of cheap restaurants. With punk and DIY culture being an enormous part of my coming of age, it was hard to allow myself to take an interest in or even have fun at such “normal” events/locations. But letting yourself see, interact with, and enjoy these parts of your town can help you understand why people enjoy living there. There is always more going on in your town than you are aware of. Consider doing something that isn’t just for you. Be a good (bad?) influence at a youth center, take a shift on a free hotline, or offer to watch your friend’s kids for the afternoon.
Have a good summer, and support your local lemonade stand!