By the time fall rolls around, many of us are trying to rein in our spending after summer splurges, while also preparing for the veritable budget bomb that is the holiday season. But that doesn’t mean we can’t still have a little fun. Check out these 12 cheap fall activities.
1. Spend the day at a fall festival.
Originally meant to celebrate a good year’s crop, fall festivals and fairs have morphed into quirky ways to celebrate local pride. (Looking at you, Connecticut Garlic Festival and Marshall, Texas Fire Ant Festival.) Check out your city’s event calendar to find out what’s happening in your area. For a $10 or $15 ticket, you can have hours of fun checking out the stalls, enjoying live music and tasting free samples.
2. Pick your own.
Another perk of the harvest season: Many farms, orchards and pumpkin patches invite you to pick your own produce—often while enjoying treats like apple cider and pumpkin donuts. This may not offer much savings compared to grocery store prices, but you’ll get a day’s worth of wholesome fun plus farm-fresh produce. Search for “pick-your-own” farms here.
3. Try a new recipe.
What better way to put that produce to good use than to bake pies, make applesauce or put on a pot of stew? If you bought a pumpkin to decorate, don’t forget to roast the seeds after carving it.
4. Root for a local football team.
Virtually every local college has a football team you can cheer on for the night at a fraction of the cost of a pro ticket. Games might even be free occasionally—so treat yourself to something from the concession stand.
5. Scout out a new favorite coffee shop.
For the price of a pumpkin spice latte, you can hang out with friends, enjoy free WiFi or curl up with a good book. Bonus: Fall seems to bring a resurgence in acoustic sessions, open mics and poetry slams, so you might even get a free show.
6. Go for a hike.
Visit one of your favorite trails or, better yet, find a new one to explore and check out the foliage.
7. Have a bonfire.
Or maybe just sit in front of your neighbor’s fire pit. Either way, it’s free, meaning you can splurge on a six pack of your favorite craft brew and buy the good chocolate for s’mores.
8. Go camping.
The average four-night vacation in the U.S. costs $581 per person. If that’s not in your fall budget, consider camping instead. If you don’t own equipment, you can rent everything from backpacks to tents. Tack on the cost of food and drinks, plus gas, and you’ve still got a pretty cheap weekend getaway.
9. Get crafty.
Fall is the perfect time to get in touch with your crafty side and trim your holiday budget. Make your own decorations this year—from jack-o’-lanterns to colorful wreaths—or create handmade gifts for your friends and family.
10. Treat yourself to a Halloween haunt.
If you love a good scare, research haunted houses, fright fests and other spooky activities in your area. Some local historical societies offer inexpensive ghost tours. Check your town’s events calendar.
11. Get lost in a corn maze.
Over the years, cornfield mazes have become increasingly creative and complex (yet still cost-friendly) attractions. There are now hundreds across the country, from the Crazed Cornfield Maze in Colorado ($12, phone trivia game included) to the record-setting, 63-acre Cool Patch Pumpkins in Dixon, Calif. ($15). Get a full list of corn mazes here.
12. Host a Netflix movie marathon.
If your budget’s extra tight, embrace the fall by simply turning on your TV. Invite your friends over, pop some popcorn and tune into a scary movie marathon on Netflix. More of a scaredy cat? Dozens of network TV shows, from “This Is Us” and “SNL” to “Grey’s Anatomy” premiered new seasons this fall.