The temperature is beginning to dip, school is back in session, and Labor Day has brought an end to a season defined by all-white outfits and pool parties. This can only mean one thing. It’s officially Fall; Summer is over, and pumpkin spice season is here.
After a hot summer filled with high inflation and hotter interest rates, Fall can feel like a chance to catch our breath and get back on track with our budget, to reassess and refocus our financial efforts on what is important, what we value, and what matters to us.
But Fall has some sneaky expenses that can catch you financially off guard if you’re unprepared.
Fall often comes with expenses like:
- Back-to-school expenses
- Labor Day barbecues
- Fall Home Maintenance
- Pumpkin-spiced everything & Fall home decor
- Halloween decor, costumes, candy, party supplies, and food
- Cold-weather clothing refresh – sweaters, scarves, boots, jeans
Once fall ends, winter expenses take over, and we know from firsthand experience that saving money during the winter months is incredibly challenging – even without all of the holiday expenses.
So what can we do to save money and enjoy the autumn season?
14 Budget-Friendly Autumn Activities
1. Nature Hike
Hiking or going for a walk is an activity that can be enjoyed pretty much year-round. To make your hike more fall-inspired, consider creating a nature-inspired bingo sheet that includes fall items like acorns, orange leaves, and pumpkins. Whoever gets bingo first wins!
Instead of bingo, you can also check and see if a park near you offers free geocaching on nearby trails!
2. Leaf Peeping
All the leaves are turning varied shades of red, orange, and yellow in certain parts of the country more so than others. If leaf peeping is an option in your area, consider taking a drive or a hike through fall-colored woods. The photo opportunities and memories you’ll make will likely make this trip worth the cost of gas.
However, if the leaves don’t change much in your neighborhood or you’d rather not get stuck in traffic, did you know that some parks offer virtual leaf-peeping webcams? Why not enjoy a warm cup of cider or tea to enjoy the virtual view of the changing landscape?
Or perhaps you would rather head to sunflower fields and stand next to flowers that grow up to 15 feet tall! Did you know there are sunflower fields across the U.S. Some even allow you to cut and take home some of the smaller flowers to enjoy!
3. Pumpkin Patch
Did you know that pumpkins are technically berries? Share this fun fact with your friends and loved ones when you visit the local pumpkin patch!
Some pumpkin patches offer activities onsite like tractor rides and mazes, whereas others are more motivated to help you find the perfect gourds, and that’s about it. Whichever kind of pumpkin patch you choose to visit, remember to leave room in your budget for the cost of the pumpkins themselves and any sort of supplies you may need like carving tools, design templates, and candles!
Historically, the most common thing to do with pumpkins was to carve spooky jack-o’-lanterns. But now, it’s become trendy to paint pumpkins too!
For those that choose to carve their pumpkin, you may want to consider cleaning off the pumpkin seeds, baking them, and turning them into a healthy snack. You can also use the flesh of the pumpkin itself to create fall-inspired dishes, including a homemade pumpkin pie!
4. Apple orchard
Visiting the apple orchard is an autumn family classic because it involves two things that we all enjoy: fresh air and fresh fruit. Consider making a day of your trip to the apple orchard with a picnic lunch and a hayride if the orchard near you offers additional fun and it’s in your budget.
Like the pumpkin patch, make sure you leave room in your budget for apple treats on your way out! Some places sell bushels of apples that have already been picked off the trees, while others let you pick apples as you explore the orchard.
Tip: If you find a frozen pie at the apple orchard, consider buying one to enjoy on Thanksgiving Day or during the Winter holidays! This way, you’ll have a tasty treat to look forward to, and you’ll be able to reflect back on the happy memories of your trip to the apple orchard!
5. Create an outdoor obstacle course or scavenger hunt
When the weather cools, it’s an excellent time to set up an at-home outdoor obstacle course to compete with your friends and loved ones. Or a scavenger hunt if you prefer. There’s no need to buy anything new for your obstacle course or scavenger hunt. You can use stuff from around the house to set up things to jump over, run around, and knock through, including:
- Jump rope
- Kiddy Pool
- Hula Hoop
- Hard Boiled Eggs
- Silly Putty
- Non-Toxic Dish Soap
As you can see, all you really need is creativity, a stopwatch, and perhaps an ice pack if you’re playing with a competitive group!
6. Tailgate from home
Football season is here! Create a tailgate vibe with fall-inspired snack ideas and cheer on your favorite team from your couch!
Sure, you can tailgate with just your immediate family. Or you could invite friends, family, and neighbors over for a potluck tailgate party to cheer on your favorite team! Have everyone bring their favorite dish to share, and wear your favorite jersey!
If you’re looking for a more structured setup for your tailgate menu, consider hosting themed-tailgate events such as:
- Fall Soup Swap – From chicken tortilla to butternut squash and zesty corn chowder, fall is homemade soup season. During this themed tailgate event, have everyone bring a different kind of soup and enjoy all the unique flavor possibilities!
- Chili Cook-Off – Unlike the fall soup swap, a chili cook-off comes with bragging rights. Although the host may need to pay a little extra to provide bowls and affordable beverages, a chili cookoff is an affordable way to feed a large crowd and enjoy fun yard games.
- New Week, New Dip – This is a recipe game that is more about creativity; each week, there’s a football game, and your challenge is to find and make a new dip to share with the group. No recipe can be repeated during a season.
7. Fall Movie Marathon
Chances are that at least one of the streaming services you pay for added a bunch of fall-related seasonal films recently. Why not watch an old autumn film favorite with the family? Or let everyone pick a film to watch and make a fall movie marathon out of it!
For a delicious fall-inspired movie snack, add roasted pumpkin seeds to your popcorn, or enjoy caramel apples, smores, or sunflower seeds!
8. Backyard Camping
Did you miss out on a summer camping trip? You don’t have to travel far to enjoy a night under the stars; in fact, you can camp in your backyard!
Pop up a tent, roll out your sleeping bags, grab flashlights and share spooky stories around the fire pit. Or download a free stargazing app and learn about the stars above you.
For those who are more interested in glamping than camping, use an inflatable air mattress inside of your tent for a more luxurious outdoor sleeping experience!
9. Outdoor Movie Night
Before the wind chill becomes a factor, consider having an outdoor movie night! You can purchase a projector for less than $100 or take your iPad outside for an al-fresco viewing of favorite fall films like “Hocus Pocus,” “Remember the Titans,” and “Good Will Hunting.”
Sometimes the simplest little adjustments like watching a movie outside are the easiest, most affordable ways to create those magical moments that stay with us for a lifetime.
10. Attend a High School Football Game
Tickets for professional football games and some college football games are arguably quite expensive. If you’re looking for some wholesome football fun, consider going to a high school football game.
11. DIY Science Experiments
Want to make your jack-o-lantern foam at the mouth? Or make silly putty?
Did you know there are a bunch of free at-home DIY science experiments that are great for Fall-Halloween-related activities? Often these DIY science experiments involve items you can shop for at home, like dish soap, water, paper, shaving cream, food coloring, and baking soda.
A quick Google search or Pinterest search can provide you with tons of various science experiment options available based on the unique age groups and science interest levels you’re looking for.
12. Board Games
Fall tends to mean more time indoors. One way to stay busy inside while having fun? Playing board games!
Chances are you have several board games in a closet somewhere, so go dig them out and enjoy an afternoon of laughter and memories. If you have room in your budget, you can buy a new game for the whole family to enjoy. But if you’re on a strict budget, remember card games like Go Fish or BS can last for hours and only involves one deck of cards!
13. Read a Book
When the weather cools, it’s the best time to cozy up with a blanket, a cup of tea, and a good book. No need to buy a book – even if you prefer to read digital copies of books. Most libraries now offer digital book rentals, making this one budget-friendly activity that you can enjoy again and again.
14. Practice Gratitude
The biggest Fall holiday, Thanksgiving, is a time to be grateful. Although Thanksgiving is not until the end of November, there’s nothing wrong with starting early in practicing gratitude and giving thanks.
Gratitude is an easy and free practice that can boost your mood if you’re feeling down. The easiest way to practice mindful gratitude? Just write down a few things you’re grateful for; that’s it.
If you want to take it up a notch, you can always write a letter or thank someone in person for doing something for you or just for being themselves.
What are your favorite ways to have budget-friendly fun during the autumn season? Share with us in the comments below!