Eight Free Things to Do with Dad This Father’s Day

With Father’s Day coming up on June 19, it’s time to start thinking of ways to recognize the special man in your life. From home beer brewing kits to “World’s Best Dad” t-shirts and personalized photo mugs, you’ll find an endless supply of “stuff” to buy your dad if you feel compelled to buy a gift.

But, what about the dad who has it all? Or what if you’re on an extremely tight budget? No matter who you are or what your income is, there are times when it doesn’t make sense to spend money to celebrate with the ones you love.

Free Ways to Celebrate Father’s Day

Some dads already have it all, while others hate the idea of their kids or partners spending money on them. Then there are dads who would rather have something homemade or free – not because they’re cheap, but because those heartfelt efforts are what they truly value most.

If you’re looking for a free way to show someone you care this Father’s Day, consider these ideas from popular money and frugality bloggers around the web:

Take dad out to enjoy his hobby.

Dads and parents in general get so wrapped up in their children’s worlds that they often forget about their own hobbies, dreams, and desires at times. Father’s Day is the perfect time to let your husband or dad know you appreciate what his hobbies mean to him and want to learn more about them.

If your dad loves to golf, take him to the driving range for the afternoon. If he lives to build furniture out of wood, pick up some supplies and help him with his latest project.

Rosemarie Groner of The Busy Budgeter says she loves to take her dad fly fishing with a giant bag of Doritos and penny candy.

“He already has about 50 ties and sweaters,” she says. Like most dads, hers wants nothing more than to spend time with his little girl. And if you don’t care how you spend that time, you might as well spend it doing something he likes.

Take a walk (or a drive) through history.

If your dad is a history buff, chances are good he’d like the day enjoying his love of history with you by his side. “You could head out to a historic monument, battlefield, or map out a series of historic markers and make it a driving history lesson,” says Paul Moyer of Saving Freak.

If you don’t live close enough to anything worth visiting, borrow some historical documentaries from the library and spend the day taking them in together. It’s not quite the same thing, but you’ll spend plenty of quality time together nonetheless.

Have your kids fill out a funny questionnaire.

You know those funny questionnaires commonly sent home from school? The fill-in-the-blank style forms kids fill out about their moms, dads, grandparents, and friends?

Phillip Taylor of PT Money suggests creating one of your own just for Father’s Day. The funniest things come straight from the mouths of babes, and he’ll love you put in the effort on his behalf.

You can come up with any questions you want, but it could go something like this.

My dad is _______ years old. His favorite hobby is _______. My dad gets mad when _______ and happy when _______. The best thing about my dad is _______. I love it when he _______.

You could even try a “Mad-Libs” format for extra laughs: Just ask your kids to name a random number, a couple of activities, and a few adjectives without explaining the context.

Go for a walk, run, or drive.

With our lives busier than ever, Father’s Day is the perfect time to slow down. If you haven’t had a heart-to-heart talk with your dad lately, the perfect activity for Father’s Day might just be a long walk, jog, or drive.

“I really like going on a walk with my Dad,” says John Rampton of Due.com. “This is a time that I can share my time, experiences, and life with him.”

On the flip side, John says he enjoys taking long walks with his own children. The best talks take place when no one else is around, and all electronics are out of site. If it’s hard to find that kind of quality time amid the distraction and bustle of your home, a quiet walk or long drive can do the trick.

Hold a surprise party or pitch-in dinner.

If you want to plan activity that all of your family members can take part in, plan a surprise party that also acts as a pitch-in dinner. Donna Freedman of Surviving and Thriving says she just did something similar for her father’s 80th birthday. Call it a surprise descent, she says, and “just show up.”

“It helps to have someone in on the game, though, so you don’t show up and find out he decided to go hiking for the day,” says Freedman. Conversely, you can host the descent at your own home and make sure he winds up there – even if coercing him involves some storytelling.

Organize old photos that share a special memory.

Alexander Aguilar of Cash Flow Diaries likes to go through old photos and describe the memories each brings back with his dad. It’s like a trip down memory lane, he says.

If you’re crafty, you could even create a simple photobook with your favorite memories. Collect or print out your best photos and write a caption under each. That way, you can go through it with him in person but he’ll have a keepsake, too.

Teach your kids about previous generations of men in their lives.

Thanks to websites like Ancestry.com, more of us know (or can learn) about our heritage and family trees than ever before. If you want to help your kids understand their family legacy, tell them all about the men that came before their father.

“Have a family history lesson, where you teach your kids about the previous generations of men and their lives,” says Jeff Rose of Good Financial Cents. “It gives your kids an appreciation of their ancestors.” In turn, that might make them appreciate their dad a little bit more, too.

Volunteer to help someone else.

If you have small kids, volunteering together is a great activity for Father’s day. “It gives you a chance to give back to the community and to spend family time together,” says Moyer of Saving Freak.

This works best if your dad actually wants to spend his Father’s Day volunteering, but can be a huge success if you get everyone on board. Stop by a local soup kitchen (call first) and spend the day serving meals, or volunteer for a shift at your local animal shelter. If your dad’s the type who enjoys wandering the aisles at Home Depot, spend the day building a home through your local Habitat for Humanity chapter.

It might even be a ton of fun. Best of all, you’ll be creating even more memories together.

The Bottom Line

If you have some cash on hand, you can buy your dad all sorts of things. From bottles of bourbon to new watches, ties, and yes, sweaters, the gift options you’ll find are nearly limitless.

But there’s a gift he might appreciate more, and it’s absolutely free. We’re talking about the gift of time here, the one thing in this world that is absolutely finite and cannot be bought or sold.

If you love your dad (or your husband), give him some of your time this Father’s Day. If you happen to throw in a gift or two, well, that’s probably just icing on the cake.

What are you getting your father or husband for Father’s Day this year? What is your favorite free way to celebrate?

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Holly Johnson

Contributing Writer

Holly Johnson is a frugality expert and award-winning writer who is obsessed with personal finance and getting the most out of life. A lifelong resident of Indiana, she enjoys gardening, reading, and traveling the world with her husband and two children. In addition to The Simple Dollar, Holly writes for well-known publications such as U.S. News & World Report Travel, PolicyGenius, Travel Pulse, and Frugal Travel Guy. Holly also owns Club Thrifty.