Instead of scrambling for a pricey gift that may fall flat on Father's Day, consider what dear old dad really wants. Maybe it's a day off from chores, a fun day out, a delicious meal, or simply more quality time with family. Before shelling out for another tie, mug, or gadget, consider these 14 free or cheap ideas for a Father's Day to remember.
14 Free or Cheap Things to Do for Father's Day
Let dad pocket the money he'd spend at the car wash by pitching in and washing his wheels. Remember to use a car-friendly cleaner and wait for a cooler part of the day, when the heat won't dry soap too quickly, leaving spots and streaks. For more car-washing tips, check out Consumer Reports.
Grab dad a beer and let him relax on the porch or patio while you mow the yard, trim the bushes, or pull all those pesky weeds in the flower bed. You'll get some exercise, and he'll get a kick out of watching you get a little dirt under your nails.
If dad loves to golf, reserve a tee time -- or challenge him to mini golf for something more budget-friendly. If he's an outdoorsy guy, invite him on a hike. If he loves to watch the game, nab a couple of tickets to a favorite sporting event. Bonus points if dad's hobby isn't your cup of tea -- he'll be tickled at the effort.
If a full-fledged camping trip is too time-consuming or expensive, consider pitching a tent in the backyard, dusting off the sleeping bags, and finding a flashlight so dad can tell his spookiest stories with a little panache. Having a clean toilet close by is nice, too. Parenting magazine offers suggestions for family-friendly games and nibbles to complete the night.
Dads with a handy streak would love nothing more to give their fix-it list a rest and focus on a project with a little more sentimental value. Children can get involved with a simple, inexpensive birdhouse kit, and Make magazine has some more creative ideas for father-child projects. (DIY marshmallow shooters, anyone?)
Keep an eye open for the inevitable wave of free Father's Day dishes and meals at local restaurants. Last year, promotions flagged by Coupons.com's The Good Stuff included free spaghetti or lasagna at Spaghetti Warehouse, a free medium sub at Firehouse Subs, and a free seafood platter at Long John Silver's. Remember, these deals typically require a purchase of equal or greater value.
If dad is a steak lover, you could take him to a fancy steakhouse, but it will cost you. Consider grabbing some more budget-friendly meat at the grocery and testing your own grilling skills while he kicks back (or gives you his best tips). Got some cash to spend? Omaha Steaks offers Father's Day specials at more than half-off regular prices.
Whether dad has the latest iPad or an aging desktop PC, check in and see whether he needs help with day-to-day tech needs -- without any eye-rolling, of course. For example, if his computer is slow, offer to scan it for viruses or clean up the hard drive. Optimize his new tablet by downloading apps he'll love and organizing them in easy-to-find folders.
Whether he wants to watch ESPN, the news, or the Weather Channel 24/7, today's the day to let him follow his boob-tube bliss. And that means no complaints, even if you know he's seen "A Few Good Men" at least 100 times. Bonus: Bring him his favorite snack and watch with him.
Family-friendly spots such as zoos and museums often offer free admission for dads on Father's Day, so keep an eye out for deals. This year, one bucket-list option is the Harley-Davidson Museum in Milwaukee. Another is the Frontiers of Flight Museum, a Smithsonian affiliate in Dallas.
Even the most stoic dad can't resist looking through old family pictures or mementos. Whether it means dragging out some dusty old albums or finally organizing a photo library on the computer, take time to reminisce. For bonus points (and a lot of laughs), recreate a favorite family photo.
Don't forget that a homemade gift can save a ton of money (and earn a lot of brownie points for thoughtfulness). From comic-book coasters and cord organizers to homemade beef jerky, Brit + Co. has a roundup of ideas ranging from practical to delicious. Children can pitch in on projects from a list by Dodo Burd.
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