Getting out and about over summer can take a toll on your wallet. So, if you’re looking to go big on a shoestring, look no further. Here are a few of the best ways to fill your summer days without blowing your budget.

Cheap drinks (and eats)
If you want the most bang for your buck while avoiding summertime Fomo, plenty of spots around town are doing wallet-friendly snacks and booze.

Richmond pizzeria Baby is hopping on the summer happy-hour bandwagon with $6.50 Peronis, $9.50 Aperol Spritzes and $9.50 frozen Lemon Sgroppinos from 4pm to 6pm daily – all summer long. Meanwhile, at Collingwood rooftop bar Runner Up, drinks are always accessibly priced – including $9.99 tap beer and wine. And at Kew East cafe Gilbert’s, the Mimosas are always $5.

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Hungry? Fitzroy’s Naked for Satan is firing out $3 large pizzas with every drink purchase from Monday to Wednesday. For the rest of the week, hit Good Times up the road – it’s doing $9 pastas (puttanesca and napolitana) Thursday to Saturday. Bargain.

Art attack
Get some respite from the summer rays by heading to one of Melbourne’s many free (or cheap) art exhibitions.

Though NGV exhibitions vary in price, access to the Ian Potter Centre and NGV International are free. Best of all, access to the gallery’s blockbuster Triennial exhibition – which brings together nearly 100 projects from over 120 artists and designers in a powerful snapshot of the world today – won’t cost you a cent.

Active activities
Staying fit doesn’t always mean having to splash out on pricey gym memberships or classes. You can find free wellness classes – including tai chi and meditation – at Fed Square as part of its free workshops series. If you want to pound the pavement, try one of Melbourne’s many running or walking tracks. Or if you want to leave the city, the 1000 Steps walk is the one to beat.

Prefer to go swimming in the warmer months? Check out our guide to Melbourne’s best outdoor pools.

The marketplace(s) to be
It’s easy to shop local with Melbourne’s plethora of independent markets. Back at Collingwood Yards, Stay Soft Studio hosts regular night markets featuring clothes, vinyl, art and food vendors; February 5 is the next date.

In Bulleen, Heide Museum of Modern Art has a market in its sculpture park once a month. It’s hosted by the same people behind Fitzroy’s Rose Street Market.

Big screen blockbusters
Melbourne cinema Kino is one place to catch a cheap film, with tickets starting at just $8.50 on Mondays. At other select Palace Cinemas – including Westgarth and Pentridge – you can also get some tickets for $10 on Tuesdays. Just sign up as a member.

Meanwhile, a carload (five people) at the well-loved Coburg Drive-In is $50. That means you can spend your change from a $20 on American-style movie snacks from the on-site diner. Or, just chuck an esky in the boot.

Picnic time
Picnicking became slightly less fun when it was the only way we could socialise. But it’s worth reacquainting yourself with its pleasures – if you haven’t already – this summer. Here are the picnic spots we recommend in Melbourne and beyond (though they’re all less than two hours from the city). Plus, Heide recently opened a new healing garden.

This article was originally published on December 7, 2021. It has been updated to reflect new information and remove out-of-date details.