Fall Bucket List: 23 Ways to Have the Ultimate Fall Experience On a Budget

Repeat after me: My wallet doesn’t dictate my ability to have a good time.

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My heart will always belong to summer, but I love doing fall bucket list activities around work and side hustles. Sure there’s a chill in the air, but I’m definitely pleased when it’s time to break out my knee high boots! What I don’t find pleasing is the cost of some fall activities. When you’re hustling to pay off student loan debt like me, saving to buy a house or have some other financial obligation, finding the money for some fall bucket list activities is tough. Even with the beautiful memories to create, it’s hard to justify paying for parking, admission, and then for fruit by the pound to go apple or pumpkin picking when you can get them much cheaper at your local grocery story.

In New Jersey, you can easily spend $150 per family to pick apples or pumpkins once you pay the admission fee, price per pound of what you picked, food, and other farm activities like hayrides, donkey rides, etc. It’s definitely not a fall bucket list activity for those days when you’re short on cash. Not to mention, since inflation is way up and job wages have yet to increase at the same rate, it seems just breathing daily is costing you hundreds a day.

But not having a big stream of income is no reason to miss out on fall activities. And apple picking is not the only activity to get you in the fall spirit. Here’s my fall bucket list that won’t cost you an arm and leg to enjoy. Happy Autumn!

black woman with gray jacket in the city during the fall
This is the ultimate fall bucket list for people on a budget

  1. Drink warm apple cider

Unpopular opinion, but apple cider will beat pumpkin spice any day. Drink it warm in your favorite fall inspired mug while cuddling on a soft hooded blanket and you’re in for a treat. Lots of great fall memories have been created while sipping on some warm cider in my household. And if you want to forget them all, you can add some caramel vodka to the mix!

2. Go to a high school football game

If you’ve got sports fans in your life, you know that nothing is more fall-inspired in their world than the NFL. Sure it’s a fun activity, even for nonsports fans, but $100’s per ticket, plus parking and food isn’t my idea of affordable fun. Instead, go to your local high school football team. The tickets are much more affordable, the parking is free and you’ll be supporting your community.

3. Go hiking

I’ll be honest. I’m not the most outdoorsy person unless it’s beach-related, so hiking is not exactly my thing. However, I know it’s a big deal for those who love exploring. Just do a google search for  “hiking + your local town” to locate some great trails. If trails aren’t your cup of tea, consider taking a stroll around your neighborhood parks instead.

4. Make Halloween cookies

Cookies are amazing. They are inexpensive and can be designed for EVERY holiday and special occasion. So it only makes sense we make some Halloween-inspired cookies. If you are design challenged like me, try using cookie cutters like these and just applying some icing and sprinkles for quick and easy decoration.

5. Watch Hocus Pocus

Has fall even entered your life if you haven’t watched Hocus Pocus? It’s a hilarious classic making you question everything you knew about virginity as a child. Enough said.

Already watched it on repeat for the last 20 years? Then you’ll be well prepared to catch Hocus Pocus 2 on Disney+ this year premiering on September 30th.

6. Paint pumpkins

Skipping out on picking pumpkins on the farm doesn’t mean you have to miss all the pumpkin activities. Head to the grocery store, pick out some nice ones without the pricey admission fee and get painting. These acrylic paint pens make it easy without the hassle of paint trays and water cups.

7. Take a fall foliage drive

I don’t exactly live in Maine, but that doesn’t mean I don’t see beautiful trees come autumn. Hop in the car, and take a drive to the park or even up the highways and see the colors of the changing leaves.

8. Have a fall photoshoot

Instagram or not, you should never stop taking pictures. It’s always nice to have something to reignite your memories. And no, you don’t need to hire a professional photographer to get it done. Nor do you need to pay a hefty fee to attend exclusive events or highly Instagrammable places like the Rose Mansion in NYC. Instead, get creative and do it yourself.

Find the hot spots in your town, wear some fall-centric attire and start snapping. You can even do a nice shoot in your home with a nice backdrop, and a pumpkin here and there.  Or if you are going to a fall event, do your best to capture some candid photos of the event. Not a great photographer? Check out tips from Pinterest and other bloggers. I love this post from photographer, Kita, of the blog Itsreallykita.com. She offers great tips for snapping great photos throughout her lifestyle blog; especially when it comes to event photos and branded pictures.

9. Roast marshmallows for s’mores

Who doesn’t love s’mores? some associate them with camping during the summer months and others think of them as a nice activity to do around the fireplace during a toasty fall or winter night. I think they’re great all year round. And you don’t need a fireplace to enjoy them. Get a stick from the backyard, heat up your gas stove and go to town. Or head to Amazon and purchase an indoor s’mores making kit if you don’t have a gas stove or fireplace. They are fairly inexspensive and make s’mores making seamless. Or you can get these marshmallow roasting sticks for less than $20.

10. Experiment with making corn

While we may think pumpkin is king once fall rolls around, I think corn ranks up there for a delicious and inexpensive fall treat. Corn on the cob is so delicious and can be prepared in so many ways. Get a pack from the grocery store, and look up some great rubs, marinades and preparation tricks for some delicious corn. Believe it or not, there are several corn cookbooks on Amazon that are free or extremely inexpensive like this one and this one.

11. Go to the dollar tree and pick out some fall candles

My husband and I are suckers for a good candle scent. I absolutely love cinnamon, cider, and autumn spice-scented candles. Luckily, you don’t need to spend a lot on them. Take a trip to the Dollar Tree, give yourself a $5 budget and go to town.

12. Have a blind popcorn taste test

Have you ever noticed how many different ways you can season popcorn? Everybody loves the classic movie theater butter popcorn or sea salt seasoned popcorn. But there’s also caramel, sour cream, cinnamon, garlic, pumpkin spice and more. Get a bag of popcorn kernels and start seasoning.

13. Pumpkin beer tasting

Yes, I know pumpkin spice lattes are the current obsession, but if you ask my husband the real winner is a pumpkin inspired beer. Invite a few friends over and have each bring a six pack of some pumpkin spiced alcoholic beverages and see which one tastes the best.

14. Hard cider tasting

This is where the real winner of the bunch will be. Hard cider is definitely the trendy thing to drink and there’s so much to choose from. So of course, it only makes sense to do a taste test for these too.

15. Make apple cider donuts

Everybody knows the best apple cider donuts are found at the farm and are best eaten after pumpkin or apple picking. But as I mentioned this is the budget friendly fall bucket list and the farm is just not in the budget. So instead, why not experiment and bake your own apple cider donuts? Or head on over to Aldi if you have one near you. Believe it or not, their appe cider donuts are actually pretty good.

16. Enjoy an at-home spa night

I absolutely love warming up at a spa; especially when there’s a crispness in the fall air. I’m a HUGE fan of the SOJO spa in NJ. However, when it’s not in the budget, I enjoy a relaxing and warm spa experience at home.  Follow my lead by enjoying a spa-worthy bath, taking out the plush robe, your favorite lotion, a soothing playlist, and a good book for the most transformative at-home experience. Not currently reading a book? Check out my ebook.

17. Build a pillow fort

Am I the only one who amasses a huge collection of blankets and throw pillows once the temperature falls below 50 degrees? Here’s where you can finally put them to use. Revisit childhood and challenge yourself to make the most epic fort ever.

18. Preserve your summer produce 

It’s always so sad to see the lights go out on your summer vegetable garden as the temperature drops in the fall. However, this doesn’t have to be the end. Spend the fall days canning your favorite fruits and veggies from your summer harvest.

19 Visit every park in your area 

I’ve lived in the area for five years and just found out that the town I live in has over 10 parks and sanctuary spaces. I’ve probably been to about three of them. Chances are your town has a bunch of hidden gems too. Head to the town website and see what you could be missing out on from parks, to skating rinks to dog parks. The best part is you’ll get great experience without having to spend a ton on travel.

20. Take a cooking class

I’ll be honest. Cooking classes aren’t always the most affordable. They can cost upwards of $100 per person. However, when you consider the money you’ll save learning to make your takeout favorites at home, I think it’s worth it. Take an in-person or virtual cooking class to learn how to make some amazing fall favorite soups such as butternut squash soup. Plus it will give you an excuse to finally use all those kitchen gadgets collecting dust or upgrade your favorites.

21. Attend homecoming

If you happen to live near your alma mater (and actually like it,) it may be worth it to take a trip for the fun fall homecoming festivities. The nostalgia will certainly warm your heart on a brisk fall day.

22. Read ghost stories

With Halloween around the corner, it only makes sense to treat yourself to something a little haunting. Read some ghost stories or watch some haunted ghost tours online. If scary ghost stories aren’t your thing, you can try Weird stories. The Weird series tells stories of the weirdest unsolved mysteries around the state. I’m obviously a fan of the Weird N.J. books.

23. Browse the Farmers Market  

I hate to admit that I’m late to the farmers market game. I always thought they were extremely boring and for old people, but they are actually quite fun. Think of a farmers market as a fun fall festival equipped with vendors, free food tasting, music via a local band, and maybe some community service activity all without the costly admission fee.

Have you done any of these? What’s your favorite budget friendly fall activity?

TERRIfic Quips: – Everything has it’s season

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