18 Totally Free Father’s Day Ideas That Don’t Feel Cheap

a father plays music with his three children.
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June doesn’t just bring the start of summer, it’s also when we celebrate the father figures in our lives. But we don’t all have the cash to spend on crazy gifts. We have a list of Father’s Day ideas that may be free, but they’re anything but cheap. They’re more meaningful and last longer than any watch, razor or fancy Scotch decanter.

And all you need to give them is time, effort and creativity.

Here are 18 ways to wow your dad this Father’s Day — completely free of charge.

1. Shoot Some Hoops

You paid good money for that basketball hoop in the driveway, so don’t just let it rust. Get dribbling!

(Come on, this one’s a total classic dad activity. You’ve seen “Father of the Bride,” right?)

If dad’s not a basketball guy, try kicking around a soccer ball or hitting the batting cages. The nostalgia factor will make him feel special.

2. Play a Board Game

Whether your dad likes D&D or chess, bonding over board games is a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon — or six, as long as everyone keeps their competitive spirits tamed.

3. Make His Favorite Meal

OK, you might have to spend a little bit of money on this one if you don’t have the ingredients already.

But putting together dad’s favorite dinner is way cheaper than heading to a fancy restaurant. And it’s infinitely more thoughtful.

4. De-Mystify Technology

Don’t let your dad struggle with his gadgets.

Unlock the mysteries of the Internet, download some new books onto his Kindle, or just spend some time clearing his cache so his laptop runs faster.

A family watch a movie together at home.
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5. Watch His Favorite Movie

Whether it’s through a streaming service or through a giant screen set up in the backyard, everyone loves to watch their favorite movie.

6. Watch the Game

Even if sports aren’t your thing, it’ll mean the world to dad if you take the time to sit down and watch his favorite sport with him.

Throw in some snacks as a bonus. These snacks work just as well for Father’s Day as they do for the Super Bowl.

7. Fire Up the Barbecue

No matter what’s in your fridge, it’s going to be awesome when you grill it.

And if your dad enjoys being the grill master, just set up everything for him ahead of time, grab a drink and join him.

8. Mow the Lawn

Want to save some green?

Try cutting it — mowing won’t cost you anything but your time, and it takes a huge load off dad’s shoulders.

9. Do Some Yardwork

Do the hedges need to be trimmed? Is that woodpile getting damp and moldy?

Get ahead of it do the work so dad won’t have to.

10. Organize His Toolbox

Proceed with caution: If your dad’s a handyman, there might be some method to his current tool organization madness … even if it appears utterly chaotic to the untrained eye.

But if dad’s recently become too busy to keep his once-tidy toolbox in good shape, now would be a great time to go in and fix the problem.

Heck, why not shine ‘em up, too? A craftsman’s only as good as his tools, after all.

11. Clean the Garage

Want to really do some organizational heavy lifting?

Extend your efforts from the toolbox to the whole garage. Then, watch dad’s jaw drop as the door slowly lifts.

Two children play guitar for their father.
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12. Have a Jam Session

Is your dad a rock star, ex- or current?

OK, does he at least have a guitar or something?

If you play, too — or even if you don’t — sit down and jam with him. You can always just sing along, keep beat or nod your head. He’ll love the chance to share his music with you.

13. Get Outside

Camping, fishing, hunting, hiking, paddling, running… there’s lots to do outdoors that’s free and fun.

14. Do Something Else He Loves With Him

Even if it’s not your favorite.

You could go to a park, hang out by the pool, play cards — whatever free activity he enjoys.

15. Write Down Something Awesome He’s Taught You

What’s one lesson your father taught you that you’ll never forget?

You probably have several. Write them into a thoughtful card or letter to create a gift from the heart dad — and you — will always treasure.

16. Have a “Remember When”

Sit down and do some old-fashioned reminiscing — yes, even if all the stories he wants to bring up are the embarrassing ones from when you were 9 years old.

Old family photos are optional… but game-changing.

17. Get Artsy

Got any artistic talent?

Write your dad a poem or song, draw his portrait or consider crafting something. The last one may require a little money for supplies, depending on what you have — but there are some really awesome (and useful!) Father’s Day crafting ideas out there.

Check out this easy luggage handle cover, which will both extend the life of his luggage and make it easier to identify on the baggage carousel. Win-win.

Or if dad’s work doesn’t take him on many travels, make his at-home or in-office workspace more efficient with these desk organizers. Too cute, right?

18. Owe Him One

If dad isn’t free to join you immediately for any of the suggested activities, consider writing him a coupon — or five — good for hangout sessions or yard work sometime in the future.

Other great IOUs: a fresh batch of cookies, a homemade meal, a trip to the beach or park, or a weekend visit.

Happy Father’s Day!

Jamie Cattanach (@jamiecattanach) is a contributing writer at The Penny Hoarder. Her creative writing has been featured in DMQ Review, Sweet: A Literary Confection and elsewhere.