Summer's finally here! Long, warm days hold the promise of outdoor lunch breaks and weekends at the beach, but what's even better is that you don't have to be rolling in dough to enjoy some really fun activities. If you know where to look, there's plenty of entertainment at your disposal, all without spending a dime.

Hold onto your hat, 'cause this live music is going to blow you away

Hello, live outdoor music!

In summer, local bands take advantage of the glorious weather and show off their chops at free concerts. If you're in New York, check out the NYC Parks summer concert series. It's got something for everyone, with concerts ranging from Scandinavian music to The Staten Island Snugs, a three-part harmony outfit, with lead guitar, bass, flute, and drums. But no matter where you live, chances are there will be a bar, restaurant, park, or festival pretty much every weekend with some live tunes. Check local newspapers or tourist bureaus, or even ask around at your favorite coffee shop. Baristas and bartenders are often artists, so they frequently have the inside scoop on the local music and art scene.

Admire free mural art

If you live in a city where murals are splashed all over buildings, do a bit of sleuthing to find out the stories behind the best ones. Hit up a tourist bureau or local library to get more information on the mural art scene in your city, then spend a lazy day photographing and drinking in your favorites. And if you're an artist, turns out painting murals pays pretty well too...

Just add sunshine!

Lazy picnic breakfasts, brunches, lunches, dinner, afternoon tea…you get the idea

You have the food – why not dine alfresco? Snag a few beach towels or bedsheet and a cooler, pack up some refreshments, and spread out under a shady tree. If you're the active type, bring a Frisbee or other lawn game. Couch potatoes, grab that novel you've been eyeing or your favorite magazine. Nothing quite beats munching away under the open sky as a warm breeze ruffles your hair. If you're planning on bringing booze to a park or other public area, make sure you check regulations before you go, and don't forget the bug spray!

Hike the great outdoors

Whether you're blazing your own trail or enjoying the fruits of someone else's labor, hiking through all sorts of natural surroundings can be rejuvenating. The National Park Service makes it easy to find a public park near you, or you can try AllTrails, an aggregate collection of over 5,000 trails that include directions, trail maps, and reviews. Even though it's tempting to sleep late during lazy summer days, if you're going hiking, it's best to start as early as possible in the morning to avoid crowds and the late afternoon sun. Furry friends make great hiking companions (just make sure you remember some water for them too). Once you reach the crest of a particularly scenic overlook, you'll feel proud to have accomplished something other than scrolling through a week's worth of social media posts.

You'll never go hungry at a farmer's market

Stuff yourself with free samples at a farmer's market

Sometimes it's easy to forget that food isn't actually created at your local grocery. There's something incredibly refreshing about knowing the provenance of your eats, and it's even better when you can speak to the people who created it with their own two hands. At a farmer's market you'll not only get to choose from the freshest, tastiest food you can find, but you'll also get to meet the people behind it. They frequently have samples so you can try out their homemade organic blueberry jelly or aged goat's milk gouda before you buy it. It's a fantastic place to try new seasonal foods, where you'll experience them at the peak of their flavor. Because let's face it: there's nothing worse than biting into a fresh strawberry or tomato only to find that while it may resemble the fruit, it tastes like soft shoe leather. Local Harvest and Farmer's Market Online are terrific resources for scouting out one near you.

Road trip with your besties

While road trips aren't technically free (I mean, gas costs money), when shared among a few of your BFFs, it's a pretty cheap way to spend a day or two. Do some investigating to see if there are any notable historic spaces or funky destinations nearby. Even if the world's largest ball of twine (incidentally, also a free attraction) doesn't quite live up to expectations, you can bet that you'll have a great time getting there. Put together a playlist of your favorite tunes that bring back happy memories and hit the road. Bonus points if you can convince your friend with the convertible to drive.

See where the magic happens at a factory tour

No, I'm not talking about touring your local air-conditioning unit factory. Think snacks and chocolate. Factory Tours USA lists a whole host of factories that offer free tours (and samples!) so you can get an inside look at how your favorite snack is made. Drool over the 25,000 pounds of confections made per shift at the Anthony-Thomas Candy Company in Ohio, or inhale the mouth-watering aroma of freshly cooked kettle chips at the Cape Cod Potato Chip factory in Hyannis. Once you try their hot, fresh-from-the-fryer kettle chips you'll be hooked, I promise.

Beautiful day + beautiful wine = beautiful life

Free booze! Need I say more?

Wineries, distilleries, and craft breweries are prime destinations to hit up during the summer months. It's fun to speak with the experts and learn how they got into their craft, and they're always happy to provide samples of their wares. Oenophiles can sample local wines from grapes grown out back, and beer fans will be hard pressed to find a better pint than one poured straight from the source. A quick Google search will unearth plenty of options, and if you combine it with a road trip or a picnic you've got yourself one hell of a sweet summer day.

Rejoice if you're light on funds. There's no need to envy your more financially flush friends, as there are more than enough free summer activities to keep you busy and your social media filled with memories.

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Developing further skills can boost your career at any stage.

Whether you are looking for a new job or trying to grow in your current one, getting a certification can be a great way to improve your skills.

Anyone can put that they are proficient in a computer program on their resume but having a certificate can help you stand out amongst the competition and give credence to the strength of your skills.

But what's the best way to invest in yourself without breaking the bank? Some certification programs can cost hundreds if not thousands of dollars. We are going to walk through six of the best certifications you can get for $100 or less.

Tableau

Tableau's data visualization capabilities are comparable to Domo and Power BI.

Who is it best for: Those who work with analyzing and presenting data.

Cost: $100 for Tableau Desktop Specialist; additional certifications are available for a larger fee.

More companies than ever see themselves as data companies. Being able to understand data and use it to guide decisions at your company is often critical to taking on a leadership role. Not to mention, being able to present the data in a clean, attractive, and compelling way can help get buy-in from others in your organization or clients. That's why Tableau is a great tool to have in your toolbox.

Tableau allows you to create interactive visual analytics dashboards. In layman's terms, you can take data; create graphs, maps, or charts; and then allow end-users to interact with these graphics to better understand the information. It's a fantastic tool allowing non-technical users to gain insights for data-driven decision-making.

Tableau Desktop Specialist certification starts at $100 and has no expiration date. There are many videos on Tableau's site to prepare for your exam as well as Tableau Starter Kits allowing you to play around and learn the different capabilities of the program. Tableau offers a 14-day free trial as well as free license for one year for students.

Additional certifications after Desktop Specialist are Desktop Associate and Desktop Professional. Those working with a Tableau server may also be interested in a separate certification as a Server Associate or Server Professional.

The Federal Reserve sets the guardrails for the federal funds rate, and through that helps control the money supply for the nation.

When you take out a loan for a car, charge something to your credit card, or get a personal line of credit, there is going to be an interest rate that applies to your loan.

A lot of different factors go into what you will be charged, including your own personal credit score. But even those with flawless credit still see a minimum charge that they can't get around. That all goes back to the Federal Funds Rate.

One thing consumers rarely realize is that all of our banks are lending money to each other every night. Banks are legally required to maintain a certain percentage of their deposits in non-interest-bearing accounts at the Federal Reserve to ensure they have enough money to cover any withdrawals that may unexpectedly come up. However, deposits can fluctuate and it's very common for some banks to exceed the requirement on certain days while some fall short. In cases like this, banks actually lend each other money to ensure they meet the minimum balance. It's a bit hard to imagine these multibillion-dollar financial institutions needing to borrow money to tide them over for a bit, but it happens every single night at the Federal Reserve. It's also a nice deal for those with balances above the reserve balance requirement to earn a bit of money with cash that would normally just be sitting there.

The Federal Reserve The Federal Reserve


The exact interest rate the banks will charge each other is a matter of negotiation between them, but the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) (the arm of the Federal Reserve that sets monetary policy) meets eight times a year to set a target rate. They evaluate a multitude of economic indicators including unemployment, inflation, and consumer confidence to decide the best rate to keep the country in business. The weighted average of all interest rates across these interbank loans is the effective federal funds rate.

This rate has a huge impact on the economy overall as well as your personal finances. The federal funds rate is essentially the cheapest money available to a bank and that feeds into all of the other loans they make. Banks will add a slight upcharge to the rate set by the Fed to determine what is the lowest interest that they will announce for their most creditworthy customers, also known as the prime rate. If you have a variable interest rate loan (very common with credit cards and some student loans), it's likely that the interest rate you pay is a set percentage on top of that prime rate that your lender is paying. That's why in times of low interest rates (it was set at 0% during the Great Recession), a lot of borrowers should go for fixed interest rate loans that won't increase. However, if the federal funds rate was relatively high (it went up to 20% in the early 1980's), a variable interest rate loan may be a better decision as you would be charged less interest should the rate drop without the need to refinance.

The federal funds rate also has a major impact on your investment portfolio. The stock market reacts very strongly to any changes in interest rates from the Federal Reserve, as a lower rate makes it cheaper for companies to borrow and reinvest while a higher rate may restrict capital and slow short-term growth. If you have a significant portion of your investments in equities, a small change in the federal funds rate can have a large impact on your net worth.

Getty Images/Maria Stavreva

Whether you're leaving a job involuntarily, departing for something new, or just want to prepare for the unknown, it is smart to understand all your options regarding your 401k.

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