I know, I know, you don't want to hear anything more about this dreadful economy. Everyone's getting hit by it and, every time you turn on the television, there's some more splendid news about our rising debt and high unemployment rates.

But maybe we could all treat this as sort of an adventure. How do we stretch our dollar, do things on the cheap - or even on the free - especially during the summer?

I know that as a teenager with no steady job and no allowance, the common cures for boredom are out of the question. I can't go on shopping sprees, see movies at Bridgeport for $10.75 a pop or eat at trendy restaurants in Portland anytime I want. So this summer, I'm cutting back, seeing how the other half lives. I thought I'd share a few ideas in case you, too, are trying to cut back. Join the adventure.

How do you have a full summer and still keep the savings account happy?

-Volunteer: I feel like I say that all the time, but it really is that great. You may not get paid in dollars and cents, but honestly, the reward you will reap is so much more than any amount money can buy. Once a week I help out at the Portland Rescue Mission, a homeless shelter in Portland. I go to the women's' division called Shepherd's Door. Here, any woman with addiction problems, abusive relationships or most any other problem that leaves them with a shattered life can enroll in a two-year program to work toward rehabilitation.

After they graduate from the program, the women come back for weekly meetings, and I get to watch their kids. It is one of the coolest things I've ever done. Some of these kids have been mistreated and seen their moms abuse alcohol and drugs. Many have lived lives no children should. However, they are so full of love and hope. They are mature beyond their years and still maintain a child-like faith. I am often in awe. It is without a doubt an inspirational - and free - experience.

-$5 movies: Every Tuesday, it only costs five bucks to see a movie at the Wilsonville Theaters. Yep, that's right, any movie all day, five bucks. It's pretty much the greatest thing since Starbucks. Along with seeing cheap movies in Wilsonville, Portland isn't doing so badly either.

-Powell's Books: Powell's Books has some great deals on books. Plus, not only can you sell your used books back to them, you can easily while away much of your day in its crayon-themed rooms.

-Saturday Market: The Saturday Market is in one of the most interesting and diverse parts of the city and it offers free people-watching. Portland also accommodates bikers, so if you want to go somewhere, pretty much anywhere, you can bike. Cars actually get out of your way so you can bike. Gotta love Portland.

-Chill: Although all these things offer cheap or free entertainment, the ultimate summer bargain is to just chill. Wait, what?

Yep, that's right, just relax! Read a book, watch a movie, spend time with those people who live with you, unwind. That's what summer is for, right? Well, sort of.

While I'm at home 'relaxing,' I'm really doing summer homework for AP classes and studying for the SAT. Not to mention college searching and trying to prepare for my sister to head to college next month. But hey, it's free.

I look at living on a summer budget as a challenge. I've kept busy, visited some new parts of Portland and enjoyed the people I live with. So far, my summer has been great. I'm looking forward to more new adventures to unfold in the time I have left before senior year starts. I have a feeling the time will fly.

Brittany Peterson will be a senior at West Linn High School in the fall.

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