Let's face it, summer is expensive.
There's so much vying for your hard-earned dollar during the warm-weather months -- trips to the mall, vacations, pricey 3-D films shown in digital whatchamacallit, festivals, etc.
Fortunately, there are plenty of fun things to do in the Bay Area that won't cost you a dime, including lots of free outdoor concerts.
Although we just lost one of the biggest and best free concert series -- San Jose's long-running Music in the Park -- there are still many others going on throughout the summer and into the fall.
Here's a look at some of the top free concert series going on right now:
Jazz on the Plazz
When: 6:30 p.m. Wednesdays, through Aug. 29
Where: Los Gatos Town Plaza, West Main Street and Santa Cruz Avenue
The music: The type of talent you'd see in the top jazz clubs.
Highlights: Jamie Davis (July 11), the extraordinary bass-baritone vocalist, draws from a repertoire that includes Cole Porter, Stevie Wonder and Charles Mingus; Grammy Award-winner Terence Blanchard (Aug. 8) easily ranks among the top five trumpeters in jazz today; the Monterey County High School All-Star Band (Aug. 22) features some great young talent.
Stern Grove Festival
When: 2 p.m. Sundays, through Aug. 26
Where: Stern Grove, 19th Avenue and Sloat
Info: 415-252-6252, www.sterngrove.org
The music: Top-name acts, from pop, classical, R&B, world music and even dance help celebrate the festival's 75th anniversary.
Highlights: San Francisco Symphony Conductor Michael Tilson Thomas will lead the orchestra in a program that includes Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 (July 8); the E Family (July 22) features Latin jazz legend Pete Escovedo performing with his talented offspring, including percussionist Sheila E.; the San Francisco Ballet (July 29) marks its only Bay Area summer performance at this incredible setting; Grammy-winning jazz singer Al Jarreau, acclaimed keyboardist George Duke and Oakland neo-soul singer Mara Hruby (Aug. 12) make for a great triple bill.
Music and Market Series
When: 6:30-8 p.m. Thursdays, through Sept. 13
Where: Todos Santos Plaza, between Mt. Diablo and Grant streets, Concord
Info: 707-869-9403, www.communityconcerts.com
The music: Rock, blues, jazz and other genres are represented in this popular series.
Highlights: Fans of '50s-era rock 'n' roll should check out vocalist-guitarist Dave Crimmen (July 19), who draws influence from Little Richard, Elvis Presley and classic rockabilly artists; the 14-piece tribute act Foreverland (Aug. 9) honors the King of Pop, Michael Jackson.
When: 6-7:30 p.m. Thursdays through Aug. 16
Where: Stanford Shopping Center, 180 El Camino Real, Palo Alto (shows held in area between Nordstrom and Crate & Barrel)
Info: 415-398-5655, www.sfjazz.org.
The music: Real-deal jazz artists, mostly from the Bay Area
Highlights: The intriguing new trio Guitar Goddesses (July 5) features acclaimed guitarists Mimi Fox, Jane Getter and Leni Stern; The sensational songbird Faye Carol (July 19) is one of the Bay Area's top jazz vocalists, handling everything from Cole Porter classics to Michel Legrand compositions; the violinist Mads Tolling, best known for his work with the Grammy-winning Turtle Island Quartet, performs with his new quartet (Aug. 9), featuring guitarist Mike Abraham, bassist George Ban-Weiss and drummer Eric Garland.
Also: Summerfest also runs 6 p.m. Thursdays Aug. 9-23 at Union Square in San Francisco.
Oakland City Center concerts
When: Noon-1 p.m. Wednesdays through Aug. 29
Where: Oakland City Center Plaza Stage, Broadway and 13th Street
Info: 510-628-9170, www.oaklandcitycenter.com.
The music: R&B, Latin, hip-hop and other treats
Highlights: KJ Allstars (July 11), an eight-piece Bay Area troupe with a horn section, performs jazz, rock, R&B, funk and other styles; jazz vocalist Alexa Morales (July 25) boasts a multi-octave range and command of four languages; and at the Meshugga Beach Party (Aug. 15), players dress up like rabbis, do synchronized dance moves and combine retro-'60s surf music with traditional Jewish melodies. Nuff said.
Flavors of Jazz
When: 7-9 p.m. Tuesdays, through Aug. 28.
Where: Santana Row, San Jose
The music: Jazz artists perform on the patios of some of Santana Row's restaurants.
Highlights: Funky jazzman Brian Ho and his Duo play the Counter, while Latin/modern jazz outfit Rick Vandivier Duo plays at El Jardin Tequila Bar (July 17); The terrific Anton Schwartz and his trio Trio play Rosie McCann's Irish Pub & Restaurant, while the Gus Kambeitz Duo performs at Left Bank Brasserie (July 31).
Music on the Square
When: 6-8 p.m. Fridays through Sept. 28
Where: Courthouse Square, 2200 Broadway, Redwood City
Info: 650-780-7000, www.redwoodcity.org.
The music: A ton of tribute/cover bands, plus salsa, blues and more
Highlights: Fleetwood Mac tribute band Bella Donna (July 13) adds Stevie Nicks solo cuts to its mix; Super Huey (Sept. 7), a Huey Lewis and the News tribute act, is ready to satisfy your "Hip to Be Square" fix.
Tuesday Night Blues
When: 6:30-8 p.m. Tuesdays through July 31
Where: Todos Santos Plaza, Concord
Info: 707-869-9403, www.communityconcerts.com
The music: A great scene to savor the blues.
Highlights: The 16-year-old Bay Area-based Tamsen Donner Band (July 10) has two CDs and more than 150 tunes (originals and covers) in its arsenal; the Eyewitness Blues Band (July 17) features broadcast journalists from KPIX-TV Channel 5 and KCBS-AM 740 playing rock and blues.
Los Gatos' Music in the Park
When: 5-7 p.m. Sundays through Aug. 26
Where: Los Gatos Civic Center (front lawn area), Main Street and Fiesta Way
The music: Blues, rock, Latin and more
Highlights: The White Album Ensemble (July 15) pays tribute to the Beatles epic double album; it should be a treat to hear the acclaimed Opera San Jose perform in an open-air setting (July 22); San Jose native son Chris Cain (Aug. 19) is one of the best blues artists in the Bay Area.
Concerts in the Park
When: 7-8:30 p.m. Fridays through Aug. 31
Where: Lions Wayside Park, First and Neal streets, Pleasanton
Info: 925-484-2199, www.pleasantondowntown.net
The music: Family- friendly concerts, ranging from '50s tunes and classic rock to R&B and reggae
Highlights: The popular longtime Los Gatos band the Houserockers (July 13) covers such artists as Bruce Springsteen and the Rolling Stones; the San Francisco rock band Finding Stella (July 27) is led by powerhouse vocalist Chris Snyder; all seven members of the Ruckatan Latin Tribe (Aug. 10) are veterans of the Bay Area Latin rock scene. The band fuses Latin rock and reggae, resulting in a mix that just screams, "Put on your dancing shoes!"
Broadway Plaza Summer Jazz Concerts
When: 6:30-8 p.m. Thursdays, July 12-26
Where: Broadway Plaza, 1275 Broadway Plaza, Walnut Creek
Info: 925-939-7600, www.broadwayplaza.com
The music: Smooth jazz to soothe your shopping experience
Highlights: The tuneful trumpet/flugelhorn player Cindy Bradley (July 12) can groove like nobody's business; Guitar hero Craig Chaquico (July 26) didn't miss a beat as he went from rocking with (Jefferson) Starship to a successful solo career in contemporary jazz and New Age music.
Point Richmond Music's Summer Concert Season
When: 5:30-7:45 p.m. July 13, Aug. 10 and Sept. 14 and 28
Where: Park Place and Washington Avenue, downtown Point Richmond
The music: Two concerts held each night -- 5:30-6:30 p.m. and 6:45-7:45 p.m. Concerts include a variety of musical acts.
Highlights (opening act listed first): Retromeca/Major Powers & the Lo-Fi Symphony (July 13) features an opener that draws influence from the Beatles and Sly Stone, and a headliner that delivers quirky pop tunes reminiscent of Ben Folds Five; the double bill of Delta Wires/GG Amos (Sept. 14) features terrific blues served up by two local champs.
Friday Nights Live
When: 6:30-8 p.m. Fridays through Sept. 14
Where: Shea Homes Stage outside Bankhead Theater, 2400 First St., Livermore
Info: 925-373-6800, www.mylvpac.com
The music: A tantalizing mix of rock, folk, Latin Jazz and other styles
Highlights: The Bay Area band El Desayuno (July 27, Aug. 24) is known for its high-octane jams and percussion work on a vibrant mix of Latin jazz, soul and salsa songs; Livermore's own Gabe Duffin Band (Aug. 3) performs crowd-pleasing covers of such immortals as Cream, the Eagles and Pink Floyd.
Summer Concert Series
When: 7-8:30 p.m. Fridays, July 6-Aug. 24
Where: Blackhawk Plaza, 3454 Blackhawk Plaza Circle, Danville
Info: 925-736-2751, www.shopblackhawkplaza.com
Music: A heaping helping of tribute acts, plus a handful of other offerings
Highlights: Aja Vu is not a "Royal Scam" (July 27), just a very good Steely Dan tribute band; the Unauthorized Rolling Stones (Aug. 17) can help you celebrate the real Stones' 50th anniversary.
Follow Jim Harrington at Twitter.com/jimthecritic, Facebook.com/jim.bayareanews and http://blogs.mercurynews.com/aei/category/concerts.