They say the best things in life are free.
It just doesn’t seem so when your family drops $100 on dinner and a night at the movies. This time of year, many families turn to indoor entertainment, which can be more expensive than warm weather fun.
Regardless of your financial situation, intentional spending and learning to balance wants and needs are important when it comes to the family budget.
Here are some simple ways to spend time with your family without spending much (or any) money:
Even in winter there are great trails and parks worth the effort of bundling up! Other than a national or state park fee… water, simple snacks, and good shoes are pretty much the only requirements. Hiking with other families or friends is a great way to get exercise, form friendships, and discover the wildlife. Revisiting the same trails during different seasons is a way to investigate how ecosystems grow and change. Letterboxing and Geocaching add to your hike’s adventure.
Instead of paying a babysitter or staying home all the time, ask another family to trade childcare. Taking your children to someone else’s house for the afternoon or evening will allow them time to play with friends and new toys, and have a chance to get out as well. When it’s your turn to host, plan a craft or special activity to make it a special occasion.
Going out to eat can get pretty pricey, especially when you try to avoid the generally unhealthy kids’ menu. Cooking at home is one of the best ways to keep within your budget. Organize a potluck or co-cooking night. Plan to make a couple dishes, (even a pizza and salad are great), and have the other family bring some of the ingredients. While the kids play, the adults can spend time in the kitchen chopping or rolling dough. Have the kids set the table or help in cooking, and when it’s dinnertime, you’ll appreciate the freshness, collaboration, and fewer dollars you needed to spend.
Netflix, Redbox, Amazon, Hulu, etc. all have ways to see movies for as little as a dollar. Or don’t be afraid to dust off the movies you own but haven’t watched in a while. Make it a regular occurrence and let family members take turns choosing what you watch. Lay blankets and pillows on the floor and turn out the lights. Your kids will look forward to this tradition, and you’ll be a lot more comfortable, maybe even enough for a double feature.
Family Game Night
Many of us have stacks of games shoved in drawers or closets. Plan a night a week or a couple times a month, to pull them out. Put on good music, have lots of snacks on hand, and pile around the kitchen table. You’ll find yourself laughing, telling stories, and dusting off more of those forgotten games.
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