[photo via Greencolander]
Despite the snowy weather today in Minnesota, we can dream of spring and summertime days, right? In this guest post, Melissa Williamson on 14 ways she and her family enjoy frugal spring and summertime fun.
The idea of being frugal can carry the stigma of “funless.” For some of us deal-finders, fun is directly related to the amount of savings seen at the bottom of a receipt. There is something infinitely thrilling about seeing that you paid substantially less than market value for a cart full of groceries, an online clothing order, or another great deal you found.
Consider your family. They love you and appreciate your never-ending quest for stretching a dollar, yet there are times when all they really want is for you to put away your frugality and just have a little fun. We deal-finders understand their desire to let loose, but we also recognize the limits of our budget and so once again the frugalista is labeled as a boring, kill-joy, party-pooper.
It’s not so much fun being frugal when your family desperately needs a little downtime, is it? I propose both camps can be happy with a little creativity. It may take some extra effort, but if you’re saving money, isn’t it worth it?
Here are a few ideas to get you started:
Okay, so maybe you already do this one, but why not think outside the box? Have you ever considered changing the rules of a favorite game to make it more interesting, even (dare I say it) a little goofy?
One of our favorite family games growing up was calledÃ‚ Up-and-Down-the-River. The idea of the game is you predict how many tricks you will get based on what you are holding in your hand. Our family gave this game a twist every once in a while by holding the cards so everyone could see the hand except the person actually holding the cards. You then bid based on what everyone else was holding, not knowing what was in your hand. Yes, it sounds a little crazy, but it was really fun and provided many laughs.
Themed Movie Night
Maybe you’re wondering where the frugal part of this is. There are several ways you can watch movies for super-cheap or free. Our local library has hundreds of movies, including new releases. There are also often codes to get free rentals from places like Redbox or Blockbuster Express. Have you ever thought of swapping movies with a friend? There are plenty of ways to watch movies for extremely cheap or even free.
Don’t let the fun stop there! Make a theme meal around what you watch. Are you in the mood for a classic? WatchÃ‚ Gone With the Wind and cook some traditional southern dishes like fried chicken and corn bread. Do you like comedy? Watch an old sitcom likeÃ‚ “Gilligan’s Island.” Create a luau setting in your living room. The possibilities are endless. For those of us who are not naturally creative when it comes to things like this, do a little searching on the internet. Someone else is bound to have ideas you can steal (um, borrow) and impress your family.
The city in which I live has 66 parks available. Not all have playgrounds (something essential to this mother of three, five years and under!), but it’s easy enough to find several that do. Plan a route and park-hop around your town for a few hours. You might just stumble onto the best park in the city you never knew existed.
I know this sounds like it may take a lot of effort, but it really doesn’t. Just throw any perishables you use to make sandwiches (meat, cheese, condiments, etc.) into a cooler with a few ice packs, don’t forget the loaf of bread, and you’re all set.
You don’t have to actually have picnic supplies like a basket or table cloth to go on a picnic. In fact, you don’t even have to leave your backyard. My kids are constantly begging to have a picnic in the backyard. And I say why not? Throw a blanket on the ground and there you have it: instant picnic.
Museums and Activity Centers
Check out any local museums and other activity centers like the YMCA. Sometimes there will be free or nearly free days to visit. Our local children’s museum is free to county residents for a few hours every Wednesday. Yes, it takes intentional planning, but hey, it’s free!
Our state fair has a day where admission is free if you donate canned goods. Call ahead to your chosen location and ask if there are any discounted or free admission days. After the first few, “Yes, actually there are…” answers you receive, it won’t feel uncomfortable anymore.
This is new to our family. I had a friend on Facebook who kept posting about how much fun he was having geocaching with his wife and kids. My curiosity was piqued and I began to do a little research. For anyone who owns a GPS this is a fun, free activity the whole family can get in on.
The main site I am familiar with isÃ‚ Geocaching.com. Small boxes and containers are hidden all over the United States and are identified by their coordinates (latitude and longitude). You put these coordinates into your GPS and follow the directions. Once there, you sign a log sheet saying you made it.
Sometimes there are small prizes inside if the container is big enough. If so, you are encouraged to take the prize but leave something in return. Small kid’s meals toys are a fun treat to leave for the next family. We like leaving the small board books our kids get as the under-three toy from Chick-Fil-A.
Your local library is good for more than just books and movies. If you have young children, story time is a great place to start. You can ask at the desk where to find a calendar of events and the fun really begins from there.
Our library hosts crochet and knitting groups, scrapbooking and craft nights, game nights, family movie nights, and more. If your library doesn’t have anything you are interested in, consider starting a group yourself for something that does interest you.
Sometimes we need to turn off the TV and try something new. Books on CD are a great way to start. No one gets a dry throat from reading aloud and you can enjoy classic literature as a family. If you have younger kids, you might want to consider a radio drama instead, likeÃ‚ Radio Theatre which has done classics such asÃ‚ The Chronicles of Narnia,Ã‚ Little Women,Ã‚ andÃ‚ A Christmas Carol.
If you do a little searching, you can also find websites which have original radio dramas from when radio was king. My girls have enjoyed listening toÃ‚ “Little Orphan Annie”Ã‚ and others from that era.
If you want to go to a campsite, this may cost you a little. Still, camping is much cheaper than staying in a hotel. Ask your camping buddies if you can borrow their camping supplies if you don’t have enough of your own.
Not up for a camping trip so far from the comforts of home? Try your backyard! Maybe it isn’t fancy, but what campsite is? I guarantee you will make memories roasting marshmallows and singing songs around a campfire.Ã‚ Of course, make sure to check for local laws concerning fires before you begin.
Concerts and Plays
If you check around, you might find a local high school chorus group or orchestra who will have a performance. April and May are typically the months for spring recitals and plays. Maybe it won’t be Broadway, but it’s bound to be entertaining and certainly much cheaper (and possibly even free).
Not only that, you will be supporting young aspiring actors and actresses and encouraging programs such as these to be kept in the budget when things get tight for school districts.
The age of your children can determine what type of scavenger hunt you have. If they are older, an all-around-the-town adventure may be in order. Younger children will be just as excited if the hunt is around the house. You can create clues, make a list of things they have to find, or even have them take pictures of items around town. The planning and effort that goes into this type of family fun will be worth it for all the memories you make.
Create a Holiday
Summer already contains built-in holidays such as Father’s Day and the Fourth of July, but consider adding a new, never-before-discovered holiday.Ã‚ Create a new family tradition by celebrating Reverse Day in which you do everything in reverse order, like eating dinner for breakfast and breakfast for dinner. Perhaps you could create National Barefoot Day and do everything without wearing shoes or socks.
Not feeling very creative? Do a little research on the internet to discover numerous little-known holidays. For instance, did you know there was a National Punctuation Day? It is celebrated on September 24th. Have you ever heard ofÃ‚ I Forgot DayÃ‚ celebrated on July 2? Neither had I. (I guess they forgot to tell us.) Ever want to celebrateÃ‚ National Donut Day? Now you can on the first Friday of June. If you are interested in learning about more obscure and wacky holidays, check out HolidayInsights.com.
Hiring someone to take your picture can be very expensive. Consider asking a high-school or college student interested in photography if you could be the subjects in their next assignment. You may want to pay them something small or take them out to eat, but the family photos you get in return will be worth it and you’ll be encouraging a young photographer along the way at the same time.
Doing something as a family for someone else is an incredible bonding experience. Maybe you could volunteer at a local shelter or soup-kitchen. Consider fixing up a package for someone serving our country overseas in the military. What about helping to clean up a local park? The possibilities are endless here and doing things together turns work into fun.
Fun doesn’t have to be expensive. It just has to be fun! Get creative this summer and share your creatively frugal ideas that help keep your family connected.
Melissa Williamson blogs about faith and family at Vintage Womanhood (vintagemotherhood.blogspot.com).
Your turn: What does your family do to enjoy a frugal spring or summer day?