When you are frugal because you have to be, it can feel like the fun has been sucked out of life. That’s how things started for us three years ago, and I know that is where a lot of people will be in the days to come.
With kids in elementary school we didn’t want to make them feel deprived of all things fun. Once those kids are in school they know what they are missing. My quest to find frugal fun began.
I literally called all the restaurants in town (ok, that isn’t very many…6 maybe) and asked about weekly specials. In half an hours time I knew who had buck burgers on Monday night and when kids ate free at the local diner and pizza place. This would help when we really felt the need to get out for a meal, which still wasn’t often but even saving $10 occasionally meant a lot.
Read the classifieds of the paper closely. Our local movie theater offers free kids movies every Saturday in December with a donation to the food shelf. Our community center offers special free or low cost events periodically. We also found oil change coupons and other specials posted there.
I checked into rates at the local community center where there is a pool. We found out that our insurance would give us money back if we checked in at the center a certain number of times. If Dan and I both go 12 times a month, we each get money back. This makes our membership for our family less than $10 per month. For that the kids can swim and play basketball or air hockey or ping pong several days a week.
In reading handouts from school, we learned about many elementary sports opportunities that were inexpensive. My kids could typically participate in a short basketball or wrestling program for $20 or less and receive a free t-shirt, basketball, bag or water bottle with the school team logo on it. This is a great way to get out of the house and get some school spirit for a low cost.
Looking into local natural resources can be beneficial. Bike riding around the local bike trail was another fun activity for us. We also have many local parks and a couple of state parks within a reasonable distance. Hiking and picnicking are fun ways to get out too.
I never expected to find all these gems when I first went looking. And we didn’t do extra things every week, but it gave us options that helped our kids feel “normal” while our budget was so tight. In fact I almost didn’t “bother” to look for deals, sure there were none we could afford.
At home we did the typical tightwad things. I made room for the popcorn popper on the counter so we always had a good (cheap) snack for family TV viewing. We dusted off the games and played plenty of games as a family. We put together large puzzles saved from my childhood. We simply took time to hang out together.
And that is my favorite thing…simple, inexpensive times together with family.