Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Budget Alternatives for Kid Fun

Replacement Ideas that don't break your budget, yet still give the kids something they want!  

It happened again today. Another funny moment when my kids innocently ask a sweet question that makes me question my parenting and communication skills.  And also has me wondering if my current situation is more messed up than I think. 

"Mom, when you get paid again can we go to the water park?"
"Umm let me see buddy" is my standard reply because I have officially become sick of telling my kids no. 
"No," he says. "I mean when you get more money, like on payday?"

'Ah man!'  my inner voice lovingly replies to him.  Way to put a spotlight on that present situation.

Working hard to channel some optimism,  I have noticed that being on a budget often forces me to be more creative on how I entertain my kids.

As a mom who is always broke, I've been forced to find ways to entertain my kids that only costs me $5 or is completely free (just costing me in precious time with these munchkins).  There are so many Pins and Posts on free activities with your kids nowadays.  They are awesome and I use them as reminders.  But as a Thrifty Sister, I'm getting pretty good at finding the great knock-offs myself and when to use them. 

Of course, as parents we want to give our kids the best, and its not really beneficial to always tell them no.  They deserve some great childhood memories, but for the times when paying for five tickets to a baseball game is a bit too much for the monthly budget, here is my list of alternative ideas for entertaining the kids.

1.  Kids want the Water Park | Take them to a Splash Pad

Even as an adult, I LOVE water parks, wave pools, and of course - the lazy river.  However, taking two or more kids costs quite a pretty penny.  I usually try to save this outing for my kids' August birthdays.  For the rest of the summer...they're going to the splash pad.  And they know it.  Most parks nowadays have great splash pads for free.  Check yours out!

2.  Kids want the Movie Theater | You make Movie Night at home

I know for a fact I don't even have to discuss the price of movie tickets.  You already get this one.  Yes, matinees are a good deal, but if you work during the day that option is kind of off the table for you.  With Netflix or Amazon, you can make a good movie night right at home.  I bought some popcorn bins from the dollar store my kids love. I set some pillows and blankets on the floor like a camp out and we veg out.  They love it.

3.  Kids want a Museum | Take them to the Library

If your kids are still little like mine, they will love this.  Our library even has free story time where they can listen to a guest read a book and then let them make a cute craft that goes along with the story.  And of course they all love the computers too.  Most library's have great computer games in their Children's section that they won't find at home.  If you want, grab a movie from the library and have a move night like #2 above!

4.  Kids want Chuck E Cheese (or some equivalent) | Take them to the Park & Order a Pizza

I still think it's strange that my 7 year old son doesn't like hot dogs, but he does love pizza (thank God!  Mom doesn't have that big of a menu to cook from and we all need the quick, stand-by meals now and then!).  Yes they love Chuck E Cheese and probably bug me every rainy day to take them there, but if they want to bring friends along, it gets a little expensive.  Save the library for the rainy day activity and replace Jungle Java with the jungle gym on sunny days.  What kid doesn't love the park and some pizza?

5.  Kids want a Big Pool | Take them to the Lake or Fill a Kiddie Pool

My kids will initially whine that they want to go to the community pool that has a deep end.  But in the end, it turns out they don't really care as long as they can jump in some water.  Some blessed soul, who probably has kids too, decided to put a dock in the middle of the lake at our family cottage.  The kids can now perfect their cannon balls in the lake (I've also done some not so spectacular belly flops from this, but it's a blast!  No shame....) and we love it.  For the weekends when we aren't at the cottage but are laying around the back patio, I fill up my $14 kiddie pool and they are entertained for hours.  Buy one big enough for you to squeeze in for a few minutes too!

6.  Kids want a Baseball Game | Take them to the Batting Cages

My husband and I have been trying desperately to take our kids to their first Tigers game at Comerica Park.  However, another summer is almost past and it doesn't seem likely we will make it.  This one is a bummer and a little hard to swallow but I do have a slight replacement for this one.  If your kids are a bit older, batting cages are always fun.  And don't forget the go-karts or put-put/mini golf that are usually there too.  If yours are too young to hold a bat and have balls whizzing by at unknown speeds, then set up a game in your yard.  Playing a game as a family is always a good memory to give (and they usually sell plastic bats and little bases at the dollar store).

7.  Kids want their Face Painted | Paint their Face yourself
Source: Audi_Insperation (photo has been slightly modified for this post)

My daughter is notorious in asking for this one.  Coming up in #8 on my list is the zoo.  Every time we walk past a face painting booth there, she's all about it.  However, they charge almost $20 for one kid.  No way, especially when I just paid a good sum of money to get in here.  "I'll paint your face myself when we get home" is my standard reply.  And it works.  Use some old Halloween makeup, make homemade face paint, or use some old makeup.  They don't care as long as it gets done.  (Tip:  butterflies seem to be the easiest for little girls.  Boys seem to like tigers so why not just draw some lines on their face?  Pretty simple mom, go for it!)

8.  Kids want the Zoo | Buy a Zoo Membership for "Free Admission"

Ok, "Free Admission" is misleading, and this does NOT cost $5 - BUT by the time you finish paying for one zoo visit you could have bought a year-long pass for the same amount of money.  I once took my kids and their cousins to the Detroit Zoo.  For the five of us, the admission cost was about $70, plus the train ride, plus the snacks, plus the parking.....Ouch!  You know what our zoo charges for a year's admission?  $80!  That's 2 adults and 6 kids, any time, for eighty dollars!  I save up $10 here and there throughout the year and buy our pass in May.  By the start of summer vacation, I have moved well past the $80 investment, and I don't buy food at the zoo either.  We pack our lunches, saving some more money.  It adds up fast and is well worth the money.  Any time they get bored, we have a fun place to go for 'free'.   Most of the time, the little ones Tucker out before you can walk through the whole zoo anyways.  Breaking it up into multiple trips will save your sanity!! Plus the zoo always have fun events for members that go throughout the year, not just summer.

Have an more alternative ideas to replace the expensive outings?  Please let us know, would love to share!

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