10 Secrets To Frugal Family Fun

By Michael Peterson
In April 26, 2006

Today, four tickets to a professional ball game, four hot dogs, and four sodas can run you over $100. The same goes for a trip to a theme park, and the food there may cost even more. Fortunately, family fun can be found for a lot cheaper than you might think, and your kids won’t know the difference. What matters most is the memories you make together, and here are a few great ideas for having some very special times as a family.

  1. Playing “Bored” Games
    Chances are, your kids may be mostly familiar with the high-tech video and computer games that are so popular today. Introduce (or re-introduce) them to the games of the good ole days. The games you used to play are still around and usually available for less than $10 each at toy stores or stores like Wal-mart or Target. Games like Clue, Life, Operation, and Candy Land are just as fun as they always were, and they teach your kids valuable lessons about sportsmanship, taking turns, even problem-solving and strategy. For added fun, invite another family over and make it a party!
  2. Having a Movie Night
    A night out at the movie theater is growing more expensive by the movie. If you can wait just a few months, you’ll see that the blockbuster movies that are huge in theaters now will hit video store shelves in no time. Then, for a mere fraction of the price of going out, you can have a movie night at home, popcorn and candy and all.

    A movie night is especially good for families with young children who can’t sit still at a movie theater. At home, they can have all their toys with them while they watch, though chances are they’ll be entranced, comfortably curled up with you on the couch.

  3. Going Out For The Matinee
    Still, a real movie theater experience is fun, especially for the big summer blockbusters that come out every year, full of special effects and loud noises. Those are better experienced on the big screen, but action-packed movies don’t have to damage to your wallet. Instead of going to a regular night showing, go to the matinee. The tickets are always less expensive, the crowds are thinner, and if you are leaving the younger kids at home, you’ll have an infinitely easier time getting a babysitter.
  4. Enjoying High School Musicals
    You don’t have to go downtown to find great theater. Your local high school, church, or community theater probably puts on a few shows a year, and the musicals are always a real hit with kids of all ages. For the older kids, the drama, romance and comedy will entertain, while the younger kids will be enchanted by the music, costumes, and dancing. Tickets are always at least a third of the price of going to your city theater, and your money supports your community. Check your local newsletter or church bulletin for shows and times.
  5. Cheering on Neighborhood Sports
    Similarly, your neighborhood probably sees some big time action on the Little League field. Big league sports cost families a fortune, but Little League and high school games are free. There’s still popcorn and hot dogs, “Hey batta batta!”, and home run heroes, all at a much more reasonable price. Enjoy a beautiful spring afternoon at the ballpark for little or no money at all, and support your local teams.
  6. Berry Picking
    Kids love nothing more than to do something new and different – all by themselves. Berry picking is fun and brings great rewards that can go right into your mouth! Check your local Chamber of Commerce to see if you live near any berry farms or fruit orchards. Then turn the kids loose with a basket and a good hat to block the sun. You can spend a leisurely, inexpensive hour or two picking goodies, and go home and enjoy the “fruits” of your labor. Usually all you pay for is the time you spend in the field and for the use of a basket, and you get delicious treats that could last till winter!
  7. Building a Fort
    I know, it seems simple, but is there anything more innocent and imaginative than a tree house or pillow fort in the living room? A backyard retreat can be built with a few pieces of wood and some nails. Your kids can help paint and decorate, and then enjoy their handiwork for years to come! For an even cheaper, more temporary sanctuary, the classic chairs-pillows-and-blankets fort in the living room can take up hours on a rainy day at no cost. Get down on the floor with your kids and play. You probably built a fort or two in your day.
  8. Playing Dress Up
    Chances are either you or your parents have some of your old clothes stashed away. Your kids will have a blast dressing up like Mom and Dad. Dress up kits at toy stores can be as much as $70, but if you put some of your old dresses or suit coats in a basket, voila!
  9. Reading Aloud
    Reading books aloud doesn’t have to be just a school activity. You can all enjoy a good book together if you take turns reading out loud. Cuddle up in bed, or gather around in the den, and let every reader in the house have a go. Practice doing goofy voices and making the reading as dramatic as can be, and everyone will get some thrills and laughs. It’s great practice for young readers, too. I recommend the Harry Potter series as an exciting story that will enchant kids and parents of all ages.
  10. Washing the Car Together
    This is a GREAT way to save money, both on family activities and keeping your car spotless. Get soapy and sudsy with your family on a nice sunny day and get your car clean too! Kids love playing with the hose and will especially love spraying their parents. Maybe a little water will get on the car while you’re at it. For the low cost of some soap, some towels, and a bucket, you can have an afternoon of squeaky-clean fun.

    There are tons of inexpensive ways for your family to have great fun. A little creativity will save you a lot of money, AND bring your family closer together. Have a great time!

Michael Peterson

Mike is the author of “Reality Millionaire: Proven Tips to Retire Rich” and he has been published in a variety of local and national publications including Entrepreneur Magazine, Deseret Morning News, LDS Living Magazine, and Physicians Money Digest. He holds a B.S. in business administration from the University of Phoenix.