When it comes to your budget for monthly expenses, you likely have money set aside for items like rent, utilities, groceries, and other recurring costs. But by the time all the bills are paid you may have little left over for family fun. And with the global economy still firmly entrenched in a recession you’re probably not too keen to go charging unnecessary entertainment on your credit cards (digging yourself into debt for something you can’t really justify). On the other hand, all work and no play can make your life pretty dull. So how can you keep the whole family happy without losing your shirt in the process?
Here are a few simple ways to find the entertainment you crave without demolishing your carefully planned budget.
1. Hiking and biking. Enjoying the great outdoors is a pastime that doesn’t have to cost you a dime. There are certainly outdoor sports that require equipment, but for short hikes around your area all you’ll need is a comfortable pair of shoes, some sunblock, and a water bottle. And if everyone already has a bike, cycling around the city (to the park for a picnic, for example) is a fun way to spend the day.
2. Vacation close to home. Summertime is ideal for a family vacation because the kids are out of school and the weather is great (plus, most professionals are not as busy as they’ll be around the winter holidays). But if you don’t have the money for ten days in Hawaii or a grand tour of Europe, you may find yourself curbing your vacation plans. The truth is that you don’t need to travel far in order to get away and enjoy some quality time with the family. Think about taking day trips to nearby attractions or going on a week-long camping trip. You’ll save a ton of money and still get the entertaining vacay you’ve been dreaming of.
3. Discount days. When the weather gets warm, theme parks, zoos, and even air-conditioned museums beckon the family to leave the house. But all of these attractions can come with a hefty price for one, let alone a whole brood. So instead of shelling out full price for these fun activities, wait for discount days. By calling ahead you can find out about special events or family fun days that come with discounted tickets, or even ask how and where to get a hold of vouchers and rebates.
4. Budget movie theaters. A family of four can easily shell out $50-$75 at the theater these days between tickets and treats. But if you have a late-run theater in your area, you could pay less than half. Most of these exhibition houses won’t get the hottest summer movies until they’ve been out for several weeks, but considering the tickets will cost you anywhere from $1-$5 apiece, you’ll pay a fraction of what you normally would (and still see blockbusters on the big screen). Bring your own popcorn and candy to slash the price even more. Another option: pay $8 a month for streaming Netflix and have their on-demand library at your fingertips (with an estimated 20,000 possible selections you’ll have all the digital entertainment you can handle).
5. Your local library. Looking for an indoor activity that doesn’t involve a monitor? Get your whole family set up with free memberships at your local library and you’ll have a wealth of entertainment to keep you busy on those long summer days.